A conversation with Seneca Learning Chief Scientist Dr Flavia Belham

For my first in conversation with I will be speaking to Seneca Learning Chief Scientist Dr Flavia BelhDrFlavam.

Could you describe your background and involvement with Seneca Learning?

I am originally from Brazil, where I was a Science teacher. In 2014, I moved to London to do a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL. Since graduating, I have been working as Chief Scientist at Seneca Learning. I’ve had several roles at Seneca, from helping to develop our methodology to visiting schools around the country to provide CPD training. More recently, I have been focusing my time on managing our Brazil project and running virtual teachmeets and conferences for UK teachers.

For those that have not heard of Seneca Learning why should they use it with their students? How does cognitive science fit into Seneca’s development?Pictures of Platform on Laptop (4) (4) (1)

Seneca is a free online learning platform providing resources for more than 3.5 million students and teachers. Our content goes from primary to A-Levels and it’s all exam specific and written by amazing teachers – like yourself, Tom! Every single tool we have for teachers is free. The main idea is that teachers can set up classes and use Seneca to set assignments. Then, with our automated marking and statistical analyses, we help teachers identify and reduce learning gaps.

Our methodology is entirely based on cognitive science. The main principles we follow are spaced and interleaved practice, dual-coding and retrieval practice.

Which features are you most proud of on Seneca Learning?

There isn’t a specific feature… I am proud of the fact that everything we do is based on science and evidence. That’s really cool! The methodology we use, the algorithm my colleagues developed, the way we present and test information, it’s all based on research. That’s why it works so well! You can read our first paper published based on our RCT here.

How can Seneca Learning be used to its full advantage in closing knowledge gaps from September post lockdown?

Identifying knowledge gaps can be a huge task, but we can always use data to help us. For example, using the data collected during the lockdown from students’ online work can provide us with information about each pupil’s knowledge gaps. Our Seneca courses provide several “end of topic” quizzes that can also help with that. And, of course, all the data is stored and presented to teachers on the teacher platform. Once we have the information, we can differentiate the work we do with each student. Actually, Seneca is just about to launch a Smart Homework feature, so teachers can reassign particular topics to each student, based on their individual knowledge gaps identified by our algorithm. Another thing that Seneca is providing now is our SLT Enhanced analytics package, to help headteachers and HoDs to have more information about their schools.

How many current users do you have? Have you noticed any patterns as to who is using the platform and when they are using it?

The last time I checked there were 3.75 million students, nearly 200,000 teachers and about 40,000 parents signed up. Since lockdown started, these numbers have been changing very quickly though so it can be hard to keep up! I’m just glad we’re offering a product that has been so useful to so many people during this challenging time.

In terms of who is using the platform, we’ve seen more and more KS3 and A Level teachers using our content. Our content team have invested a lot of time in adding even more content for these age groups, including standardised assessments and exam-style questions, and it’s great to see teachers are enjoying this new content.

Usage is quite evenly spread across normal school hours with most activity happening just before lunch. It’s nice to see that students have been taking it easy in the evenings and relaxing with their families.

I have recently seen Seneca are offering an SLT Enhanced analytical package. How does that compare, improve and differ from the current analytical package?

SLT Leaderboard (1)

The analytics in the platform gives great insights on a class-by-class basis. We’re working hard on adding extra features to make this data even more useful, such as adding multiple teachers to a class and providing a way of comparing data across classes. The SLT Enhanced Analytics package goes one step further by providing insights into usage across the whole school, including usage split by age group, by subject and by course.

To make this package as useful as possible for members of SLT, we’re also throwing in some bonus elements! These include early access to our free Virtual CPD Conferences and TeachMeets, personalised Seneca pages for all the courses taught in your school, and general extra support for students, teachers and parents.

It’s important to mention that, like all the analytics in the platform, this is completely free!

Would you be able to explain how the new smart feature homework will work?

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Of course! This is one of the biggest features we’ve ever made so I’m super excited about it! So, Smart Homework lets you automatically reset specific parts of assignments based on how students did the first time around. A common example would be if 4 students in a class of 20 didn’t quite manage to finish off the last couple of sections by the due date, you’d want them to have another go at getting these done. Or maybe you want to make sure everyone has reached a certain score so you could reset sections to students where they got less than 70%.SLT Leaderboard Rotato GIF (1)

I can see this feature being a massive help come September time when identifying and addressing learning gaps will be the name of the game. This has the potential to pile up the workload for teachers as they look to put together plans that are as personalised as possible. With the data that we have and how we are now able to use it, Smart Homework should make it much easier to get everyone back up to speed as quickly and effectively as possible.

A big thanks must go to Nesta and their EdTech Innovation Fund for helping make this happen.

What has the response been to the premium version of Seneca compared to the ‘free’ version? What is the major difference between the two?

The most important thing to mention here is that Seneca will always be completely free for teachers! All of the new features I’ve mentioned will be available for free forever! From the student’s perspective, all of our classic exam board-specific courses are still free and we keep adding more and more content to these, including standardised assessments, diagnostic misconceptions and exam-style questions. The main difference is access to even more of this content, some completely new course types and two extra learning modes. We have over 800 Premium courses across the age groups with loads of Exam-Style Courses being a highlight. Other course types include Hardest Questions, 7-9 Premium Knowledge, 4-5 Booster and some fun ones we like to call HyperFlashcards and HyperLearning! One of the Premium learning modes uses spaced repetition principles to plot optimal routes for students through their courses and the other lets students revisit just those questions they have previously got wrong to make sure they have them mastered!

I am also personally impressed with quality of communication from Seneca especially in response to questions on its features. What suggestions from users are you currently working on?

That is great to hear, we are always looking to find new ways to connect and share with our community of teachers, so it’s great to hear that you think we’re doing well on this front! We’ve actually been spending a lot of time creating subject-specific communities over on Facebook for talking about features as well as sharing useful resources.

I know I’ve already said Smart Homework is the best thing since sliced bread but what screenshot-app.senecalearning.com-2020.06 (2) (1)we have some things in the pipeline that could push it close! They are a bit less flashy but have been requested loads and will help make everything even easier. The first is being able to invite other teachers to a class, which will be great for Heads of Department and SLT in particular. After that, we’ll be looking at how we can better integrate with Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams starting with supporting Single Sign-On and then we’ll see what our teacher community would like us to work on next! We are actually running free CPD sessions about Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams. 300 teachers attended our first one so this seems like really useful for lots of teachers – all certified! We’ll be running more in late August/early September to help teachers get right back into the swing of things! And our conferences will also be back in September. They will be listed on Eventbrite.

You can find more of my blogs on Seneca here:

Seneca Learning: The Start of the Journey…..

Seneca Learning – classroom based Inquiry: The Questionnaire

Top Ten Reasons why Seneca Learning is awesome.

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Top Ten Reasons why Seneca Learning is awesome.

With lots of teachers, leaders and schools getting used to remote learning, Seneca Learning has certainly helped me.

I have known about Seneca for about 2 years. I was lucky enough to be asked to write some of their KS3 content and promoted its use among colleagues, striving to become a Seneca Learning Pioneer school.

See my blogs and classroom based inquiry here:

Seneca Learning: The Start of the Journey…..

Seneca Learning – classroom based Inquiry: The Questionnaire

During these past few weeks and months as the COVID-19 pandemic has hit schools, Seneca has really stepped up.

These are my top 10 reasons why Seneca Learning is a great remote learning tool to have in the back pocket.

