Chapter 5: Helping Pupils Learn

Chapter 5 is about helping pupils learn. It has nine units – the ways pupils learn, active learning, teaching styles, improving your teaching, closing the achievement gap, neuroeducation, critical thinking, a language-rich classroom and pedagogy - the science, craft and performance of teaching.

There are two explainer videos in this section. One provides an overview of the chapter, while the other focuses on practitioner research to help you develop your teaching.

The additional materials for 5.1 include a PDF of Factors for Effective Learning as well as the information from Table 5.1.1 Psychological and cognitive research influences on education to understand the relevant psychological and cognitive research. We’ve also provided a helpful video link about Piaget, Table 5.1.3: Pyschometric, personality and individual thinking/learning style research as well as a useful link to a ResearchEd video on Dual Coding.

The additional materials for 5.2 include useful graphics on active learning concepts to support the unit.

The additional materials for 5.3 include examples of activities that teachers might use in the classroom, based on Table 5.3.3, as well as flashcards based on Mosston and Ashworth’s ‘Continuum of teaching styles’,

The additional materials for 5.4 include the practitioner research explainer video, as well as a useful ‘What is Action Research’ video link in YouTube. The author has provided a PDF of Lesson Reflection using Brookfield’s Lenses, which will support this approach to developing your own teaching from a research perspective.

The additional materials for 5.5 include flashcards based on Classroom approaches: teaching/pedagogical strategies.

The additional materials for 5.6 include the video link to a website created by the author about the concepts in this chapter mapped to the ITT Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework. Use these materials to develop your understanding of Neuroeducation: The Science of Learning. The author has also provided an Evidence Basis for this Unit annex that you can download.

The additional materials for 5.7 include a graphic of the Linden tree used in this unit, along with the explanation. This could be used to initiate a session on critical thinking, either individually or with others.

The additional materials for 5.8 include materials based on tasks in the unit. These are Task 5.8.1 Lesson Observation and Task 5.8.3 Incorporating Comprehension Strategies into Lessons, along with DART activities. The additional materials for 5.9 include videos and powerpoints from the English Speaking Union on secondary school oracy and a guide to oracy skill sets. We have also provided the detail of Table 5.9.1 on Essential learning theories underpinning pedagogy. One of the authors has recorded a video on the cooking analogy and Table 5.9.3 Examples of terms describing pedagogic tools has been expanded into flashcards.

Helping pupils learn

Helping pupils learn by blending teaching approaches.

5.1 Ways Pupils Learn


Table 5.1.1 Psychological and cognitive research influences on education

5.1 Factors for effective learning

Use Table 5.1.1 Psychological and cognitive research influences on education to understand the relevant psychological and cognitive research.

The Piaget video in unit 4.3 will also be helpful here

TheoriesKey Propositions/IdeasImplications for LearningMain TheoristsUnits
Behaviourist Learning TheoryStarted with experiments on animals; emphasises external stimuli for learning; concepts of operant and classical conditioningInstructional learning, guided discovery, behaviour reinforcement/managementPavlov (1897) Watson (1913) Skinner (1957)3.3 5.7
Social Learning (later Social Cognitive) TheoryEmphasises impact of observational learning on cognition – abstract rules extracted from observing behaviour without such rules being explicitly stated; bridges behaviourist and cognitive-developmental theoriesPeer learning, eg. ‘laddish’ ethos; modelling socially acceptable behaviour and normsBandura (1977)1.1 5.7
Gestalt TheoryPerception driven by the brain’s search for ‘wholeness’; people reorganise information to impose order on it using principles of proximity, similarity, figure-ground, continuity, closure and connectionProvide big picture in advance of detailed information; ensure context is clearWertheimer (1923) Koffka (1935) Kohler (1940) 
Cognitive –Develop Mental TheoryDevelopmental maturation through stages needed for learning; experience of world leads to assimilation and accommodation of new concepts Extrapolation of stage theory beyond cognition to social, emotional and ethical developmentPupils only learn certain concepts when ready; provide pupil-centred discovery learning; concrete examples assist abstract thinking. Discuss moral issues; be alert to adolescent sensitivitiesPiaget (1932)           Kohlberg (1976) Selman (1980)4.3           4.5
Meta cognition and Self-Regulation TheoriesLearning to learn: understanding and controlling own learning strategiesEncourage techniques for remembering, ways of presenting information when thinking and approaches to problem-solvingFlavell (1979) Adey (1992, 2008) Shayer and Adey (2002)4.3 5.5 6.1
Social Constructivist TheoryKnowledge is socially constituted and actively restructured through experience with the environment; language is central to development of thinkingUse group work, pupil talk and teacher scaffolding/structured intervention to promote higher level thinkingVygotsky (1962, 1978) Bruner (1966) Wood 19885.7
Constructivist TheoryPeople make their own sense of things in a unique way by examining it in relation to prior conceptions and experiences and see to what extent it fits; existing conceptions are paramountAvoid direct instruction – create situations which facilitate pupils constructing their own knowledge starting with their own mis/conceptionsDriver and Bell (1986) 
Information – processing theoryConcept development involves reconstructing rather than recalling ‘schema’; key memory and retrieval processes are attention, analysis and retention.Link new knowledge to what is already known; move from general to specific using sequential procedures; use key words and ideas to cue the learner; meaningful not rote learning.Bartlett (1932) Baddeley and Hitch (1974) Rumelhart and McClelland (1986)5.3
Cognitive Load TheoryCLT builds from IP theory; extraneous stimuli impedes pupils’ ability to process new information and to create long-term memoriesInformation overload and distractions must be avoided or limitedSweller (1988) 

