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Parents: A Quick Message Early in the School Year

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Hello parents. I thought I would provide a quick synopsis concerning the science of learning, some helpful hints, and how our learning modules can support your child's performance in school.

Let's begin with what science says works best for learning. To perform well in class - remember, understand, think, and apply - students need good background knowledge in a subject and many students may lack this. Building background knowledge is one of the keys to improvement in the classroom. Our learning modules focus on building background knowledge by applying the principles of good learning science.

What does the science suggest? One, students need to build their background knowledge through repeated retrieval of information from memory. This is called, as you might expect, 'retrieval learning.' Over time, students should space more and more time between these attempts to retrieve information from memory. This is called spaced-practice. By-the-way, retrieval practice only works if students attempt to 'pull' the information from memory, and don't just 'look up' the information without first retrieving as much as they can each practice attempt. Every attempt to recall helps to encode information in long-term memory. So, one thing you can suggest to your child is something many educators call 'brain dumps.' Have your child take a blank piece of paper and write everything they remember from the their class that day and/or take a previous topic and do the same thing. Do this consistently over time, spacing greater and greater time between recalls on a specific topic.

Two, use practice tests or flashcards to encourage retrieval from memory. This is called the testing effect or self-testing effect; again, helping to encode information. Further, when students are provided with elaborative feedback concerning the practice test items they gain greater understanding and make connections between the information. Consequently, encourage your child to create flashcards and practice tests based on the information they are studying using a spaced-practice method discussed earlier.

Three, building on previous knowledge also aids learning, and when students acquire background knowledge it works as the foundation to build on, so-to-speak, creating the cognitive framework or schema humans need to interpret information. When students take time to think and reflect about their learning they are helping create this cognitive framework.

Lastly, research on learning is indicating that our brains can only handle so much working knowledge at one time. This is why learning background knowledge is key to better thinking. In fact, without the background knowledge students will not be able to think at what many educators refer to as higher-level processes - reasoning and problem-solving for instance.

How can you support your child? Encourage your child to study using some of the techniques I have suggested in this blog. And consider our learning modules which are focused on developing background knowledge predominantly through a self-testing format with elaborative feedback. (By-the-way, students may have difficulty ensuring that the knowledge and questions they create for their own study are accurate and without misconceptions, plus their questions may not be related to the curriculum being studied and may not be comprehensive enough. Our learning modules are focused on the Alberta curriculum and we work hard to make sure our answers and feedback are accurate and comprehensive.)

Until the end of September 2022, we are offering a promotion of 15% off our modules for parents wanting to support their child's study. Shop for a course here and use promo code PARENTSUPPORT2022 to get 15% off our learning modules.


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