  1. Students ( and teachers) really find it refreshing. So far, very few students have got moaned when I mention Seneca Learning. The online resource really has something for everyone. To add to the mix, they listen.
  1. Teachers and students are constantly suggesting ideas to Seneca, which are quickly implemented. The customer service in my experience is second to none.
  1. It doesn’t matter if you have a class of higher prior attainers or lower prior attainers, they can all access it. Admittedly the lower prior attainers struggle the most, but the programme allows them to go through it at a slower pace and of course use other supportive resources at the same time.
  1. The resource can be access on a range of devices and the courses / units can are short, sharp and to the point. The fact students can repeat and redo to improve is excellent. Personally, I enjoy using it more and more as a tool for CPD on my own mobile phone.
  1. CPD – the teachers CPD is a quality resource and is evidence informed from some of the great teachers and leaders on twitter and beyond. They include:

  1. Student love the competition between each other in their classes and year groups. This acts as great motivation for learning and revision
  1. Students really get on board with the nation and international revision tournaments. My students last year racked up 1000s of extra hours of revision across all subjects – this can only be a benefit in their preparation for their GCSEs.
  1. Progress overviews – one the latest and much needed additions to Seneca are the progress exports, you are able to download and analyse data straight away to see how your students are getting on and so plan for intervention.
  1. The main attraction for me is that it uses cognitive sciences to evolve its platform. The evidence based research is second to none. This is one of its biggest selling points.

Our Neuroscience Experts

We work with top neuroscientists to continuously improve our platform. Our research has found that students learn 2x faster using Seneca compared to a revision guide. This groundbreaking research involved 1,120 students and was published in the peer reviewed academic journal IMPACT. We also provide free CPD courses for teachers to help apply these practices in the classroom.

  1. Its free. Seneca wants to remain free. The cynics among you may point out that there is a premium package. I personally have not explored the paid for premium sections, however I know students that have paid for the extras and they have been generally pleased.

How do you find Seneca Learning?

let me know

2019: A edu-reflection of my blog

Last year I posted this at the end of 2018. In which I was pleased to get 3,000 blog views.


2019 was an even better year. I ran CPD as a SLE for NQTs, I was asked by a University to talk to their whole cohort PGCE student teachers and asked by to write a case study in her new book Retrieval Practice. In terms of my blog, I published 20 new blogs on a range of topics and in some months got more views that I had done in the previous 2 years.
In total the blog managed just under 24,000 views; the top 10 blogs read were:

20 Ideas for student led retrieval practice. This blog alone achieved more reads than all by previous blog posts since I started blogging.

20 starter activities to stretch & challenge students

20 ideas & strategies for Student Led Dual Coding

10 Activities for tutor time (part 1)

A to Z of Science Teachers on Twitter

A to Z of Cognitive Science

10 ways to embed retrieval practice into your lessons!

Top 10 Teacher Time-Saving Hacks

How To Solve A Problem Like….Homework

10 Research Papers on Retrieval Practice.

Here’s to a great 2020.

Trivium Tutor Time Challenges (tutor time activities part 2)

“Trivium: Latin for “three roads” refers to the three stages of learning: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric”


The idea of ‘trivium’ first struck a cord with me after reading this blog from Tom Sherrington. In the article Tom explores the book “Trivium 21c: Preparing young people for the future with lessons from the past” by Martin Robinson.

I was not in a position to implement these ideas across a whole school however I was keen to see how I could embed the ideas of Grammar, Dialectic & Rhetoric into my teaching to raise achievement in my lessons. I was and am still also conscious it should be a skill set that is cross curricular and so as Head of Year I inserted these ideas in my tutor time, in what I named so aptly tutor time challenges.

The vision of these challenges that I have sold to tutors and the year group is that – this is your chance to learn stuff that isn’t always on the curriculum but could win you a fair amount on a quiz show like ‘who wants to be a millionaire. Of course, there is so much more to it than that. I have found it is a brilliant opportunity of students to explore learning (work out which methods of learning really work for them and be able to make mistakes in a low pressure environment out side of the classroom) and to reflect on these mistakes. This links in nicely with our metacognition and self regulation whole school focus. I want tutor time to be organised, productive and worthwhile – this fits the bill nicely.

The challenges have so far initially designed by myself and have included the NATO phonetic alphabet, learning the states of America and capitals of Europe. Topics are also being designed by tutors in their fields of expertise such as PE (Olympic based), History (Kings and Queens)   A period of learning time is given to students in groups and after which they are quizzed on the topic. I then asked tutors to mark the quizzes and I hand out little prizes for the winning group in each tutor group.

So far different students have won, as the expertise can come from anywhere. Some tutors have told me how suddenly some students have really come out of their shell when studying certain topics and others have shone as it is linked to a passion or experience out side of school (Phonetic alphabet for those that go to cadets for instance).

So you may ask how is this linked to Trivium?


  • Tutor group challenges – using Trivium ideas
    • Grammar –> Knowledge –> Teacher Input: The Capital Cities of Europe
    • Logic –> Understanding–>Student discussion, collaboration + learning
    • Rhetoric –> Wisdom–> Output: Application of Logic

We start with the Grammar! The Knowledge this can a be heavy tutor input to begin with however once the students have the notes they move on to the Dialectic. Dialectic, starts with the discussion of how best to learn the information. This dialectic or logic, is when students can really start to independently put ideas together. This needs to be practiced – retrieval practice; self quizzing; group quizzing to gain wisdom or rhetoric.

Today I took a tutor group for registration and went through the current challenge The Capital Cities of Europe. One student knew them all, he printed off a list at home and read and quizzed himself on them. I could not have been more impressed.

See some examples of what I have created so far and use them yourself – including quiz sheets  (downloadable from TES)

Learn the NATO phonetic alphabet

Learn the United States States

Learn the European capital cities

See other ideas to do in tutor time here

Mapping the Physics GCSE Curriculum

I have started to think more and more about the Physics I offer at GCSE and how they fit together. I believe the cynics amongst you may believe this because of the OFSTED triple I’s – it has certainly been a positive push to make me think about the order and reason we teach topics and how we can use ‘research’ to inform our teaching and curriculum ( retrieval, spaced practice and interleaving)

I have lots more work on this and there is lots of great blogs out their – this is an excellent blog to start with https://rosalindwalker.wordpress.com/2019/08/06/curriculum-and-cognitive-science/

I have created this Physics curriculum map to help me in my first steps.

It physics curriculum map 2

It can be downloaded on TES here https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/physics-gcse-curriculum-map-aqa-12204332

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Why not read the following while you are here:

Assembly – Tackling Homophobic Language in schools.

14 Research Papers on Dual Coding

Get that job, interview success – a 3 minute quick read.

A to Z of Twitter Leaders

See below for those educators on twitter in middle and senior leadership and other leadership, SLE, AST and  coaching positions. They all offer great advice and support

A Amjad Ali   PT AHT & consultant, deliver INSET and CPD, free T&L toolkit @trythisteaching

B Andy Buck Author, speaker, trainer and coach. FCCT. Former geography teacher, head, director at NCSL and MAT MD. Founder of Leadership Matters and The StARTed Foundation.

C Carpool4School Delivering you a selection of educational takeaways, Teaching and Learning ideas, Wellbeing and Workload advice, Special guest appearances

D Drew Povey People. Performance. Potential. A multi-sector perspective of leadership

E Emma Turner Edu research & CPD lead for Discovery Schools Trust & Affinity TSA by day. Chaos coordinator of 3 small children by night.22yrs Primary teach & CoHead FCCT

F Garry Freeman Teacher 42 yrs,SENDCo, SendMyths advocate,National SEND System Leader,author of 6 books, M&W & ProgRock fan. Views ALWAYS my own. I do NOT claim to be a lawyer!

