Home | 2011 Workshop


Research on Learning and Implications for Programming

August 17, 2009 - 1:30 p.m.
Presenters: Helen Abadzi, World Bank

Moderator: Luis Crouch, RTI International. Joseph Carney, Independent Consultant


This session emphasized the vital role of cognitive science and educational psychology as empowering resources for education policymakers to direct programming toward quality education outcomes. The presentation identified education strategies based in cognitive science research to help students achieve more effective learning, including improved attention in the classroom; turning short-term memory into concrete knowledge; and improving retrieval and utilization of information. One of main challenges facing schools in developing countries is the lack of reading materials in classrooms and libraries.

Presenters explained that short-term memory, or working memory, has a span of 12 seconds to register information and process it to the long-term memory network so that it will turn into knowledge. Therefore, speed and fluency in reading and basic math are critical in the way students process information: the more information students coherently process in the 12-second span of short term memory, the better and faster the learning outcomes will be. The minimum reading speed needed for comprehension in initial primary grades is 45-60 words correct per minute; students’ ability to read and comprehend at this rate from a young age has crucial impacts on success in secondary and higher education. There is therefore a strategic importance in early grade literacy skills for further education and workforce development.

Memory consolidation and knowledge are cumulative and require time, practice, linkages, and systematic accumulation – but these are not a given in rote-learning classrooms found in many countries. The complex and effective teaching methods that engage students effectively are more challenging to organize and apply. Teachers need to allow sufficient instructional time for memory and learning so the information can be processed, established into a cognitive network, and retrieved later. Instructional time is perhaps the most fundamental component to building knowledge; one expects that students spend much of their day in actual learning. However in reality governments and donors in the education sector see only a fraction of their investments converted into learning time due to poor curricula and rote teaching methods, insufficient learning materials, teacher and student absenteeism and other contingencies. To improve time use in the classroom, governments and donors could better time school openings and closings, strive to provide textbooks for each student, train teachers on time loss, and promote school-based teacher supervision and time-use monitoring in schools.

Key take away points from this session included specific recommendations for improving teaching and learning in the classroom. Suggestions included: incorporating frequent changes in activities and alternative presentation types (such as analogies, contrasts, and examples) which are proven teaching methods that effectively retain students’ attention and enhance memory and knowledge; ensuring sufficient instructional time, as well as sufficient learning materials for students; providing quality teacher training on more interactive and ‘memorable’ methods; and setting short-term goals, and creating an ongoing feedback loop in education systems.

To view the presentations, please click on link below:
World Bank, Abadazi : Open





For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com