Research we are applying

4 proven methods to significantly raise attainment

Each of these techniques is associated with significant learning gain - timely practice is the tool that makes all 4 methods easy for the teacher to apply.

In a nutshell:

  • assessment for learning tells the teacher how well learners have learned something and so teachers can then act, if need be, to improve that learning or teach something harder on the firm learning foundations the teacher has established that the learner has.

  • feedback is a process that enhances learning by providing learners with the opportunity to improve their current or recent attainment, by comparing with an ideal.

  • mastery learning requires teachers to hold back from teaching harder knowledge/skills/methods until the learner has mastered the prerequisite knowledge/skills/methods.

  • retrieval practice requires that practice questions are spaced out over time - rather than done in a block just after teaching - so that the learning can be recalled for longer.

The app supports the teacher to be able to use these methods, and significantly raises the attainment, confidence, problem solving and numeracy skills of learners.

In timely practice each of these methods work hand in hand to support the learner and each other.

To apply mastery learning we start with assessment for learning, using auto pre assess, to find a suitable starting point to teach each topic. The teacher can ensure that the learner has all the pre-requisite skills, that what will be taught is neither too easy nor too hard, using the Progress on Topic for each topic. Once taught, the increasing interval retrieval practice enables the learners to extend the duration for which they can remember that learning for and improve their accuracy. If during the assessment process the teacher finds part of the learning has been forgotten, misapplied or applied inaccurately, then the app makes sure that feedback-dialogue between the teacher and learner is likely to be effective, by decrease the interval between practices. Over time the app tracks the learners' depth of learning, this is done by the regular assessment for learning of the timely practice assignments. Since teachers are only teaching a small bite of learning on each topic, the class quickly spirals through the curriculum, so soon the teacher will return to teach more on the topic, on the firm learning foundations created by the previous spiral through the curriculum.

Much research tells us that overlearning minimises and increasing interval retrieval practice maximises the length of time that new learning can be recalled for. In other words the most popular practice regimen used by teachers is inefficient in embedding learning and the regimen used by timely practice is much more efficient. 

Although there is some contention whether deliberate practice is sufficient to make a person an expert, it is clear that it is must be part of the training programme. All practice within the timely practice assignments is deliberate practice - the intention may be to increase the depth of learning, how long the learning can be recalled for or the intention may be to improve the accuracy of the learner. In learning to become an expert, most people have a valued colleague or mentor who helps them plan their practice.

Learners using the timely practice app rely on their teacher to decide what to practise and the timely practice app to decide when to practise what the teacher has taught.

Whether you prefer to use the vocabulary of chunks or mental schema or schemata to talk about how learners build up interconnections in long term memory, there is little doubt that this is the mechanism of how humans learn to do the many complex things we are capable of. Happily chunk-based learning can help learners with smaller working memory capacity learn, as their more highly attaining peers do, because the chunks in long term memory replace some of the working memory requirements for answering questions. The recommendations from chunk-based learning of teaching standard problems throughly first, to teach using an improving spiral curriculum and to teach from the known to the unknown and the simple to the complex.

We strongly encourage teachers to use a tightly spiralled scheme of learning - a spiral of gently rising expectations - and teach only a small bite - a layer - from each  topic per curriculum spiral. The first spiral through the curriculum is likely to be slower than subsequent spirals, because of the time that must be spent on pre assess.

Although scaffolding is known to be effective at helping learners learn, it has such wide meaning, and requires adaptability and skill by the teacher - so rather than researchers proving scaffolding "works" they spend their time and skill looking at how to do it best. One often overlooked aspect to scaffolding is that fading of scaffolding needs to be done gradually, which is in opposition to a "teach topic once per year" scheme of learning.

We like to think of all of our layers as being scaffolding over time: as learners master a layer, the learner builds a chunk which becomes the learners' internal scaffolding, and so the teacher doesn't need to provide external scaffolding to teach the next layer.

Sometimes however, we provide 2 or more layers: one without scaffolding and one with very similar question which includes some of the scaffolding of the lesson. In the future we hope to have the app automate the process of moving from the layer with to the layer without scaffolding or v.v.