G J. Grocott Primary Deputy and dad of 3 gorgeous children. All views are my own. Also I am the 2019 Edufuturist ‘Wellbeing Ambassador’ winner which is nice. I love my job!

H Hywel Roberts The #travellingteacher, storyweaver, pedagogy of #botheredness
I Impact Providing support to schools that has real impact

J Kate Jones Head of History. Author Love to Teach: Research & Resources for every classroom.

K Katharine Birbalsingh Headmistress/Founder Michaela: free/charter school doing it differently. Freedom from state, truth on race,

L Stephen Logan  Leadership, learning and running / Deputy Head

M Ross McGill  No.1 Education Blog, CPD Trainer, Exp. School Leader

N Niomi CR  Assistant Headteacher Sept 2019, DSL, English Lead, Metacognition, SLE

O Olly Lewis AH T&L, Science HoD

P Alison Peacock   CEO of Chartered College of Teaching Charity. Teacher, Author, Public Speaker, Professor, Hon Fellow Queens’ Cambridge

Q Alex Quigley National Content Manager at the Education Endowment Foundation. Former English teacher. Author: ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap

R Tom Rogers Assistant Headteacher – teaching and learning / History Teacher / @tes columnist / Founder of @teamtmicons /talk and write about education

S Stephen Tierney CEO of the BEBCMAT. Chair of @HeadsRoundTable & SSAT Vis2040. Focussed on Leading & Learning. Author of Liminal Leadership

T Tom Sherrington Consultant. Author. Speaker. Teaching/Curriculum/Assessment. The Learning Rainforest

U (struggled with U) however John Tomsett Headteacher at Huntington School in York, England. All views are my own.

V Integrity Coaching Director of Integrity Coaching, Author, Education Commentator for @Guardian, Ambassador @LShipMatters, School Leader well-being advocate

W Nick Wood   Maths Teacher. MCCT. Middle School AHT-curriculum. As I learn, I change

X Pran Patel TEDx Speaker-NPQSL-Former AHT Curriculum and Standards-Outward Facing Leader-UKs 1st and only antiracist website (schools)

Y B Yusuf love to teach, lead & learn, Sci&ed tech leader, consultant

Z Zoe Andrews Senior leader. Chemistry teacher & AST status. Doing NPQH, done M.Ed. Enjoy all things data, wellbeing, leadership

Follow me and add your suggestions

Top Ten Tips To Train To Teach: advice for student and newly qualified teachers

“It Is the most stressful year you will ever experience”
                                                                                                           Lots of trained teachers

Was it my most stressful year ever? No! No it wasn’t. Do not get me wrong it wasn’t easy however it should be enjoyable and should not stop you doing what you normally do.

My placement schools could not be further from each other. My first was a tough 11-19 city secondary and my second placement was a small independent school. Throughout my second placement my feedback was mostly ‘it was good’ however on reflection I didn’t want to hear that I wanted to know how to be better and how I could support my students better.

I secured my job for my NQT year and a year later I was the Science Departments ITT PGCE student mentor. I did this role for 9 years and only recently in the summer of 2019 stood down due to a promotion and how it impacts my workload. As I mentor I was not given extra time or any extra money – if you are a mentor, you do a cracking job.

Every student teacher required individual personalised support and feedback just like our students. I have found myself reflecting a lot on the responsibility and feel I could offer some generic tips for all student teachers and also NQT’s.

1. The first is nice and simple: Sign up to the best source of advice and free CPD out there – twitter. Lots of teachers give up their free time to offer support and resources. It really is a no-brainer.

2. I wish I knew about the tonnes of research out there. Maybe I was too naive but there was plenty more than the required course documents. The following might be a good start for you:

A to Z of Cognitive Science

20 ideas & strategies for Student Led Dual Coding

20 Ideas for student led retrieval practice

14 Research Papers on Dual Coding

10 Research Papers on Retrieval Practice.

3. Linked to number 2. – Embrace this research. Spend time reading what interests and what is relevant to you. Use this a discussion on twitter – number 1.

4. Write a blog – reflect. The blog doesn’t have to be read by anyone but you. You will most likely be asked to write a lesson/weekly reflection, this is more than that. This is your career and not a chance just to jump through hoops.

5. Take advantage of the CPD offered. Again maybe it was my naivety and/or just a chance to get out of school for a while but I did not take CPD seriously. I didn’t know how to, I didn’t why I had to. It took me years to see the importance of it all. As a new teacher, you have a lot  more chance of getting on courses that you request to your SLT.

6. Poster lessons are mostly a waste of time – spend the time asking quality questioning and challenging your students. In my early days as a teacher the LA (local authority) had subject advisors. The science advisor had a catchphrase which we laughed off but again it is only now I can see what they really meant when anyone suggested an activity or learning task they said. It sounds good – but “where it’s the learning?” Think about the tasks you offer to students. How and what are they going to learning. Knowledge is far more important than keeping the hardest classes quiet for an hour.

7. You will be expected to plan lessons especially as you start your career – take advice of how to do so effectively and efficiently. I remember taking hours to plan 1 lesson during my training year, only to change the lesson again and again and then go back to the original plan. I scoured the internet high and low for resources – taking the best bits from each to plan a lesson.  It was often  a mish mash which hardly made sense to me. Please don’t spend hours reinventing the wheel however make sure you at least make the lesson your own. I have seen many a student teacher come to stop in a lesson because they have no idea the meaning of the slide. Also please don’t take credit for resources if they are not yours – I once had a student teacher who planned a great practical lesson. The lesson I remember was much better than a previous one. They lost my trust when they said it was because of the investigating planning sheet they had created. Only they hadn’t – I had! They had just downloaded it from my TES account. If you are interested this is what they used:


8. Time management during these years is important. Teaching never ends. You can say you have nothing to do. There is also a lesson to plan or change, always a book that needs feedback and always a parent/carer you can ring. Be prepared to say ‘no’ and be honest about this. What you don’t want to do is make promises to your school, department, mentor and even worse the students only not to do it and you let them down.

9. Arrive organised – most student teachers contact schools before hand. Some want lots of information some of which is now impossible to give under GRDP data protection however if you are request and are given schemes of work etc. look through them. Print of the weekly and lesson observation sheets before lessons. It also goes without saying make sure your lesson resources are pre-printed. Asking the class to go and collect printed doesn’t look good – especially if you are also being observed by the university. Along these lines most schools have their important policies on the internet – safeguarding, teaching and learning and behaviour for learning. Read them – it is also a good idea to read these in preparation for job interviews.

10. Subject Knowledge – never think you know enough. Keep reading and learning.

Above all remind organised and focussed. Enjoy everyday –  and just ignore the moaners. Every profession has its complainers – those that have been around the block and think they know more. Stay away from these and stay positive.

Join me on twitter


A to Z of Cognitive Science

Using research and making use of evidence from cognitive science to inform education is now becoming a hotly debated topic on platforms such as twitter and more and more educational companies are using the ideas to support students. Educational companies such as   who are soon to hit million subscribers are a front runner in using these techniques and not forgetting the team at who post engaging videos, educational blog posts and enlightening strategies that teachers can use quickly.

I have compiled an A to Z to help those that a new to this research and of course those old hands who may need a refresher.

AAce That Test from the Learning Scientists. A team of brilliant cognitive psychological scientists who research the science of learning. Their blog posts are a must read for all teachers as well as parents/carers and students alike. They have a vision of sharing scientific research and making more accessible – they have certainly do that. I have been lucky enough to see them present at a teachmeet organised by the  in 2017 and they completely transformed my thinking around education. The team can also be found on twitter separately – they are all well worth following.

