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 a student's 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.

Keep lessons interesting

Match teaching to interests and abilities

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

Provide extra supports

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.

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.

Access our problem-solving guide.

Support students' academic and 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), handouts, or notes on the board. 

Consider using working memory games

Computer games targeted at working memory might improve students’ 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. 

Teach organisation strategies

Colour-coded folders, planners or checklists can help students to keep track of notes, homework, assignments and key dates. This may include moving materials (for example, worksheets, books) for different subjects between school and home daily. Encourage students for correctly organising and checking off things in their checklists. 

Teach homework management skills

It may be helpful to teach students how to use a homework planner, and give them prompts when they need to write things down. Some students may need to be shown how to break down projects and study into smaller tasks, and to plan their time. Teachers or SLSOs can check and sign planners. 

Teach note-taking skills

Students can be taught note-taking and summarising skills during a lesson through simple and direct instructions. Prompts and redirection may help students to take accurate notes. This support can be reduced when they can record information and write notes clearly and concisely without help.

Adapt activities to suit the student

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 test provisions and adjustments

Some students may need extra time for reading or writing, or a scribe or a reader. They may need to leave and re-enter the examination room (with supervision) to take breaks.