Knowledge organisers- more clarity than learning objectives and great for building retention

The inspiration for this post came from an article on Joe Kirby’s blog, Pragmatic Reform called Knowledge Organisers. I have huge admiration for what Joe and his colleagues are achieving at Michaela Community School by challenging just about every status quo in teaching and learning. They are at the forefront of developing high-impact, sustainable-workload teaching strategies informed by cognitive science research findings.

Joe explains that Knowledge Organisers make very clear to students the specific knowledge you want them to commit to long-term memory. The idea is that learning objectives often are a level detached from the knowledge that you want students to learn. For example, the learning objective, “to be able to apply the special triangle angle facts” does not communicate to the students what the facts actually are. Lesson objectives that don’t specify the knowledge you want students to learn in meticulous detail leave that knowledge open to inference which is therefore inherently variable.

I have applied Joe’s philosophy to create a Knowledge Organiser for the topic of angle facts. It looks like this:

Slide1

Knowledge Organisers specify precisely the core-level knowledge you want students to learn. The clarity of learning intention is much better than with a list of learning objectives.

By giving students the Knowledge Organiser, rather than a list of learning objectives you make it explicitly clear to them the knowledge you want them to learn. Critics would argue that a knowledge-led approach detracts away from deep learning, problem-solving based teaching strategies. I see it as a false dichotomy; students need both- they can’t solve problems until they have the prerequisite knowledge required to solve them.

Joe then goes on to show how Knowledge Organisers can be used to get the benefits of the testing effect. You can create frequent low-stakes quizzes by taking any table from the Knowledge Organiser and blanking out a column.

Students have to fill in the blank column. By building the knowledge organisers in PowerPoint it is easy to then copy the table from the Knowledge Organiser to another PowerPoint and delete the contents of one column

Students have to fill in the blank column. By building the knowledge organisers in PowerPoint it is easy to then copy the table from the Knowledge Organiser to another PowerPoint and delete the contents of one column. Words that were bold in the Knowledge Organiser have to be included in the students’ answer for them to be awarded the mark.

In addition to clarity of what you want students to learn and to the  building of retention, Knowledge Organisers can also then be used as revision tools shortly before exams. Altogether they represent a versatile teaching resource that could arguably completely replace the need for schemes of learning. They enable students to efficiently build fluency with core knowledge prior to deep-learning, problem-solving based activities.

Like many other things Joe has spoken about at Michaela, Knowledge Organisers are a research-informed concept that is not only good for learning but also one that reduces teacher workload too (once they are made). In the coming years, I would like to trial the use of Knowledge Organisers in my own practice and will, of course, let you know how they go.

If you like this idea, do have a read of Joe’s blog; the work they are doing at Michaela is never less than inspiring.

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7 Responses

  1. L says:

    You could also have the students develop their own knowledge organizers as part of summative activity.

  2. Anne Kelly says:

    Thanks, William for this post. I really like the idea of the knowledge organisers.
    I had a look at some of the examples stored on Google Drive.
    Thanks again

  3. PHe says:

    Thanks for the post. Really useful. How do I find more examples on the Google Drive or from any one who tried this successfully in Maths.
    Really interesting.

  4. HaLevia says:

    For beautiful examples of student-built (teacher-designed) knowledge organizers in math, look up Sarah Hagan’s interactive notebook posts.

  5. Sam says:

    This looks fantastic! Is it oaky to use this? Do you have other examples at all?

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