- This topic has 2 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 5 years, 2 months ago by Dr. Margo Turner.
January 15, 2015 at 1:51 pm #35558Bryan HarrisMember
Interesting question…Is $100 a lot of money?
If you are like me, your gut reaction is, “Yeah, it is! I don’t have that much in my wallet right now.”
Well, it’s kind of a silly question. We should be asking, “For what?”
Is $100 a lot to spend on shoe laces? Probably, unless you’re buying shoelaces for a soccer team.
Is $100 a lot for a down payment on a new car? Not likely.
So, what’s the point? When answering questions like this, context matters.
When teaching and learning, context also matters. In fact, it may matter more than most of us realize.
One of the seminal studies of context on learning and recall took place all the way back in 1975.
Researchers Godden and Baddeley wanted to study the impact of environment on memory and recall so they selected a group of divers and designed an experiment to see how much environment/context mattered.
They asked divers to learn a series of words, both on land and under water, and then tested them on those same words under different conditions. They wanted to see if memory was impacted by the context under which the words were first learned. For example, would a diver who learned the words under water have better, worse, or the same recall when asked to remember the words on dry land?
Well, it turns out, context and environment matters – a lot.
When the context between how a diver learned the words was matched with how they were asked to recall the words, the did much better. When the context was not matched, they did much worse. In other words, divers who learned words under and were then asked to recall the words under water did better than when they learned the words under water but asked to recall on land.
So, what does this mean for us as educators?
Think about the contextual match between how a student learns information compared to how they are tested on it. Some researchers will refer to this as context-dependent memory or context-dependent recall.
When we design learning and assessment tasks for our students, they will do best when we (as closely as possible) match the testing conditions and environment to context under which students learned the information.
As educators, how do you match the contexts and environments of learning and assessment?
March 22, 2015 at 7:18 pm #40550Craig CarsonMember
What a great illustration. Context matters. I’d be interested in hearing how you are training your teachers at your school regarding contextual learning. I teach our new teachers about episodic memory which has so much to do with context. Regarding instructional practices, here are a few of my go-to strategies for helping teachers think through context.
1) Co-created anchor charts—have students help the teacher anchor their thinking around a concept/topic on a co-created anchor chart. If the teacher then hangs that chart and refers to it often, the students will begin associating that learning with the chart. When you take the chart off the wall, students will often look that direction when trying to recall the information. I suggest that teachers transfer the chart from the wall to a students’ (reading, writing, content…) journal. Help the student make the transfer of the information from the wall to their personal journal where there is easy access. Slowly you will see that the contextual learning will wane as students use the information or content, the learning is transferred to their long term memory.
2) Personalized Vocabulary Alpha-Charts—students can create their own alpha-chart around a unit of study or in the early elementary around words that might occur during a certain season. The personalized alpha chart helps students in vocabulary memorization but as importantly in their spelling consciousness. Instead of students spending countless hours of learning over spelling lists and rules for spelling, I have teachers help students understand and develop personalized tools for spelling. Each student has 4 or 5 tools that they keep at their desk to help them remember how to spell certain words or to help them remember a rule or generalization. A personalized alpha-chart is one of those tools. You can see them close their eyes and visualize where that word was located on their alpha-chart as they are writing. If they cannot remember, then they’ll actually pull out the tool and use it.
3) Narrative—teaching content using rich narrative couches learning within a story. I have teachers infuse their content teaching with relevant narratives. A picture is worth a thousand words – combine it with a relevant story – you are up to 10,000 words! This works well in most contents but I see it mainly in social studies and science.
4) Drama—students and teachers can use drama to enhance episodic memory. As an administrator I still dress up and go into classrooms and teach lessons on specific content (I’m a great George Washington). : ) Students remember and associate the learning with me coming in to their room. It enhances the impact of the lesson. Students can do the same when they perform readers theater and really embody a character within the story (plus, it helps them with fluency—nice benefit!).
This is just a scratch of the surface. I’d also include simulations, music, and more!
Looking forward to reading your suggestions!
March 27, 2015 at 1:50 pm #40988Dr. Margo TurnerGuest
Thanks Bryan for this information. It brought to mind the opportunity our 9 year old twins had this year in 3rd grade. I am sure you have heard all the hype around the PARCC testing. In our state the rub was the reality that the tests would be done on computers so that meant every district had to provide computer access for every student being tested and to coordinate times, etc. a HUGE feat!
Our twins’ teachers had the foresight to reserve the netbooks in August through March for specific times each day for the students to practice doing academic work on the same computers they would use for the PARCC tests. This was critical as the students have not had computer training, particularly in writing on the computer – a big section of the test. We will not get test results until November I am told (can you believe that span of time from test to results???) but we are hoping that the context helped!
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.