B – Blake Harvard – The Effortful Educator https://theeffortfuleducator.com/ . Blake is an American teacher however has some very useful blog posts on applying cognitive science to education. Blake can also be found on twitter here ]

C – Concrete ExamplesOne of the famous 6 strategies highlighted by as a method to help students to study effectively.  Concrete examples are used when we need to understand an abstract idea.


D- Dual Coding – using visuals and text simultaneously so the information is encoded into long term memory. I have further blogs on this topic:

and recommend you follow on twitter as the dual coding oracle.

E – Efrat Furst – Dr Furst does a fantastic job at communicating and promoting cognitive sciences to education. She teaches out of Harvard University and her research-informed strategies have transformed many a classroom. Follow Efrat on twitter

F- Flávia S Belham PhD– The chief scientist behind applying cognitive science to education. Sign up to Seneca as a teacher/student/parent HERE and follow Dr Belham on twitter

Seneca has a great cognitive science course for teachers that I very much recommend. My certificate for this is proudly on the wall of my classroom.

G – Google Scholar. There are lots of ideas in cognitive sciences and you will have your favourite techniques and strategies. Google scholar searches academia for research and if possible gives a link for a free PDF download. It is well worth exploring this. For example “retrieval practice classroom ” gives some excellent results.

H – Henry Roediger III – Professor Roediger researches aspects of human memory, how knowledge is retrieved and how this can be applied to enhance education. His work on the testing effect with Dr Jeffrey Karpicke has changed teaching for the better.

I – Interleaving – one of the 6 effective study strategies for students by the learning scientists. Interleaving is a method of revision that suggests you mix up topics during your revision schedule and is often combined with spaced practice. There has been lots of debate on best to interleave, Mark Enser does well to explain how to embed this into the curriculum planning as interweaving.

J – Journals – Keep education evidence informed by reading. Research schools do a great job of passing on snippets and research however I believe it is important for all teachers to read and improve, we expect students to do it after all. I currently subscribe/read two accessible journals that are written by teachers for teachers. One of which is IMPACT from The Chartered College of Teaching and the other is ResearchEd – I fully recommend them both.

K – Karpicke, Professor Jeffery Karpicke has researched and written extensively on retrieval based learning, metacognition and cognitive strategies. One of his most ground breaking papers was co authored with Phillip Grimaldi on retrieval based learning

Karpicke, J.D. and Grimaldi, P.J., 2012. Retrieval-based learning: A perspective for enhancing meaningful learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(3), pp.401-418.

L – Long Term Memory – After we have encoded and consolidated information in the long term memory our ultimate aim would be to retrieve it.

M – Metacognition and Self Regulation  -a cost effective way of raising standards across your school. The Education Endowment Foundation have produced this guidance report to help support teachers in embedding metacognition. Lots of research is being done on metacognition and it is well worth thinking about how you can embed into your pedagogy.

N – Neuroscience – Neuroscience is the study of the brain and cognition is about acquiring knowledge and developing understanding.  There is a great blog here by   

  has a nice video here

O – Online Platforms –Seneca Learning has been developed using cognitive science and is a platform that many students across the country are enjoying and benefiting from. I have blogged about Seneca here.

Plickers is a brilliant and free quizzing tool in which you can collect in data from retrieval quizzes.

P – Pooja K. Agarwal – Dr Agarwal is an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music teaching psychological sciences. She is also the founder of retrievalpractice.org collaborating with Henry L .Roediger III. Pooja has a great insight into cognitive science and retrieval and can be found on twitter  and

Q – Questions / Elaboration –Elaboration is one of six strategies named by the learning scientists in order to help students to study effectively. Elaboration is adding detail to what you know by questioning yourself. Why has this happened? How has this happened?

R – Retrieval Practice – another of the 6 strategies named by the Learning Scientists.The testing effect has long been researched and the simple conclusion is the more  you self test and quiz the better you will do. This should be done over a period of time (see spaced practice) and is the opposite to cramming and just reading material. I have written further blogs on retrieval practice and ideas of how to implement strategies here.

S – Spaced Practice- another of the 6 strategies named by the Learning ScientistsThis is the opposite to cramming. I have created a few resources for my students to use.

Good flashcard revision will not only support spaced practice but also retrieval.




T- Teachers & Twitter – on the front applying and testing these strategies need to be in the A to Z. Twitter is full of educators that are passionate in the application of research informed learning, some of which are mentioned in this A to Z. Twitter really is the best CPD out there and if you want ideas to implement a strategy, twitter is a supportive environment for you to ask the questions. #cogscisci is a great place to start

U- Untested and Unproven theories  (Neuromyths and Neurononsense)Brain Gym/VAK learning styles/ left and right side of the brain misconceptions – you name them and education has  –Dan Willingham has a brilliant and is active on twitter. See here a collection of articles that Dan has written which really are a must read for any teacher.

V – Volume keep it low. There is lots of conversation at the minute around if student talk is productive. Should students work bu collaborating in groups? is this effective? This is another great blog by Mark Enser “what does learning sound like?” and others from noise” and The power of silence

W – Working memory – working memory is the short term memory that is utilised when we are manipulating data of some kind. Once finished with it is either forgotten or encoded to the long term memory.

X – X-Amples from Rosenshine Principles of Instruction. Another must read for all teachers nicely summed up by in this blog and the research article by Barak Rosenshine 

Y – Years – how long facts will stay in your long term memory if you apply the strategies (hopefully…well that is the idea anyway)

Z – Zest and Zig Zag– From the zest of discovery and knowledge many teachers are now changing direction – zig zagging – in how they approach teaching and learning and their application of cognitive science in lessons.

Happy to take further suggestions – find me on twitter here

20 ideas & strategies for Student Led Dual Coding

Dual Coding in very simple terms is combining visuals/graphics with text/verbals. What it is not is having complicated pictures with lots going on next to powerpoint text and detailed drawings next to every sentence. The idea behind Dual Coding is that will reduce any cognitive load rather than put more stress on the working memory. Dual Coding if completed well should enable the memory to encode easier and so you are able to retain information in your long term memory; this in turn can be recalled during retrieval. I have written a few short blogs on retrieval practice here:

Much of what I have understood from dual coding has come from and the following research papers:

Much of what dual coding is and can be makes sense. I have also thought while teaching that if students are writing notes while you are teaching they may miss content and lack understanding and  I do not let students write notes will watching videos unless we play it twice. I now try not to overload the working memory by putting ‘complicated diagrams/ on presentations next to text as it will divide attention and I do not fill slides with pointless images that are just there to engage the learner. What is important is that the images and visuals are accompanied with text that represents the image.

I have put the following together some ideas of how you could use dual coding in your classroom. Not all of these ideas may work in your setting and will I am sure be more suited to some groups of students than others.

  1. Mindmaps

Students often get carried away by mindmaps – either that or never set sail only to write and colour a lovely title. If they do produce a mindmap, more often than not it is information and cognitive overload and loses its purpose. Mindmaps need to be kept simple, so students in the long run are able to self quiz using them. Set students a challenge that all branches need to be a certain colour, they must include diagrams, pictures and sketches and give them a maximum word count.

2. Annotated Diagrams

In science we use lots of diagrams to help explain concepts, ideas and phenomenon. Most if not all diagrams need further labels – but do we as teachers think hard enough as hard enough about how we label as much as what we label.

