Dubai: Why students feel it’s their first day of school after returning from long winter break

Many schools use scientific learning models to help children remember their lessons when classes resume

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Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 5 Jan 2023, 5:19 PM

Last updated: Thu 5 Jan 2023, 7:13 PM

Several students are prone to forget what they had learnt in their classes when they get back from their winter break. To counter that, schools in Dubai are adopting various scientific approaches and influential learning models among children to embed retrieval practices.

Academic retention declines during holidays and children lose the edge on academic skills and knowledge, they had built up in classes. Often, it's a lack of revision that is the cause of this problem.

Some methods being implemented by schools are Ebbinghaus forgetting curve, Rosenshine’s Principles and Cognitive Load Theory

Emma Monteith, Assistant Principal (Teaching, Learning and Innovation), GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa, says, “We are working regularly to develop our pedagogy around metacognition and how learning happens in the brain. It is encouraging that education is moving in this direction, and our teachers are enthusiastic about applying research in this way. We have worked on drilling into research such as the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve, Rosenshine’s Principles and Cognitive Load Theory, which have all helped our work to combat academic retention decline.”

She adds, “Students sometimes associate knowledge recall and retention with assessments and exams when they are tasked with the pressures of revision. So, conversations around this topic tend to crop up more frequently during examination time. However, cognitive science teaches us that the learning process entirely relies on our ability to recall and regularly retrieve knowledge, which means an understanding of how learning happens is important for every child.”

Principals underline it is crucial to acknowledge that forgetting is an intrinsic part of the learning process. “We are tasked with combatting the brain’s inclination to forget by regularly retrieving and revisiting the material. In this regard, there is no particular pattern to a decline in learning retention, as we have systems in place to ensure learning is embedded,” she added.

Mahmoud Ali, Director/Coach of Arabic and Islamic Studies, GEMS Metropole School – Motor City says, “What has been noticed is that many students, regardless of their year group, can sometimes feel like it’s their first day of school after returning from breaks and holidays.”

Head teachers reiterate they always focus on providing students with the best learning opportunities. “Therefore, we make sure to get students quickly back on track after the winter break by carefully planning the first days and weeks after the holidays, which offer an opportunity for a fresh start. Our teachers are supported and receive all the training they need to be able to apply different strategies to increase learning recall.”

In the classroom, students are engaged in setting personal or academic goals, and teachers make sure to give students enough time to transition back into the learning mode.

“Teachers also revisit the students’ favourite activities. By implementing these strategies, we ensure a smooth transition to their daily learning routines and motivate our students as they take on the rest of the school year. The best and the most effective way to make certain students retain the information they are taught is by engaging them. This can involve all manner of approaches that actively involve students in their learning,” Ali added.

Some teachers in UAE schools also emphasize independent learning and discovery.

Muhammad Ali Kottakkulam, Principal, Gulf Indian High School, Dubai, opines, “School leaders and educators usually expect a decline in students’ understanding as well as retention of the learned concepts during a vacation. Hence, every school is expected to devise strategies to help students remain connected with their studies and study materials. We give vacation assignments such as individual or group projects, collaborative research activities, worksheets, and preparation of models and displays.”

He adds, “Teachers evaluate the vacation assignments after students are back from the break. Teachers also check the retention of students in the classroom using small assessments, quizzes, and asking oral recall questions among other methods. We have found these activities useful and help children stay connected to their learning even after their vacations.”

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