Using timely practice effectively

Please read about why the 3 key behaviour changes are important before moving on to find out how the timely practice app can support the teacher with those changes.

The 3 key behaviour changes by teachers that will improve the attainment of their low attaining learners are:

In our opinion, most teachers would accept that

Following a good revision program is far more beneficial than cramming before an exam

An effective revision program uses all three of these key behaviours. The learner decides what they need to learn (pre assess), they split up what they will revise into smaller blocks and space these out over their revision program (spiral curriculum) and they review frequently what they have learned (retrieval practice) and get help (feedback) if necessary to ensure they fully retain all their learning.

Isn't teaching which follows a traditional annual scheme of learning more like cramming than like a good revision program?

1. Why pre assess before teaching?

When we pre assess to find out what our learners "know already" we can make better use of lesson time. We won't teach learners what they "already know", nor attempt to teach them work for which they don't have sufficiently firm learning foundations: instead we can teach in the "sweet spot" between. So teaching and learning become easier and more effective, i.e. we can increase the output (retained learning) per hour (of lesson time). With timely practice, teachers only need to pre assess a topic once, before they teach the topic for the first time. With timely practice, the next time the teacher returns to teach the topic they will be able to see in fine detail how deeply embedded each learners' knowledge is and which aspects of the topic the learners still don't know. This will support the teacher in planning the next teaching steps accordingly, with no need to pre assess that topic again.

2. Why follow a more tightly spiralled curriculum?

Most schools use a scheme of learning requiring teachers to teach each topic annually. timely practice was devised to enable teachers to teach and learners to learn more with a more tightly spiralled curriculum i.e. learners learn smaller "bites" of learning more frequently than with an annual scheme of learning.

See the mp4  eIWMtp.mp4 (from 2:45 to 4:08) or read on.

Suppose the "big" bite of teaching on a topic with blocked teaching could be split into 3 small "bites" and let's suppose the learners might judge them as: "OK", "hard" and "very hard". With blocked teaching a teacher might find that a few "more able" learners in the class learn and retain all of the "big" bite, but most learners will not. Instead with a more tightly spiralled  scheme of learning, the teacher can teach

  • the "OK" bite in term 1,
  • the "hard" bite in term 2 and
  • the "very hard" bite in term 3.


  • since the learners master the "OK" bite during term 1, through their timely practice,
  • when the teacher returns to teach the "hard" bite in term 2, the learners will find the "hard" bite much easier to learn. So now the learners will judge that bite as "OK" and
  • by term 3 the "very hard" bite will also be "OK" for the learners to learn (as through timely practice they will have mastered both the "OK" and "hard" bites).

So by spacing teaching most of the class can learn and retain what the teacher was previously expecting only the more able in the class to learn.

In our development of timely practice and our training of teachers we have found that using a more tightly spiralled curriculum is the hardest of the 3 changes for teachers to take on.

Our  limited topic trial - is on hold for most of 2021-22, once back it we will enable teachers to compare the learning gain teaching 

  • using the existing scheme of learning  and
  • a bespoke timely practice scheme of learning for teaching (taking the same amount of lesson time and teaching other units within the school's scheme of learning).

The limited topic trial will be updated and made far simpler with our new version of the app, because of the facility to auto pre assess and turn off retrieval practice. It will return later in the year, once we are satisfied that our app works better than before for our core timely practice users.

3. Why retrieval practice?

Retrieval practice (which educational researchers call spaced learning) requires spreading out practice over time. Most schools use a scheme of learning which requires teachers to teach each topic within a few days.  During those few days the learners practise questions on what they have just learned, but do no more practice until they encounter the topic again in an end-of-unit or end-of-year test. (Educational researchers call this blocked learning). 

timely practice was devised to enable retrieval practice. With retrieval practice some practice questions are done by learners directly after teaching, and some are spread out over the following lessons. The timely practice app gives each learner optimal spacing which ensures learners practise work

  • some time after the point of teaching, so that the learner must retrieve from long term their memory (the work they are practising) and this more deeply embeds the learning (meaning the learner can remember the learning for longer next time - i.e. we stretch the durability of recall-ability);
  • but before they would otherwise forget the learning.

With repeated retrieval practice, what the learner has been taught becomes deeply embedded in their memory, yet remains readily accessible. We say the learner has mastered that learning. Once mastered that learning becomes firm foundations for future learning.

You may want to read finding and firming learning foundations and teaching on firm learning foundations to get a good overview of how timely practice will enable teachers to support their learners mastering what they are taught in their maths lessons (and raise learners attainment dramatically).

Click to find out about the processes required for