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Why make links?

What does the science of learning tell us about why it is important to help students make links with prior learning.
© National STEM Learning Centre
Encouraging students to make links and explore examples of biological concepts in plants as well as animals allows them to gain greater understanding of universal biological processes. Here, we dip into the science of learning to explore why this is such an important part of teaching.
In school children, up to late teenage years, regions of the brain which are responsible for making connections are known to be relatively immature, and this can disadvantage them in making use of prior knowledge even when they possess it. Their neural circuitry for this connection-making process is still developing.
It is, therefore, important that teachers encourage and help students to make connections with their prior knowledge. This helps make new knowledge meaningful and memorable. A connection between a new concept and what has been taught before may seem obvious to an adult teacher, but is perhaps not to a child whose brain is still developing.
For more information about how children learn, including working memory, and the effects of novelty and anxiety, join our Science of Learning course.

Discuss

In your lessons you will use a variety of ways to find out what students already know in order to inform your teaching. For example, you may ask students to draw a mind map of what they already know about a new topic.
But what about those students who find this too difficult – those who may have the prior knowledge, but don’t realise that it links to the new topic or can’t recall it? How do you support those students to make those all-important connections?
© National STEM Learning Centre
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