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development


Cognitive Load Theory

View the series of simple videos on Cognitive load theory on YouTube

Cognitive Load Theory 1 – An introduction


Table 5.1.3 Psychometric, personality and individual thinking/learning style research

TheoriesKey Propositions/IdeasImplications for LearningMain TheoristsUnits
Self – perception/Self-actualisation TheorySocially interactive nature of self-perception – ‘looking-glass self’; critical role of significant others in developing self-concept; need to reach potential – ‘self-actualise’Manage impact of peer and teacher approval on self-construct; reinforce positive self-esteem, eg. Circle TimeCooley (1902) Carl Rogers’ (1983)1.3 3.4 4.2
Psycho- Metric and Personality Trait TheoriesInnate traits, tendencies and abilities; self-testing of traits on polar opposite continuums, eg. extravert – introvertRespond to individual differences; encourage pupil understanding of individuality in PSECattell (1946) Eysenck (1947) 
Motivation Theories: Needs Theory     :Locus of ControlTheory/ Attribution Theory5 levels of need have to be met in order from basic physical needs to high-level cognitive ‘self-actualisation’.   People with strong internal control believe success is due to their own efforts and talents; those with strong external control believe their success or progress is down to luck or other external factors such as task difficulty.Meet lower levels of learner need, eg. breakfast club, to enable higher-order functioning.   Develop interaction between intrinsic and extrinsic influences on learning to generate greater internal locus of control; eg. by rewarding effort and outcomes.Maslow (1954)         Rotter (1966) Weiner (1972)3.2
Thinking Style Theories: Dual Coding Theory   Cognitive Processing/Learning Style       Learning Strategy       Approach/OrientationImage and verbal memory codes evolved as independent systems of mind; their interaction aids recall.   Innate approach to thinking and processing information; often tested on polar opposite continuums, eg. field-dependent/independent or verbaliser/imager.   Processing and perceiving dimensions intersect creating 4 learning quadrants; learners have a dominant quadrant.   Dominant orientations: deep versus surface; achieving versus meaningCombine images and verbal representations within tasks to extend cognitive development.   Match learning tasks to ‘preferred’ processing style. Danger of pigeonholing pupils and limiting learning opportunities.   Experiential learning develops non-dominant   strategies.     Create context and task expectations that encourage deep and meaning approaches.Paivio (1971; 2007)       Witkin et al (1977) Riding and Dyer (1980)       Kolb (1976)         Biggs (1978)   Entwistle (1981)5.6

Dual coding

Watch this video to explore how dual coding can help us organize ideas.

researchED Home 2020 Oliver Caviglioli: Dual Coding to Organise Ideas

5.2 Active Learning

5.3 Teaching Styles


Table 5.3.3 Examples of activities that teachers might use in the classroom

  • Mind maps
  • Case studies
  • Computer assisted learning
  • Creative writing
  • Directed Activities Related to use of texts (DARTS)
  • Debating
  • Designing
  • Developing multimedia presentations
  • Podcasts
  • Animations
  • Videos
  • Diaries
  • Drama/role play
  • Formal presentations
  • Games
  • Interviewing
  • Problem solving
  • Reports
  • Reciprocal teaching
  • Role play
  • Simulations
  • Small group discussion.
  • Surveys
  • Teacher demonstration
  • Visitors

Table 5.3.5 Mosston and Ashworth’s ‘Continuum of teaching styles’

These flashcards are based on Table 5.3.5. Use them to quickly test your understanding of the various teaching styles.

5.4 Improving your teaching


What is Action Research?

Watch this video to learn more about action research.

Explainer Video: What is Practitioner Research?

The importance of reflection and research-based practice.


Lesson reflection using Brookfield’s Lenses

5.4 Lesson Reflection using Brookfield’s Lenses

5.5 Closing the Achievement Gap: Self-Regulation and Personalising Learning


Classroom approaches: teaching/pedagogical strategies

Factors in teaching and learning impact on the personalisation of learning; in this unit, self-regulation is considered in detail. Other concerns are noted here; each covered in this volume:

Grouping pupils and group work (see also Unit 2.3 and 4.1)

Collaborative group work is central to personalising learning – and differs from individual learning – so consideration of grouping options is helpful. Flexibility is key in ensuring a positive range of pupil experiences, and sometimes just for a refreshing change.

Assessment for Learning (see also Units 6.1 and 6.2)

Assessment for Learning (AfL) and assessment of learning are both relevant improving learning and teachers are exhorted to understand how the design of educational activities can enhance pupil learning through considering ‘assessment as part of pedagogy’ (Black and Wiliam, 2018, p.551).

