Evidence-based strategies for learning and memory

Evidence-based strategies are those that have been evaluated by researchers within school settings, and found to be effective.

Maximise student understanding

Check you have the student’s attention

Consider using a gesture, eye contact, or verbal prompts to get student’s attention before giving instructions or speaking to them. Ask questions to check their understanding of instructions or a task.

Provide clear and simple instructions

Consider giving step-by-step instructions and breaking down complex tasks into shorter tasks. Written notes may help. Check for understanding regularly.

Get students to re-read things

‘Repeated reading’, or getting students to re-read material, may be helpful.

Adapt your teaching style

Use visual instructions

Some students may benefit from visual instructions about a task or behaviour. Some options include digital presentations, posters, video, or demonstration of the task by the teacher, School Learning Support Officer (SLSO), Aboriginal SLSO, Aboriginal Education Officer (AEO), or a peer.

Use hands-on learning

Some students benefit from a practical, hands-on approach. Consider using 3D model graphs or charts, or other objects during lessons. This can be helpful in mathematics and science classes.

Use music, rhythm and touch

Rhythm and music can help a student learn phonemes (smallest units of speech sounds). Dots on written numbers that a student can touch and count can help a student learn to add and subtract smallest units of speech sounds). Dots on written numbers that a student can touch and count can help a student learn to add and subtract.

Make it a game

When possible mix learning with fun games so that students enjoy learning.

Target a student's memory skills

Target working memory

Some students may need extra help to support their working memory. It may be helpful to organise tasks so that there isn’t too much to remember at a time. Other options include extra supports such as mnemonics (memory strategies using letters and numbers), handouts or notes on the board.

Consider using working memory games

Computer games targeted at working memory might improve student’s ability to remember things. Consider allowing time for computer memory games multiple times a week, for a couple of months. Games are also a good way to make learning interesting and fun.

Adapt activities

Change the activity, not the student

If a student is struggling with an activity, consider changing it. For example, if a writing task is difficult for a student to complete, they could use words or gestures to give the correct answer.

Give students more time and opportunities to practise

Provide students with lots of time to practise in different settings and with different materials. It may be helpful to offer fewer tasks with more opportunities to practise. Some students might need more time to read material.

Mix mastered tasks with target tasks

Students will feel more confident when learning new tasks if there are a few new tasks mixed with lots of tasks they can already do.

Provide extra supports

When a task is new, students will learn best with help

When a task is new, students will learn best with help (for example, prompts, demonstrations, encouragement). This help can be gradually reduced as they become more capable. Help can be provided by teachers, SLSOs or peers. Access our graduated guidance page.

Give prompts and reminders

Before starting a new activity, it may be helpful to remind students what you want them to focus on in that activity. Use cues to guide a distracted student back to the current task, or to self-monitor their behaviour. Access our self-monitoring form.

Give frequent breaks

Small breaks after finishing a small task may be helpful for some students.

Encourage students to problem solve

Help students identify a problem, think of possible solutions, choose the best solution, and think about if the solution worked.

Keep it interesting

Match teaching to interests and abilities

Consider what students like and can do to keep things interesting or relevant and manageable for them. As their abilities increase, the workload or difficulty can slowly be increased too.

Students playing with playdough in the classroom.