Sky View Middle School boasts a large facility in the Boston area suburb of Leominster, Massachusetts. Typical of many suburban schools, Caucasian students make up a majority of the school population, at about 55 percent. Hispanic students represent 30 percent and approximately half of the students come from a low-income background. 40 percent are English language learners.
The Interleaving Strategy
Like many schools, Sky View struggles with ensuring that students of all abilities and backgrounds can achieve, and teachers and administrators at the school work hard to help students bridge this gap. “Students are respectful and engaged. It’s only when you start to get to know (them) that you learn about their broken homes and challenging lives,” says Sky View teacher Dr. Kim Kelly.
Kelly and Shannon Payette teach math at Sky View, and they experience the typical highs and lows of teaching; from those grand “a-ha” moments to students experiencing frustration, either because they are not understanding the concept behind the math, or because they have limited math skills, from previous struggles.
In a recent interview for the Learning Agency’s Science of Learning video project, Kelly explains that understanding complex concepts “takes a lot longer, and it requires a deeper understanding.” Sometimes “struggling students don’t always get to that level,” without one-on-one interventions and strategies, which can affect the overall pace of the classroom, in general.
Compared to blocked practice, interleaved practice produced higher scores.”
Interleaving can be as simple as substituting our typical teaching pattern of first A, then B then C, to mixing it up:
A, B, A, C, B, A, C, B – for example.”
Research supports this interleaving strategy, “compared to blocked practice, interleaved practice produced higher scores,” on immediate and delayed tests, in one study. Other studies support these findings. Basically, interleaving study sessions, learning episodes and practice exercises is a more effective way of gaining skills and fluency.Could this strategy be used to build bridges for struggling students, without sacrificing the overall progress of the entire class? For example, almost all students can benefit from practicing “old” math concepts like long division, or multiplication tables, while new concepts are explored and interleaved. This might be a way for students who have a gap in their previous knowledge to keep pace with students who are already relatively comfortable with basic math skills, for example.
Understanding complex concepts takes a lot longer, and it requires a deeper understanding.” – Kim Kelly
The ultimate crime is practicing the same thing multiple times in a row. Avoid it like the plague,” says psychologist Nate Kornell.
Schools are working with researchers Drs. Megan Sumeracki, Yana Weinstein, Stephen Chew, and Regan Gurung. Classrooms from Memphis, Tennessee, East Baton Rouge and Kenner, Louisiana in the southeast United States, as well as Medomack, Maine, and Leominster, Massachusetts, are involved, bringing a wide variety of student and teacher experiences to the study. In addition to teacher and researcher interviews, snippets and moments from classrooms will also be included in the final videos.
We look forward to bringing you more information on the Science of Learning Video Project as it unfolds. Stay tuned!
Science of Learning – Guide for Teachers
Science of Learning – Guide for Students
Science of Learning and development (The known and unknowns)