Workshop summary #1; “Spacing & Retrieval Practice with Cooperative Learning”

This series of very brief articles recaps salient points from the workshop for the benefit of delegates and those unfortunates who missed it. 

[3 minutes to read]

Edward and Jakob presenting

The five planned articles in this series correspond to the headlines of the workshop and are planned as roughly three-minute reads each:

  1. What is Cooperative Learning
  2. What is retrieval practice?
  3. What is spaced retrieval practice?
  4. The evidence supporting spaced retrieval
  5. Implementing spaced practice and potential challenges…

Get notifications of upcoming posts on Twitter. Some will include relevant sample slides, links to evidence and research, or video. You can read more about the event and download the research materials we used from the Eventbrite page.

So, without further ado, item 1:

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative Learning can only be understood through experience. This entails putting delegates (whether TAs in primaries or PhDs in a university) in the shoes of pupils in a  classroom. As with any lesson you must be clear on your objectives. And, as Ed rightly pointed out, this is especially true when using Cooperative Learning. The point isn’t that the pupils are engaged, but that they are engaged on specific tasks that tie in with your expected outcomes. Only then will you get the extra five months of additional progress per pupil per year.

So, here are the expected outcomes of our workshop “Spacing & Retrieval Practice with Cooperative Learning”:

At the end of this [lesson] all delegates will be able to:

  1. Define Cooperative Learning, retrieval, spacing, and some of their rationales and supporting evidence
  2. Use Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns to simplify deployment of effective spaced retrieval practices in their schools tomorrow morning.
  3. Connect points 1 and 2 to the 2019 Ofsted framework.


So, what would be more obvious than drilling in definitions, rationales, and evidence with the exact activities that they’ve been using with their own pupils?

Behold the slides: Instant retrieval from presentations

With this in mind, rather than attempt to explain Cooperative Learning, I simply ran these Seven slides entitled “what is Cooperative Learning?” with no further comment. Being adults (with our poor memory and all), delegates were graciously allowed to take notes. You’re welcome to see what you get out of them if you flick them every 10-15 seconds.

ghost doctrine retrieval practice.PNG

Slides_ an example of simple retrieval practice with Cooperative Learning (1)

As soon as the slides finished (and we did run through them that fast), team members were given a few moments to gather their thoughts before taking turns presenting their understanding to their teams in thirty-second bursts, essentially mobilising content in their short-term memory, checking their comprehension and embedding it in long-term memory in a fledgling schema. Crucially, during these presentations, they were not allowed to refer to their notes.

Ofsted framework on memory and context
From the slides.

Two rounds of 30 seconds each in teams of four meant the activity only lasted four minutes in total, but the amount of information that was presented, repeated and explored cannot be transcribed in even 30,000 words. Interestingly, with reference to the Ofsted framework, the connection between the specific knowledge (“Cooperative Learning consists of…”) naturally led to teachers connecting their new knowledge to the larger context of their current practice. So the outcome was not only to retrieve what they had learnt, but to simultaneously “integrate new knowledge into larger concepts.”

That said, we have not even touched upon delegates’ comments on the impact on such things as oracy, resilience, self-confidence and social skills integrated in this and other activities. Ed, who has been using Cooperative Learning on a daily basis, pointed out that all the teacher needs to do is to walk around and listen in. We’ve written on unobtrusive monitoring before. As the written evidence, you have their notes.


Next instalment:

Workshop summary #2; “Spacing & Retrieval Practice with Cooperative Learning”

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