The importance of questioning techniques (see also Unit 3.1)

The quality of questions both to pupils and from pupils is important, and the 1956 work of Bloom is a still much-used (often adapted) way of thinking about higher-order questioning. Numerous different versions of Bloom’s Taxonomy exist (Iowa State University, 2021), but a useful rule of thumb is to ensure that the higher-level aspects or types of thinking – analysis, evaluation and synthesis – are incorporated into all lessons (See Unit 5.2).

Task setting, problem-solving and investigations (see also Unit 5.2, 5.3, 5.9)

Real-life problems and in-depth investigations are preferable to disconnected tasks or isolated activities. ‘Thinking Actively in a Social Context’ (TASC) (Wallace, 2000), is a useful project planning and execution model for both long-term projects, and short-term activities. It is a flexible tool for thinking and discussing ideas and tasks, with no prescribed order for the various elements (below). The model can be presented in a circle with no specified start or end point.

  • Gather/organise – What do I know about this?
  • Identify – What is the task?
  • Generate – How many ideas can I think of?
  • Decide – Which is the best idea?
  • Implement – Let’s do it!
  • Evaluate – How well did I do?
  • Communicate – Let’s tell someone!
  • Learn from experience – What have I learned?

The model works well for all ages; there is guidance on its use on the National Association for Able Children in Education website (, along with many other helpful resources.

Cognitive issues: accelerated learning, learning styles and metacognition (see also Units 4.3, 5.1)

Some popular ideas about harnessing children’s cognitive processes have been controversial, such as the initially attractive notion of relying on ‘learning styles’, which has been shown as sometimes detrimental (Bjork et al., 2013). Metacognition, however, is more about focusing on how we learn and how we can improve our learning. Useful metacognitive techniques incorporate self-regulation, which helps pupils analyse their own strengths and weakness and develop their self-understanding in relation to their work (see Units 4.3 and 5.1 for more on multiple intelligences and metacognition).

5.6 Neuroeducation: Classroom practice and the brain


Science of Learning

Neuromyths: true or false?

The author has created a website about the concepts in this chapter mapped to the ITT Core Content Framework and Early Career Framework. Use these materials to develop your understanding of Neuroeducation: The Science of Learning:


Annex to Unit 5.6: Evidence basis for this unit

Annex to Unit 5.6

5.8 Creating a Language-Rich Classroom


Task 5.8.1 Lesson observation – secondary

Do a search on YouTube for “lesson observation secondary” and choose a lesson snippet. Use this for Task 5.8.1 OBSERVING AND ANALYSING WHOLE-CLASS DISCUSSION

Observe a 5–10 minute episode of whole-class discussion.

Make a note of:

  • How many conversational ‘turns’ the teacher takes.
  • How many turns pupils take.

Reflect and evaluate:

  • How far does the pattern of interaction fit the ‘IRF’ pattern described above?
  • What does the teacher do to try to encourage pupil participation in the discussion?
  • How successful are they in doing this?

Discuss your reflections with a peer. Now pair up with a colleague and undertake the same exercise in one of the lessons you are teaching. Were the results what you had planned for? If not why not? Record the outcomes of your reflections and discussions in your professional portfolio.


Task 5.8.3 Incorporating comprehension strategies into lessons

Take a text for your subject that you might use in a lesson and create a lesson activity that explicitly teaches one of the comprehension strategies outlined above, perhaps using a DART activity.

Write a short paragraph explaining the rationale for the task you have developed.


DART activities

Use these flashcards to test your knowledge of different types of DART activities.

5.9 Pedagogy – The Science, Craft and Performance of Teaching


5.9 Building your secondary school oracy culture with the ESU

Building your secondary school oracy culture with the ESU PowerPoint download

5.9 Boosting your students’ oracy skills with the ESU secondary school competition

Boosting your student’s oracy skills with the ESU secondary school competition PowerPoint download

5.9 Oracy skill sets: a guide

5.9 Oracy Skill Sets: A Guide

Table 5.9.1 Essential learning theories underpinning pedagogy


  • Observable performance: what learners must do
  • Stimulus and response
  • Environment, routines, cues, prompts habits, mastery, practice
  • Generalisation leads to application of learning
  • Rewards and sanctions based on response reinforce learning
  • Reactive learners


  • Cognitive: thinking, problem-solving, processing
  • Drawn from cognitive science; neuroscience
  • Development of knowledge: reception, memory, organisation, retrieval
  • Environment, explanations, think-aloud, modelling, feedback
  • Active learners


  • Learner makes meaning from experience
  • Links practice, knowledge and context in authentic and meaningful learning experiences
  • Problem-based applications
  • Focus on process as well as outcome
  • Metacognition, self-regulation
  • Social and collaborative learners

Cooking analogy

The Cooking Analogy is a useful way to understand the relationship between teaching and technology.


Table 5.9.3 Examples of terms describing pedagogic tools

These flashcards have been created from Table 5.9.3, and should be used to test your understanding of terms used to describe key pedagogical tools.

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