How does the teacher work with the students’ information processing systems to promote learning? For example, how does the teacher focus students’ attention, help them rehearse new information, and encourage them to encode and transfer information? Evaluate the teacher’s use of wait time as part of this process. Cite specific examples and be sure to include a reference in your response.
I have observed Mrs. G. use several strategies to gain and focus students’ attention, as well as encoding strategies she uses to help her students internalize the concepts in her classroom.
Mrs. G. uses a daily oral language exercise to help focus her students’ attention on English-related topics. This strategy is targeting students’ attention at a stimulus–driven level, as she is providing a specific stimulus—the language exercise—and students provide an appropriate response.
She helps students maintain a basic level of attention arousal by keeping her classroom organized, with the desks neat, materials put away on bookshelves and orderly, and most of the would-be-distracting posters/displays at the back of the classroom. She also uses music on occasion to help maintain basic arousal of attention.
I observed an in-class workday where students were revising an essay for re-submission. Mrs. G. encouraged students to use controlled attention while they were in the lab. She had a specific time limit for when the re-submissions were due; she provided specific, actionable feedback so students knew what to focus on while revising; she provided clear directions so students didn’t have to ask what to do, they could instead focus on doing it; and she circulated among students to offer clarification when they became stuck. These strategies helped students use their controlled attention, as they consciously focused on revising their papers during the class period.
Rehearsing New Information
Mrs. G. uses a variety of methods to help students rehearse new information in their working memories. She chunks her class periods into segments, so students don’t spend 80 minutes on one activity. Instead, she chucks the class with 10 minutes or so of review, followed by 15 minutes or so of a lesson, then moves into a learning activity or independent work time. This takes advantage of the primacy and recency effects—in each new block of time, the students are more apt to remember the first and last things they talked about. The recency effect comes into play again when she reviews at the end of the lesson, pointing students back to the key concepts of the lesson.
She also uses meaningful lessons to help students connect new concepts with what they already know. I observed Mrs. G. use video clips to help students form connections surrounding the concepts of mood and purpose in writing, which can be hard to grasp. Using video clips from movies students have seen helped them make more connections to the concepts of mood and purpose, and because of this elaborative rehearsal, students were better able to transfer that knowledge to other contexts.
Mrs. G. uses distributed practice with her daily oral language exercises. Students are slowly, very slowly, learning new grammar concepts as they progress through the exercises. Each new exercise also emphasizes concepts they’ve learned in the past, so students are able to keep practicing parallel structure and comma rules over the course of several months.
Encoding and Transferring Information
I have observed Mrs. G. use summarizing, organizing, repetition, and higher–order thinking to help students encode and transfer information. In one lesson, Mrs. G. had students read an informational text, then summarize and discuss it with a partner. Then, they made explicit connections from the informational text to the novel they were reading, which helped students encode both the informational text and the novel. Students were also practicing transferring the information from a text into a novel, which also helped them transfer the knowledge to other content areas and aspects of their lives.
In another lesson, Mrs. G. provided a graphic organizer for students to organize quotes and analysis of a theme in a novel. Students worked in groups to review the novel and identify quotes that contributed to the theme. They also considered the theme in relation to other characters in the novel, helping them to encode the theme and deeply process it. This activity helped them with a future assignment as they transferred their knowledge of the theme into a personal application.
Robert Stahl suggests that teachers should “wait patiently in silence for three or more seconds at appropriate places.” Mrs. G. uses wait time in her classroom in certain situations, but not in others. For example, when students are working on a quiz or responding to a writing prompt, Mrs. G. leave them in silence for a long time so they can complete their thoughts and process independently. When she goes into a class discussion or review of the quiz or writing prompt, she again utilizes wait time when she asks for responses. I have also observed her use wait time during direct instruction—after asking a question, Mrs. G. will sometimes wait a few seconds for students to process her question, and will wait for more than one student to respond. This helps students formulate better responses, and gives more students a chance to retrieve information from their long–term memory to respond.