To reduce cognitive load it is important that labels are labelled within the diagram rather than attached to lines pointing to the correct parts or with labels in a box next to it labelled with a, b, c etc. There is a nice blog here explaining this with a great example by

3. A to Z

I have created this resource which is free to download from TES which allows for great retrieval as well as dual coding. Students use the letters A to Z to write a keyword or term for the topic of choice and then the students are able to draw or sketch something that represent the keyword.


Students write their own or are given a list of keywords. The game can be played various ways students could draw it while other guess it, or one student shows to the word to a group but can not see it themselves. Other groups members then draw it and the student that has the word has to guess what it is. The teacher could also instruct students to draw various concepts on mini white boards as a starter.

5.Story Board

Allow students to create a story board to help explain concepts. Download my template for free here.

6. Comic Strip

Similar to the story board but allow students to create their own comic strips or add text to pre-drawn comics such as these

7.Make it visual

Adding a diagram or two difficult to grasp concepts. I made a resource to support the teaching of GCSE Energy – stores and pathways. Students find this concept difficult to grasp and so I decided on creating this.

8.Put data in tables

Recently I was writing an email to colleagues regarding data entry and half way through I re-read what I had written and found it confusing. It was then, I created a table to put the data in – It took less time, made much more sense but more importantly allowed the information to be encoded a lot quicker. This is one of the reasons why we create tables in science, how else would you be able to organise thousands of data points?

9. Venn Diagrams

Organise data in a visual way – makes learning and reviewing knowledge so much easier. Mitosis Vs Meosis, alkane Vs alkene to fusion to fission


10. Timelines

Timelines are a brilliant strategy to organise dates and times that other wise would take a lot of working memory to manipulate. I have used timelines in science to visually represent the changes to the atomic model and the stages of the big band. History teachers I am sure are already all over this!

11. Infographics

I often create infographics by accident. I start off wanting to create a mind map but end up with an infographic. I see the infographic as a mindmap without the structure, but not lacking structure and information that it can be classed a poster.


12. Flashcards

I have blogged about the use of flashcards here:

and I suggest you spend 5 minutes reading this.

13. Double Bubble Thinking Maps

These are a great tool like the venn diagram if you are wanting to compare and contrast ideas. Unlike the venn digram which could be used for 2+ ideas, the double bubble would just be used to explore the similarities and differences between two things.


14. Fishbone Thinking Map

This type of analysis diagram is used when ideas can be quite complex and may cause conflict with one another. It can be seen as  more structured form of a mindmap.

15. Flow Diagrams

If you have lots of ideas that are a sequence of events a flow diagram is a useful way of getting your thoughts on paper in a visual format. I have most commonly used this when I have asked lower attainers to write a method for a scientific experience, they find a flow map easier to understand than just listing instructions.

16. Foldable / Interactive Notebooks

A few years ago I started to create interactive notebooks which I noticed were very popular other in America. The aim of these foldables were that would help support students in getting to grips with concepts and ideas. the resources are far more engaging than just drawing a 2D diagram in an exercise book. These resources can be found here:

17. Visual Methods /Integrated Instruction 

I have always tried before a practice to make sure I have shown students a clear demo, which is left complete and used as a reference point if possible. I will also put written instructions on the board which students can use. It was twitter that pointed me in the direction of his brilliant blog and chemix.org

Reducing cognitive load and adding dual coding to a method can only benefit students.

18. Sketchnoting

Sketchnoting is the art of adding graphics and visuals to notes instead of writing them all in words. The Naked Scientists have produced some great videos in the past using the art of sketch noting and it is explained very well in this article by 

19. Tree Maps tree

I have used tree maps in classification type activities and decision making activities. I have used examples of these in the past when teaching the rock cycle. Does the rock dissolve in acid – if yes go to A if no got B. They can be also used to classify categories such as the classic image of the kingdoms in biology.

20. Cycle Diagrams 

These are created as flow maps however the steps can feed back into each other. They can make complex ideas seem connected. Examples can be like these:

For further reading click here


14 Research Papers on Dual Coding

Kate Jones has a brilliant overview and more links to dual coding which you can find here.

Any more ideas to add – let me know on Twitter.

OliCav has written this great book. Buy a copy here – click on the book image.

Image Google images: Commons; label for reuse but with thanks to &

10 strategies to involve parents in retrieval practice

In recent weeks I blogged about how as a teacher I have embedded retrieval practice into my everyday teaching and also how I have urged students to be independent in their own retrieval.

10 Research Papers on Retrieval Practice.

14 Research Papers on Dual Coding

20 Ideas for student led retrieval practice

10 ways to embed retrieval practice into your lessons!

This led on to me think how I could encourage parents to further support students learning. See here for 10 strategies to encourage parents to become more involved.

Provide Question and Answer banks.

Similar to what calls retrieval roulette however this is not classroom based but home based. I have put a series of questions and answers on the school VLE and made the pages to parents so they are able to self quiz students at home.

A question a day

I have provided 5 months worth of worth of questions (however not the answers) which parents and students are able to use. These have been handed out to students and parents in lessons and at parents evening, they are also available on the school VLE and TES.

AQA Physics

AQA Chemistry

A guest blog written by  explains it well Hexagon and Monthly Revision Strategies

Knowledge organisers & checklists

I have given students knowledge organisers and topic checklists and have asked parents/carers to involve discussions and questions around these points.

How do you solve a problem like….checklists

Sign up to Seneca

I have written an article for the school newsletter encouraging all students to sign up to Seneca and for parents to join them. Many parents have said to me in the past “Physics!, I have not done that since school, how can I help him/her” – well now they can.

Seneca Learning – classroom based Inquiry: The Questionnaire

Seneca Learning: The Start of the Journey…..

Accessible Past Papers

With the new 1-9 spec just started we are currently restricted with the amount of past papers however I have told students/parents where to find out papers such as here and here.

Log into Kerboodle 

I have made sure parents/carers are aware of their child’s log on for kerboodle and have encouraged parents to look around the site and support their son/daughter in using it.

Learning scientists blogs

I have given parents a link to the Learning Scientists blogs so they can better understand how to revise and offer effective support.

Encourage parents to design a timetable for students

I have create a revision timetable for AQA Physics however if parents and students can create one  together – even better. See my example here

Make and quiz each other using flashcards

It is becoming well known now that it isn’t the making of the flashcards that is important but the self quizzing using them. I have asked students to quiz parents as well as parents to quiz students.

See this Learning Scientists blog on how to use flashcards  

Self quiz from mindmaps

Once mindmaps are created parents and carers can help supports by quizzing them on them and allowing them recreate them from memory.

See this Retrieval Practice blog

If you have any other ideas let me know via

14 Research Papers on Dual Coding

This is part two of a research paper collection following:

10 Research Papers on Retrieval Practice.

I have here 14 papers which may find useful if you are new to “dual coding” or as it seems to be referred to in research “multimedia cognition.” These papers will hopefully give you a understanding in which you will be able to embed the strategy to improve your lessons.

Mayer, R.E. and Anderson, R.B., 1992. The instructive animation: Helping students build connections between words and pictures in multimedia learning. Journal of educational Psychology, 84(4), p.444.

Mayer, R.E. and Moreno, R., 2002. Animation as an aid to multimedia learning. Educational psychology review, 14(1), pp.87-99.

Moreno, R. and Mayer, R.E., 2000. A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: Deriving instructional design principles from cognitive theory. Interactive multimedia electronic journal of computer-enhanced learning, 2(2), pp.12-20.

Mayer, R.E., 2005. Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning, 43.

Mayer, R.E. and Moreno, R., 2003. Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational psychologist, 38(1), pp.43-52.

