What is a knowledge organiser?
Our minds are split into two parts: the working-memory and the long-term memory. Everybody’s working-memory is limited, and can very easily become overwhelmed this is known as overload. Our long-term memory, on the other hand, is effectively a limitless storehouse for information.
We can support our working memory by storing key facts and processes in our long-term memory. These facts and processes can then be retrieved to stop the working memory becoming overloaded.
The Knowledge Organiser booklets contain information for all of your subjects for the term. Each knowledge organiser has the key information, which needs to be memorised to top up your long-term memory in order to help you master your subject and be successful in lessons.
A knowledge organiser is the distilled key information for a unit/topic onto 1 side of A4 and it is both the anchor and the lodestar of any unit of work. A set of key facts or information that pupils need to know and be able to recall in order to master a unit or topic. Facts can be chunked into different sections (for example ‘key vocabulary, ‘important people’ or a ‘timeline’).
Students are expected to complete 1 page per subject per night (maximum of 2 subjects) using one or more of the strategies which they have been taught during their designated tutor period session each week. The Knowledge Organiser schedule is available here.
Consider long-term memory as a vast storehouse that helps us overcome bottleneck limitations in our working memory. So learning is actually remembering in disguise: ‘if nothing has been changed in the long-term memory, nothing has been learned.’ (Kirschner et al 2006, p77)
The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve shows the decline of memory retention in time. This curve shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it.
We can commit information to our long-term memory via consolidation, in which we rehearse what we have placed in that memory and make meaningful associations between that information and information already stored – in schemas – in our long-term memory. Most cognitive scientists believe that the storage capacity of long-term memory is unlimited and is a permanent record of everything that a person has learned. The Leitner system allows students to achieve this through spaced repetition, meaning they revisit the same core knowledge frequently until they remember it, this then gets revisited less frequently over time.
Knowledge organisers are underpinned by retrieval practice. Retrieval practice is the act of trying to recall information without having it in front of you. The benefit of incorporating time delays between learning and practice, leading to improved performance over educationally relevant time periods (Cepeda et al., 2008), compared to ‘massed’ items, where practice sessions occur close together.
- The sequence of the curriculum and the nature of GCSE examinations have changed to focus on the retrieval of knowledge and the end of the Keys Stage
- Learners need to be able to retrieve relevant facts and information at the end of Year 11 when they sit their exams.
- Research indicates that schema can developed and secured by frequent recall and retrieval practice. In ‘Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning’ Roediger suggests that one of the best habits to instil in a learner is regular self-quizzing.
- Knowledge organisers should be used regularly at home to have the most impact. See Home Learning section for more detail.
- Self-quizzing activities involve learners reading a section of the knowledge organiser, covering it up, and then writing it out from memory. Spacing out the reading and writing has proven to be most effective in securing knowledge.
- Developing the routine of using the knowledge organisers from Year 7, means that learners will become much more secure in their knowledge and better prepared for the increased rigour of GCSE examinations.