The Story Behind RememberMore

Building rapport with new classes

Even with twenty years teaching experience, starting a new school or new school year, building rapport with new classes is difficult; building rapport mid-year is even more challenging. Just like millions of other educators, I needed to establish a structured, purposeful and meaningful learning routine to start, inform and recap lessons and learning, to improve outcomes for learners. That is where and why it started... it went on to be so much more.

Phase I: Set up and delivery

And just like millions of educators, building upon the curriculum outline I was provided, I employed a combination of Knowledge Organiser (KO) (stuck in the back of class exercise books) and a low-stakes quizzing presented via the board. (Just for the record, the curriculum outline was in the front of their books).

The structure was provided by a warm class welcome, the KO and the quizzing routine displayed on the board at the start of lessons. The purpose was evident - recapping previous learning, whilst building the substantive knowledge required to access and explore the text more broadly and deeply, also offered a calm transition to the lesson. The routine became meaningful as soon as the learners experienced success and success-motivation-success cycle kicked in.

Phase I: Routine. Focused Attention. Agency... Knowledge

Structured, purposeful and meaningful, the routine adopted gave learners agency over their learning, it promoted a knowledge-rich climate, elevated literacy expectations (learners having to read the questions and learn target vocabulary) and focused their attention at the start of the lesson. It also permitted time for me to take the register and travel the classroom to review learners' work.

Designed so that learners started on entry ("Do now") and finished at the same time, it presented a defined transition to the taught phase of the lesson, as well as planting seeds of knowledge that could be harvested during the lesson.

Phase I: Purposeful effort with little reward

The truth is, learners found the process effortful at the beginning. Instruction was precise. Expectations were high. (Quality of book work. "Every prompt - paired. Every practice." See - The Pygmalion Effect) Attention was directed. Distractions were minimised. Responsibility was their own. Yet despite their initial efforts, rewards were nominal. Experience encouraged our commitment to the task and process. As educators - we have to lead to way. Especially at the start of a new school year or term.

Phase I: Purposeful effort and reward

The success-motivation-success cycle (learning) soon kicks in. It always does. And when it does the climate and motivation of the learners (for almost all learners) palpably changes. Learners start to enjoy knowing more and remembering more. Success fuels motivation. Motivation leads to greater success.

Phase I: Iteration

As the teacher, (with learner input), I had established the routine and with my classes. I had shared that routine with colleagues, and through iteration, we refined it. We had refined the question and answer styles and the answering routine. We had ironed out the creases.

Our routine:

  • Knowledge Organiser (back of the students books) the Curriculum Outline (front of the students books).

  • Six-eight-ten questions and answers stored in a spreadsheet (100+ vocabulary definitions, 200 aligned question and answers) - displayed on the board). As you can image - this required a lot of investment but it was also a very effective way to deepen my understanding of the texts.

  • Immediate start. Low-stakes quizzing. Expectation that learners 'think-hard,' even if when they think they do not know the answer. All questions are answered before accessing the Knowledge Organiser and/or previous quizzes in the exercise book. Self-assessed, then self-corrected and learning gaps / opportunities highlighted. A common time-frame (all learners finish at the same time). A high expectation of presentation - again The Pygmalion Effect).

Phase I: Success-motivation-success

The key ingredients for learning are evident. Learner agency. Repeated exposure. Spaced retrieval (eventually interleaved questions). Thinking hard. Self-assessment and self-correction. With success and the success-motivation-success gaining momentum, more students completed more or all of the questions. Their reward? We increased the number of questions from six to eight questions, and later from eight to ten questions. The reward for success - more learning.

Anecdotally, as the learners knowledge and the vocabulary broadened, it started to seep into class conversation and discussions. Their oral contributions and explanations improved and then, their written contributions developed.

Phase II: One-to-many? The Move to Personal Learning

Despite our success, I was persistently irked by the now infamous paired quotation Graham Nuttall’s "Hidden Lives of Learners."

"In most of the classrooms we have studied, each student already knows about 40 to 50 percent of what the teacher is teaching,” (Nuthall, 2007 p24-25).

"…but that 50 percent is not evenly distributed. Different students will know different things, and all of them will know only about 15 percent of what the teacher want them to know,” (Nuthall, 2007 p35).

Nuthall, G., 2007. The Hidden Lives Of Learners. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) Press.

For all it's benefits, this routine still presented the same set of questions to the entire class. What I refer to here as "one-to-many" questioning. Taking Nuttall's research at face value, half the questions were already known, albeit by students across the class.

So I set about the task of seeking a more targeted, personal quizzing model. We had some success with online solutions but they all too often were not designed with teaching or tutoring in mind.

Phase II: Covid provides an opportunity to pursue One-to-One questioning

I wanted to retain the "Routine. Focused Attention. Agency... Knowledge," of the routine we had developed in class AND importantly to target specific questions - to specific learners.

After six months research, numerous professional conversations and semi-successful classroom trials, I had amassed a list of dead-ends and setbacks that I won't bore you with here. But it was lengthy. Had it not been for a kick-up-the-backside from Ty Goddard (Chair of EdtechukHQ) in early March, I would not have set off on this journey. I knew what the solution looked like. I just had to build it.

In March 2020, the world we knew changed. A global pandemic provided an unexpected opportunity to build RememberMore. And still, without the unwavering support of Alex Warren, RememberMore would never have seen the light of day. Built upon an unhealthy appetite for pedagogy, curriculum and assessment and Alex's developer skills and critical logic, plus the support of thirty or more global school leaders, educators, industry specialists, data scientists, UX (user experience) and UI (user-interface) designers and learners... RememberMore was hatched.

Phase III: RememberMore and RememberEvenMore

Designed by educators and learners, it has the potential to underpin knowledge rich classrooms - anywhere.

It's unique design and architecture also enables learners to combine RememberMore "decks," to take even greater advantage of "interleaving" learning benefits. What we refer to as RememberEvenMore. Think RememberMore Othello, RememberMore Hamlet, RememberMore MacBeth, combining to be RememberMore Shakespeare.

Phase III: RememberMore Classroom

Given the breadth of support of educators, given I am a teacher, we wanted to respond to requests for a "half-way" RememberMore approach. RememberMore Classroom makes available many of the benefits of RememberMore. Supported by a road-test teaching routine and Knowledge Organiser. It is available now - right now. In your Classroom. All we ask for in return is your honest feedback.

Of course, you can always reinforce in RememberMore Classroom learning with the companion RememberMore App.

Phase IV: RememberMore Dashboard

RememberMore Insights was only conceived as we started to realise the power of RememberMore analytics. I will be completely honest with you, we still do not fully know the power and insights that lies within RememberMore. That said, we look forward to finding out and welcome feedback.

To-do list

  • We are fully aware of learner, group and cohort / subject analytics and comparisons capabilities.

  • Performance, progress and gap analysis.

  • Insights from RememberMore that may enable educators to “intervene before specialist intervention is required."

We are currently looking to partner with schools on the following areas of interest:

  • Reading for understanding - identifying comprehension or processing deficits

  • Integrating and deepening literacy with RememberMore

  • Within and across school curriculum comparison

  • Harnessing power of RememberMore AI - Triangulating insights within the RememberMore data set itself.

  • Incentification and reward schedules

  • The impact of signposting and wider learning within RememberMore

Future projects:

  • Harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) notifications based on internal analysis and "exam readiness."