Evidence-based strategies for thinking and cognition

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

Consider adjustments to communication style

Repeat and simplify instructions

Use simple words and repeat. Students may need a skill or activity broken down into smaller steps. Some students might need instructions repeated multiple times.

Use visual instructions

Visual instructions about how to do something might be needed. Consider demonstrating the task or asking another student to demonstrate.

Another option is using a visual schedule, poster, or video to outline or model the task.

Some students may find it easier if they can use gestures

Some may need to point to the correct answer instead of talking.

Make each session as structured as possible

Provide a clear schedule and routine
Visual cues can let students know what is coming up, and how they should move from one activity to another. 

Provide feedback

Provide effective feedback which is explicit and actionable

Support participation with encouragement. Provide effective feedback immediately when students are learning a task. You can reduce this gradually as they become more capable. 

Check understanding

Check for understanding by asking specific questions or asking them to repeat instructions.

Consider adjustments to activities and rules

Aim tasks at current understanding

Aim tasks at the student’s current level of understanding so they can achieve success.

Consider what resources are used

Where appropriate, use concrete materials (such as images to supplement text, blocks to model maths), simplified text or visual guides outlining how to complete a task.

Provide lots of opportunities to practise

Students may need to practise a task or behaviour many times

Time to practise in different settings and with different materials can help them to learn to use that skill in other situations.

Offer fewer tasks with more opportunities to practise

This is better than offering many tasks with little opportunity to practise.

Work collaboratively

Provide plenty of opportunities for students to work together

Other students can help a student with cognitive challenges by restating instructions or showing them how to do a task.

Read more about teaching students how to ensure their own learning is not impacted when supporting a peer in our peer inclusion and group work guide.

Allocate specific tasks within the group

Consider assigning tasks so that a student can use modified materials or instructions if needed.