Mayer, R.E., 2008. Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. American psychologist, 63(8), p.760.

Mayer, R.E. and Moreno, R., 1998. A cognitive theory of multimedia learning: Implications for design principles. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(2), pp.358-368.

Paivio, A. and Clark, J.M., 2006, September. Dual coding theory and education. In Draft chapter presented at the conference on Pathways to Literacy Achievement for High Poverty Children at The University of Michigan School of Education.

Clark, J.M. and Paivio, A., 1991. Dual coding theory and education. Educational psychology review, 3(3), pp.149-210.

Reed, S.K., 2006. Cognitive architectures for multimedia learning. Educational psychologist, 41(2), pp.87-98.

Najjar, L.J., 1995. Dual coding as a possible explanation for the effects of multimedia on learning. Georgia Institute of Technology.

Simpson, T.J., 1995. Message Into Medium: An Extension of the Dual Coding Hypothesis.

The great Oliver Caviglioli  suggested two great additions to the collection. It fact they should be read first before any of the others.

Larkin, J.H. and Simon, H.A., 1987. Why a diagram is (sometimes) worth ten thousand words. Cognitive science, 11(1), pp.65-100.

Vekiri, I., 2002. What is the value of graphical displays in learning?. Educational psychology review, 14(3), pp.261-312.

Follow me on twitter for more great ideas

Want to use Retrieval Practice more effectively see:

20 Ideas for student led retrieval practice

Mid Topic Retrieval Quizzes to aid metacognition

10 ways to embed retrieval practice into your lessons!

10 Research Papers on Retrieval Practice.

For those new or interested in Retrieval Practice in the classroom I have a list of 10 free research papers from journals that you can access [links are embedded in the reference – so just click away].

Before the links you may be interested to say how I have used Retrieval Practice in the classroom:

In no particular order:

Roediger III, H.L. and Butler, A.C., 2011. The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention. Trends in cognitive sciences, 15(1), pp.20-27. 

Karpicke, J.D. and Roediger III, H.L., 2007. Expanding retrieval practice promotes short-term retention, but equally spaced retrieval enhances long-term retention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(4), p.704. 

Karpicke, J.D. and Blunt, J.R., 2011. Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, p.1199327.

Bjork, R.A., 1988. Retrieval practice and the maintenance of knowledge. Practical aspects of memory: Current research and issues, 1, pp.396-401.

Agarwal, P.K., Karpicke, J.D., Kang, S.H., Roediger III, H.L. and McDermott, K.B., 2008. Examining the testing effect with open‐and closed‐book tests. Applied Cognitive Psychology: The Official Journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 22(7), pp.861-876.

Roediger III, H.L., Agarwal, P.K., McDaniel, M.A. and McDermott, K.B., 2011. Test-enhanced learning in the classroom: long-term improvements from quizzing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17(4), p.382.

Karpicke, J.D., 2012. Retrieval-based learning: Active retrieval promotes meaningful learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(3), pp.157-163.

Karpicke, J.D. and Grimaldi, P.J., 2012. Retrieval-based learning: A perspective for enhancing meaningful learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(3), pp.401-418.

Karpicke, J. D. (2017). Retrieval-based learning: A decade of progress. In J. T. Wixted (Ed.), Cognitive psychology of memory, Vol. 2 of Learning and memory: A comprehensive reference (J. H. Byrne, Series Ed.) (pp. 487-514). Oxford: Academic Press.

Agarwal, P.K., Bain, P.M. and Chamberlain, R.W., 2012. The value of applied research: Retrieval practice improves classroom learning and recommendations from a teacher, a principal, and a scientist. Educational Psychology Review, 24(3), pp.437-448.

And as an added extra a link to a presentation from Efrat Furst which she delivered at ResearchED in Haninge, Sweden, March 10th 2018.

If you have any more great papers you would like added, comment below or let me know on twitter


Mid Topic Retrieval Quizzes to aid metacognition

Retrieval Practice is a strategy I wish I embedded into my practice very early on in my teaching career. It has only been in last year or so, that I have embraced the technique and tried to implant it into my everday teaching.

I first read about retrieval from IMPACT, a journal I receive as a founding member of the Chartered College of Teaching. [Interim Issue, May 2017 & Issue 1, September 2017] . I have written further blogs on retrieval practice.

 I really caught the bug after I saw so many teachers sharing retrieval grids on twitter based on the design by Kate Jones   – see her blog about this here. 

I created my own grids and you can find examples here of ones I have upload to TES and free to download here. I even got students to create their own to self quiz each other – the template can be downloaded here.

The grids do take  time to create and it was a lightbulb moment when I saw Adam Boxer was collating what he called ‘retrieval roulette’ activities. If you have not come across this as yet, I fully recommend that you take 5 minutes to explore this page on his blog. 

It has become ingrained for students to enter my lab, turn to the back of their books (BoB) and complete theebbinghaus-diagram 6 questions for a low stakes assessment. If they do not know the answer – I now get them to write the question out as well. This example of routine self quizzing is a win win starter and is linked to the “Forgetting Curve” which was first described by Hermann Ebbinghaus. Ebbinghaus explains that information is lost over time and in order to “recall” this information we must first “retrieve” it. He also suggested that if you have forgotten something and then retrieve it, it will stay in your memory for longer. I use this idea, and idea of retrieval practice which is explained very well with downloadable materials by . Why Retrieval works by   is also a recommended  read.

Step forward a few months. Our CPD across my school for this academic year is based on applying ‘metacognition.’ While I reflected about how I use and can better embed metacognition in my own lessons, the more I saw the links between retrieval and metacognition. I did not want students just to experience teacher led retrieval but know which strategies work best for them and support their learning. Karpicke (2009) shows that students do not retrieve often or early enough, so I wanted to make sure students were self-reflecting at every learning opportunity.

I have used plickers in the past to assess progress (  Using Plickers to assess for Mastery ) however for this I wanted something more substantial in their books. I wanted it to cover retrieval, metacognition and teacher feedback to aid my workload and to inform my future planning. I decided upon a mini quiz half way through a topic and trailed it with a year 9 triple science class. The topic in question was from AQA Physics  “the Particle Model of Matter.” I created a 20 question quiz that I uploaded to TES for you to download. If I was lazy I could that used the questions I use at the start of lessons however I wanted fresh questions. We then self marked these questions and I allowed time for student reflection.

What has gone well?

Where are my knowledge gaps?

Why have I got knowledge gaps?

Am I able any strategies I have used to content I have remember to content I don’t remember?

How else am I able to learn?

This ticked the boxes in my own 3 step success criteria:

Retrieval Practice

1)      Students had a ‘surprise’ quiz with no access to books

2)      Questions were just from the topic we were studying some of which had been taught by a student teacher. (5 from Kinetic Theory, Specific Latent Heat, Specific Heat Capacity and Density)

3)      Questions were self assessed

4)      I decided to record the score when I gave written feedback


5)      Chance to reflect on what is going well so far in the unit of work

6)      Identify knowledge gaps

7)      Link knowledge with their topic checklists. See how I use checklists with my classes here.

8)      Give the students chance to reflect on how they have learnt

9)      Aid reflection on how to transfer useful skills and strategies


10)   I have printed this out on yellow paper (school policy)  so they are the building blocks of any written feedback I give to students.

