Learning

Effective teaching facilitates the clear, memorable and enjoyable delivery of a knowledge and the opportunity to develop understanding in a variety of ways.

Key features of our learning at John Willmott School include:

  • Retrieval Practice
  • Explanation
  • Modelling
  • Deliberate Practice

Retrieval Practice: the process of recalling previous knowledge to increase its storage strength.

The JWS way: teachers seek opportunities to retrieve previous knowledge to help students see links between knowledge (strata) and increase the storage strength of what they have been taught. Retrieval starters (Do It Now activities) are common practice and are used across the curriculum to ‘interrupt forgetting.’

What does the research say?

 ‘Information is best presented with a degree of repetition, particularly in the form of repeating and reviewing key concepts’ (Scheerens & Bosker, 1997; Seidel & Shavelson, 2007).

‘If nothing in the long-term memory has been altered, nothing has been learned.’ (Sweller et al (2011).

‘Retrieval practice strengthens memory and makes it easier to retrieve the information later.’ (Barenberg Roeder & Dutke, 2018; Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).

What does it look like in practice?

 ✓ Use of retrieval activities to support learning and link to current topics.

✓ Opportunities to consolidate understanding and practise skills are strategically timed and regularly executed.

✓ Cycles of lessons that revisit skills and key concepts.

✓ Activation of relevant linked prior knowledge before new information is given to encourage the development of schema.

✓ Spaced practice or interleaved content which ‘interrupts the forgetting.’

✓ Use of resources like mind maps and self-quizzing formats to embed these practices in the lesson and support future independent work.


Explanation: the way information is broken down and demystified so that it is made clear and easy to understand.

The JWS way:  teachers have a thorough subject knowledge and carefully plan and deliver explanations which help students understand and remember new knowledge. Explanations are carefully paced and worded to ensure all students can access the explanation and remember the key details and dual coding is used to ensure that working memory is not overloaded.

What does the research say?

Effective teachers are able to communicate clearly and directly with their pupils, without going beyond pupils’ levels of comprehension (Smith & Land, 1981; Walberg, 1986; Muijs & Reynolds, 2003; Muijs et al, 2010).

Retention of knowledge and development of schemata will not happen if the working memory is overloaded (Kirschner et al, 2006).

The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach but are able to avoid the curse of knowledge when they think carefully about how they will explain ideas to students (Sutton Trust).

What does it look like in practice?

✓ Plan explanations of core definitions and concepts.

✓ Communicating subject knowledge in a clear and constructive way to students.

✓ Use of prior understanding to build explanations that tether new knowledge to other concepts.

✓ Use of explanation strategies to help make new learning tangible and memorable (tethering explanations to analogies/examples/models).

✓ Use of questioning and hinge questions to seek misconceptions and address them.

✓ Use of multimodal techniques to support learners to access and remember explanations (dual coding).

✓ Making sure transitions between activities are slick with purposeful and concise teacher talk.


Modelling: the process of sharing knowledge, thought processes and skills to share expertise with the learner.

The JWS way: teachers are subject experts and use live modelling to share both what they know and how they think: making their choices explicit to learners so that they can be supported in developing their understanding.

What does the research say?

‘As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods and identify students’ common misconceptions.’- Sutton Trust

‘The average effect size for teaching strategies which involved the teacher as a “facilitator” was 0.17, whereas the average effect size for strategies where the teacher acted as an “activator” was 0.60. Direct instruction had an effect size of 0.59 compared to problem-based learning with an effect size of just 0.15.- Hattie et al (Visible Learning).

What does it look like in practice?

✓ Crafted model answers that satisfy assessment objectives and improve student understanding.

✓ A Growth Mind-set in lessons using language of possibility and aspiration

✓ Live modelling which decodes thought processes, knowledge and actions taken with clarity.

✓ Encouraging students to share their own learning and talk through how they have solved problems to encourage metacognition.

✓ Using gradual release (I do, we do, you do) to transfer knowledge and help students move forwards in their understanding.


Deliberate Practice: a distinct type of practice that is purposeful and systematic and focused on building independence over time.

The JWS way: knowledge and skill are clearly modelled for students before they are supported in practising for themselves as part of the gradual release model. When students are learning new content, teachers use scaffolding to relieve the pressures on working memory and give thought to how we ‘gradually lose control’ across lessons and across the curriculum: from explicit instruction to independent practice as students internalise learning.

What does the research say?

‘Scaffolding is most powerful when it is offered when [students] are devoting brainpower to learning something new.’ Adam Boxer

Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback. – Malcolm Gladwell

Excellence demands effort and planned, deliberate practice of increasing difficulty – K. Anders Ericsson

What does it look like in practice?

✓ Carefully considered explanations where teachers share expertise.

✓ The use of worked examples.

✓ Accurate analogies; questioning; live modelling.

✓ Scaffolding that is gradually removed as students develop their understanding.