Knowledge is stored in the long-term memory in an interconnected web of ideas called schemas, which organise elements of information according to how they will be used. The limits of the working memory can be overcome through building schemas, effectively freeing up the working memory to process new information (CESE, 2017).
This knowledge of the brain suggests that novices need to learn new knowledge and skills in small, discrete steps. Research demonstrates that when students are learning new concepts, teachers are more effective when they provide explicit teaching (Clark, Kirschner & Sweller, 2012; Hattie et al., 2017; Martin & Evans, 2018). Explicit teaching – or fully guided practice – involves breaking new concepts into small chunks and providing step-by-step explanations, demonstrations and modelled examples of the concept or skills to be learnt (Clark et al., 2012).
Following sufficient explicit teaching, guided practice and effective feedback, there is an important place for independent learning and inquiry. However, the success of inquiry-based learning is dependent on the success of explicit teaching in the early stages of learning (Martin & Evans, 2018).
For students at risk of disengagement, pedagogical strategies which scaffold learning allow learning material to be more easily accessed. This will allow students to experience success, and will encourage increased participation.