The feedback I have written as been quick and to the point so will hopefully allow for more learning. The weaker areas of the topics will be explored in more detail in future lessons as retrieval based starters such as these 20 starter activities to stretch & challenge students

I gave out to students as a surprise ‘test’ or ‘quiz’ as I called it as I thought it would really see the impact of retrieval. I have not told students yet, but I plan to issue the same quiz out again after term to see the effects. (More on this later). I may also complete further mid topic retrieval quizzes after I have instructed students to complete various topics on Seneca Learning to see if that makes a difference as well. There are lots of different pathways where this could go, I am sure I will blog the results in the future.

retreival mid termretrieval practice mid term

Karpicke, J.D (2009) Metacognition Control and Strategy Selection: Deciding to Practice Retrieval During Learning. Journal of experimental Psychology. 138(4)469-486.

Follow me on Twitter for future updates:

20 Ideas for student led retrieval practice

There is currently a lot of ideas on twitter about the retrieval practice and the testing effect. If you have come across this blog and are not familiar then I suggest you spend some time reading this research by Karpicke and Grimaldi , I would pay a visit to this website  from by

I have blogged a few ideas about how I have used it, as a classroom teacher however I wanted to explore more ideas about how students could be trained to retrieve knowledge in the classroom and at home.

The following are some ideas that are tried and tested and some ideas that I want to explore in more detail.

1)      Flashcards: I am going to spend time explaining to students how to use flashcards effectively. Much of this is based on this blog I discovered from  by Rachel Adranga. This gives ideas on how to use flashcards along side” instruction” flash cards. I am also pushing students to create their flashcards using dual coding. 

2)      Self Quizzing: this one is basic however so many students just ‘read’ notes and do not quiz themselves from this information. I encourage students to write questions from their notes so they quiz each other and self test at a later date. I have even got students to create their own retrieval grids to quiz one another. Download the grid from TES for free.


3)      Parent Based Quizzing: To support this I have sent parents and carers a bank of questions and answers (via the school VLE) so quizzing can be done at outside of school, ending the need of the question “but what else can they do at home?”. I will reflect and review this later, as this has only just been done. 

4)      Seneca Learning: While we are on the subject of self quizzing, the Seneca learning platform is a brilliant resource for students to do just this. It is free to sign up to and I have just completed a review of how my students find it HERE.  Seneca can also be found on twitter and I have also blogged about Seneca Learning before in these blogs:

5)      Revision Guides/Textbooks: Not just reading them but using them to self quiz and test. Make good use of the questions and answers in the books, cover and write and repeat etc. If there isn’t any questions and answers embedded at the back then there is a great blog here -again from blog pages that details a brilliant method in retrieving information.

6)      A Question A Day: I have created a question a day from January up to the summer exams. I have given these out at parents evenings in the past. I have examples for you to use for the 2019 summer exams.

7)      Mindmaps: Students not only create mindmaps from keyfacts but also self test from the information. It is important students use the idea of dual coding on mindmaps and do not overfill with too much text and  highlighting text. Then try and recreate it all from memory. More ideas can be found from this website.

8)      Quizlet: I have personally not used quizlet however lots of teachers on twitter have commented on how great it is for knowledge retrieval. There are plenty of other flashcards already made my teachers that students can use. Join up here: https://quizlet.com/latest

9)      Heads Up/Taboo: Students can create keywords and terms, mix them up and put them on their forehead. Other students, then have to try and explain what that keyword is without saying it. This aids retrieval from all students – even if it is repeated, the jogging of the memory will hopefully bring up more key terms.

10)   A to Z: A very simple exercise, students jot down A to Z on a bit of paper. They then have to recall key terms for each of the letters they have written down. Download a free template from TES for this from my TES SHOP.

11)   Kahoot: students can set up their own Kahoot and test each other. Like quizlet there are plenty of quizzes already made which you can find here https://kahoot.com/

12)   Homework: As soon as students start their GCSE science course, I prepare them by only setting past paper questions. I then collect these in after students have self marked them and corrected mistakes. In year 11 I give these home learning sheets back and students can use them to self quiz at home. I written how I use this here: How To Solve A Problem Like….Homework

13)   Past papers: These are great, not only for understanding how exam boards write questions in conjunction with their mark schemes and easing anxiety towards their exams. If used in ‘exam conditions’ they promote retrieval in its most basic form. has written an article here on 10 ways to use past papers

14)   Write their own exam style questions: Students write their own exam style questions and quiz each other.

15)   Venn Diagrams: After reading a text, if appropriate students create a venn diagram. Re-read and add the venn diagram. They can then try and recreate it from memory.

16)   Knowledge organisers: If you have jumped on the band wagon like myself and created knowledge organisers it is important to challenge students in not just reading them but recreating them in order to make the knowledge stick. There are plenty of free physics and chemistry knowledge organisers in my TES shop https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/TRJ

17)   Wordsearch: Challenge students with a wordsearch not by just giving them one to complete but to create one with clues.

18)   Crossword: See 17) Wordsearch

19)   Brian Dump: After reading their notes ask students to write as much as they can from memory. More information can be found here https://www.retrievalpractice.org/strategies/2017/free-recall

20)   Quiz & Trade: Students write 3 of their own questions on one side of a piece of paper and the answers on the reverse. They then go around the classroom and quiz each other with their own questions. If a student they are testing gets it wrong they put a tally next to the incorrect question. After the questions have been exhausted then students swap questions and test somebody.

Have you used any of these strategies? how have you found them? What other ideas do you have?

Seneca Learning – classroom based Inquiry: The Questionnaire

As a Seneca Pioneer School, [read about the start of the journey here] I decided to roll out a questionnaire to all my classes that I have used Seneca Learning with. Some groups where just introduced to it, others had used it in the previous academic year. I contacted Seneca to see if they would like any particular questions asked. I intended to use the results inform my day to day practice, send some ‘usage’ data to Seneca and to lead some staff CPD next year.

The questionnaire and sheet I used to tally up the results can be download from TES here:

The Groups I test were:

9.4 – A foundation level group that have just started their GCSE Physics course with me.

9T1 – A higher ability group that are mostly higher prior attainers and have chosen triple science as a curriculum option

10.5 – A small group of learners who find science very difficult. They will sit AQA Trilogy.

10.3 – A larger less able/mixed ability group taking AQA Trilogy. I am new to teaching this group this year.

10T1 – A higher ability triple science group. I have taught this group since the beginning of Y9.

11T2 – a mixed ability triple science class. I have taught this group from the start of Y9.

11T1 – a higher ability triple science class.  I have taught this group from the start of Y9.

In total 153 students took part in the survey from years 9 to 11.

Question 1:

How easy was it to sign up to Seneca Learning?


98% of students found signing up to Seneca Learning easy or very easy. It was interesting to see that younger found the process more ‘difficult’. It was also noted that some of those students that did find it easy were absent when I went the process.

Question 2:

How easy have you found it to navigate through Seneca Learning?


92% of students found Seneca Learning very easy or easy to Navigate. In total only 1 student (from the Y10 cohort) from Seneca learning ‘very hard’ to log on to.

Question 3:

In General, how have you found Seneca?


These results show clearly that students enjoy Seneca Learning. With higher triple groups finding the platform better than other groups.

Question 4:

Is Seneca an engaging and productive way to learn?


93% of all students who took part in the questionnaire found Seneca engaging and a productive use of their time. The 7% who did not feel it was a useful tool were mostly from the more foundation sets. This could be because of the student not understanding the context and the language used in the units. The group that had the most ‘No’ answers was 10.3 (5 students out of 21) – this group had only just been introduced to the resource so it would be interesting to repeat the questionnaire at the end of year to see if this has changed.

Question 5:

Has Seneca helped you learn?


