Principle 1: Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning: Daily review can strengthen previous learning and can lead to fluent recall.
Rosenshine’s (2012) first principle proposes the importance of short reviews of previous learning at the beginning of a lesson, with the idea being to develop fluent recall of subject material and strengthen students’ previous learning. This would seem to be a logical starting point for any lesson that we begin, but I will consider how particularly relevant this is in computer science lessons and how we might go about achieving this aim.
If I was to use a simile of driving a car, practically we can’t start in fifth gear, happily motoring along at sixty miles an hour. We start in first and gradually build up speed. This short review, is our first gear activity for the lesson, where the students can stop thinking about their previous lesson or break time, and start thinking about their computer science lesson. We need to develop momentum in the lesson and practically that begins by ‘revisiting and practising skills or consolidating knowledge’ and also enables us to ‘establish any gaps’ (DFES 2004, p10).
In lesson starters, I use techniques that enable the pupils to be assessed effectively and quickly and to initiate their thinking towards the lesson. Computer science allows us to use online configurable tests like Google forms, which identify each pupil and their score. In addition, this also allows me to subsequently re-test pupils on the same test again at another point in time, which might be as soon as the end of the lesson if I have felt that certain points need revisiting.
I look to also review students based on what they have learnt in any of my previous lessons, not just the most recent. My fear is that the students only remember a narrow set of the last one or two lessons, creating a ‘slide rule’ set of lessons than can be recalled, rather than the entire curriculum to that point.
My key stage 5 students never really knew where a recap quiz at the start of the lesson would take them. Posing questions in this manner meant that I could also understand my and other teachers’ effectiveness in their teaching over the previous months. This provided insight into those lessons that were so effective they could be recalled without practice or prior
notice of being tested upon that subject material.
Online quizzes often come with live statistics and graphs which engage the class and demonstrate their overall ability. Statistics help to highlight questions that are frequently wrong or frequently missed, enabling us to evaluate the effectiveness of previous lessons and respond accordingly. Recapping these highlighted questions ensures that students are able to build on their understanding with the content of the new lesson. It also aligns with the current The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services... Framework which promotes the need to identify any misconceptions that the pupils hold and address them with ‘clear, direct feedback’ as well as the integration of any new knowledge within larger concepts (Ofsted 2019).
Misconceptions need to be identified to show the ‘true’ understanding of what the pupil has actually learnt in those lessons. It allows the teacher to look at those elements that they believe all students would know at that point in the scheme of work. I have previously reviewed classes and been amazed that although students might appear to be aware of what programming involves within the lesson, there are gaps and a lack of true understanding that would not have been evident otherwise.
We are therefore looking to ensure ‘deep learning’ where there is a real understanding of the topic, rather than just ‘surface learning’ (Williams & Upchurch 2001) with the pupil simply recalling the facts, and these early reviews are essential in determining which level the child has achieved.
Starting a lesson with a review of previous learning allows students to also gain satisfaction in regards to what they can recall. If they can remember what has already been taught and felt confident in its recall, then their mindset for the lesson is going to begin with a feeling of capability and a stronger impetus to engage with the lesson. With success in this initial task,
the child is said to develop an improved concept of their own ‘metamemory’ where we move facts from being ‘wholly irretrievable’ to them being easier to recall (Flavell & Wellmanm 1975, p6). Some students might feel disheartened in regards to how well they could recall those facts, so we also need to focus on ‘previous attainments’ (Lane, Lane &
Kyprianou 2004, p255) to ensure a positive mindset towards the rest of the lesson.
If we build upon the foundations of the lesson on a strong footing, our students are more likely to make greater progress when new material is taught. This is because computer science concepts will have been brought to the front of the mind, where previously they were buried amongst the plethora of material from other subjects. We can reflect that as a result, pupils will have better understood the direction and material of the lesson and its links to their existing broader knowledge of the computing curriculum..
DFES (2004) Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools. Unit 1: Structuring Learning. Crown Copyright.
24-2004.pdf (accessed 22 Oct 2019).
Ofsted (2019) The Education Inspection Framework, Crown Copyright. Available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/education-inspection-framework (accessed 22 Oct 2019).
Rosenshine B (2012) Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator
Williams L and Upchurch R (2001) Extreme programming for software engineering education?. In 31st Annual Frontiers in
Education Conference. Impact on Engineering and Science Education. Conference Proceedings. Reno, Nevada (1): T2D-12.