Updated: Feb 3
What do we mean by research-based learning? And how do we apply this research to our online learning modules?
Our modules centre on the concept of building background knowledge through retrieval practice and spaced practice. In short, this means asking students to retrieve information from memory and repeating this over time. Spaced practice means repeatedly recalling information when first learning new information and then spacing more and more time between these recall events. Evidence indicates that building background knowledge improves understanding and improves grades. One of the best ways to do this is through self-testing with low-stakes tests (tests that don't count for grades), and our practice tests are the central feature of our learning modules.
Feedback is important for improved learning, but simple knowledge of results does little to improve learning. Feedback needs to come at the right time and help learners understand and make connections. All of our practice tests, games, and flashcards are followed by feedback for learning. Our feedback anticipates where students may struggle, elaborates on the topic, and draws connections between topics.
Our learning modules attempt to build on the learning in the classroom. Any section or unit of study typically begins with recognition questions or basic recall and identification questions and then proceeds to higher-order thinking questions. Beginning recall questions include hints, but hints are reduced in later tests. Practice tests build on the knowledge of previous tests while keeping in mind the concept of spacing practice.
Metacognition plays a very important role in learning. Metacognition means 'thinking about thinking', or thinking about our learning. It includes reflecting on past learning, understanding where our learning needs are, and it is about preparing the mind for thinking. For instance, each of our practices has a Pre-Think before the practice begins. Some of our practices include Entry Exercises to help frame the learning and build on past learning. Included in follow-up feedback are reflective questions that ask learners to anticipate what's coming or to reflect on past learning.
Dual coding is another important research-based strategy for leaning. Dual coding combines the written word with a picture visual and helps to decrease the load on working memory. Our learning modules practice dual coding. On one hand we have many pictures, diagrams, photographs, etc. connected to the feedback students receive. On the other, we include opportunities for students to stop and perform a Think and Draw, typically accompanied with a follow-up whiteboard video for students to compare their own drawing to, thus combining retrieval learning with dual coding.
Our modules originated as a device to help high school student-athletes stay caught up and prepared for their classes. From the beginning, these modules built in sound research-based learning principles as the teacher-coach who designed them was first a teacher, then a consultant specialized in teaching, learning, and assessment. Today we continue to expand the courses covered by our modules and we continue to improve each module with sound learning strategies.
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