Again a really positive outcome for Seneca Learning with 85% of students find Seneca helps them learn (56% some, 29% Lots)

Question 6:

Have you noticed you make more progress when you use Seneca?


Only 7% of students said they do not make any more progress than they normally would when the use Seneca Learning (this was only 10 students out of 153). 16% make lots more progress, 56% make some progress and 22% of students make a little more progress.

5 out of the 10 students who mentioned they do not make any progress were from my foundation year class, who had only just been introduced to Seneca. In 3 of the 7 classes questions every single student noted they make at least a little progress.

Question 7:

Does Seneca help you help the course content? And how?


Only 5% of students claimed that Seneca Learning does not help them learn at all. 26% believe Seneca helps them lots, 60% believe Seneca helps them sometimes and 9% claim it helps them a little bit.

Once again 3 of the 7 students who claimed Seneca does not help them at all were from the foundation year 10 group. 3 students from 11T1 also made this claim, possibly because of the reasons given in question 14.

These were the reasons students gave as to why Seneca was useful for them.

“Mostly easy to read”


“Gives you the answer & corrects mistakes”

“You can go back over the questions”

“Good for revision”

“The repetition of the questions is useful”

“You have to read the questions to answer the question”

“Lots of extra facts and information”

“Key information is explained well and it is fun”

“Helps me retain information”

“Different types of questions”

“Helps me remember as it explains things in a different way”

“I’ve learnt lots just by using Seneca”

“Seneca keeps my focus”

“Helps with my understanding so I wont make the same mistake again”

“I remember the pictures and diagrams”

“Engaging and a fun way to learn”

“Covers all the course content and questions ensure you through it thoroughly”

“Teaches you step by step”

“Helps me remember info to store in my head as it is all in my head”

“Highlights my weaknesses”

Question 8:

Compared to other revision / Learning Resources how does Seneca compare?


Compared to other revision sources it is clear Seneca Learning is preferred by many students. 63% of students asked believe Seneca is better than anything else they have used. 32% believe the resource is parallel to other sources. 5% of students have used better sources of revision for them. This is surely expected as one program or type of revision will not suit everyone.

This questionnaire was completed before Seneca Learning introduced the ‘classes and assignments’ section and teachers were able to set and push out assignments to teachers.

Question 9:

When have you used Seneca Learning?


Students had the option to answer more than once on this question or not at all. As an over view it is clear to see the ‘T’ (triple) groups used Seneca Learning far more in their own time at school and at home compared the less able groups.

In total 25% of the students asked said they have used Seneca Learning in their own time at school and 48% claimed they use Seneca Learning In their own time at home.  It is unsure at this time whether or not students who said they use Seneca in their time, may have been asked to use Seneca Learning for home learning.

Question 10:

If you log into Seneca Learning in your own time, how long do you spend using it?


This was an interesting question.  Only students that used Seneca in their own time had to answer it. 45% of students used Seneca Learning for under an hour in their own time. 27% used it between 1 to 3 hours (41 students), 3% (5 students) used it for 3-5 hours, 4 students used it for 5 to 10 hours and 1 student 10 hours plus.

On reflection this was not a great question, as I did not make it clear if this over the course of one day, one week or the total usage. Even so, once again it is clear that the higher attaining students from

Question 11:

Which platforms do you use to log into Seneca?


Students could answer multiply choices on these questions – in fact some answered all four. The device used most to access Seneca was using a PC/Laptop. Students did comment saying they may use tablets/Ipads and mobile devices more in there was an app available. Students were more likely to use a device at home but a PC in school.

Question 12:

Which subjects do you revise with the most on Seneca? (is your teacher aware?)

I believe I was the first member of staff at my school to introduce Seneca to the students. Feedback I received from this question shows that most students are using Seneca at various times across the curriculum to revise and learn in most subject areas, most teachers were not aware of this.

Question 13:

What is your favourite feature/aspect of Seneca?

There were many positive comments, that demonstrate the impact that Seneca has on student achievement. The most common comments include how easy and fun Seneca is, along with the use of the audio and visual elements that are embedded within the courses.

Here are some of the comments made by students in each class:


“Good mix of easy/hard questions”

“Good that you can see your mistakes”

“The videos are useful”

“Like that you can see your progress”

“The knowledge score and leaderboard”


“Easy to learn with”

“content is well explained”

“Easy to navigate”

“I like the world memory”

“The toggle questions”

“You can join your class”

“simple to use”

“Visuals are good as are the tests/questions”


“I like competing against friends”

“Audio and visuals are good”

“lots of subjects and courses”

“makes learning fun”


“useful facts”

“I like the memory palace”

“Lots of different types of questions”

“Shows how much you have done”

“layout is easy to use”


“Good variety of questions and courses available”

“I like the images, GIFS and videos”

“Ease of navigation – laid out clearly & simple to use”

“Progress score”

It is good when questions are repeated”

“Like the multiply choice questions”

“Memory storage”

“Competition between peers”

“I like the fact you can redo courses until you get 100%”


“Types of questions”

“Gifs and Videos”

“you need to get it right before you move on and can repeat”

“Interactive memories and knowledge score”

“Builds knowledge up”

“Wide range of subjects and questions”

“Interactive and rewarding”

“Clear and engaging”


“Repeat the questions if you get them wrong”

“Good to see the blue circle fill up”

“Memories and the knowledge score”

“Interactive, quick and easy”

Question 14:

How could Seneca Learning be improved?

The students really thought long and hard about this question. I was very impressed with the fact, many students really wanted to propose sensible suggestions. Some of most common themes from the higher tier students were:

  • Increasing the difficulty of the some of the questions
  • Longer exam style questions
  • More difficult to get questions correct (no autofill) + and at times the answer need is very random
  • Past paper type activities and questions

Foundation Tier students found:

  • Sometimes the language was too advanced – could some kind of dictionary be included or key word list with definition.
  • Extra quizzes
  • Learning Games included


“Some questions are too hard”

“more tips to help remember staff – like jokes and songs”

“The questions that you toggle are too easy because they are coloured”


More detail as to what you have got wrong”

“A warning box that pops up in case you press continue by accident”

“make your own nickname”

“more questions on topics”

“more choices for storage/memory palace”

“Even if I get all questions correct, I don’t get 100%”

“Some of the language is a difficult to understand sometimes – so explanation on key language of a link to a dictionary”

“I would like to see virtual rewards”

“Clear timers”

“More information and detail if you fail a question”


“Write your own name/nickname”

“Create avatars for yourself”

“Download the app in the app store”

“I want to see learning games and activities”


“Easier to find things”

“Make it more fun and interactive – like include games”

“Add extra video links”

“More fun quizzes”

“Add more vocational courses like Agriculture”


“Timed questions”

“Include harder exam style questions”

“Exam style exam papers”

“More quizzes”

“Choice of harder/easier questions”

“longer lessons dedicated to harder subjects”


“Higher / Foundation tier toggle option”

“Extra links for help and support”

“Different types of questions”

“Too easy to cheat!”

“Increase level of difficulty”

“Exam style questions”

“Past paper questions”


“Higher tier needs less autocorrect – you get the answer right sometimes when it should be wrong”

“More detail”

“Answers to fill in can be very random at times”

“More questions with a higher level of challenge”

“Extra style questions – with less multiply choice – more 4/6 mark questions”

“Individual class leader boards that are visible to the whole class”

Next Steps

The answers to this questionnaire has informed me that Seneca is a positive learning tool to have in the classroom. Hopefully results will see an improvement in student attainment. I personally will be using it more to set further home learning.

I will also be feeding some this to the whole school during an INSET later this term.