Boosting Learning Efficiency: The Importance of Interleaving in GCSE Business Education (all boards)
As GCSE business teachers our main aim is to help our students to understand the topics and to be able to apply them to given scenarios with confidence.
One powerful technique being used successfully in many schools is interleaving. Interleaving involves mixing up different topics and concepts during learning sessions, as opposed to the traditional blocked learning approach where one topic is studied exclusively before moving on to the next. Will it revolutionise the way we teach GCSE Business (all boards) or will it be another VAK?
The Science Behind Interleaving
I enlisted the help of an AI to help me write about the science part, this is what it came up with... (are bloggers now redundant?)
"Interleaving capitalises on the brain's ability to learn and retain information more efficiently through varied practice. Interleaving encourages students to continually switch between topics, enabling deeper processing and enhancing long-term memory retention. This cognitive effort strengthens neural connections, resulting in a more robust understanding of the material. As students grapple with diverse concepts, they develop a more flexible and adaptable mind set, essential qualities in the dynamic world of business. So interleaving has multi-layered benefits."
In a nutshell, it is supposed to help students remember the theory and formulae and it should also help in the real world when they leave school and create micro businesses or become entrepreneurs themselves.
Interleaving mimics the unpredictability of real-life scenarios, where businesses face many issues and must find creative solutions. By introducing interleaving in the classroom, we can foster a more practical and comprehensive skill set in students. They learn to apply knowledge in a context that mirrors the complexity of actual business environments, thereby promoting critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving abilities. I have seen this first-hand, it sounds a bit pie in the sky but it does what it says on the tin.
Overcoming the Illusion of Mastery
In traditional blocked learning (no interleaving), students often experience an illusion of mastery. They might excel at a specific topic during practice but struggle when the same concepts are presented in a different context. Interleaving helps dismantle this illusion by challenging students to retrieve information from memory amidst the presence of competing ideas. As they face difficulties during interleaved learning, they become aware of gaps in their understanding, prompting them to revisit and reinforce weaker areas. This self-awareness fosters a growth mindset, motivating students to persevere and continuously improve. Perhaps we have been doing this for years with quizzes to recall the previous week's work. How often have you given a quiz and been surprised or frustrated at the number of students that had little or no recall of the lesson?
Enhancing Long-Term Retention
Interleaving has proven to be remarkably effective in promoting long-term memory retention. When students revisit topics at spaced intervals, the process of retrieval becomes more challenging, thus strengthening the memory. Additionally, the effort required to switch between topics increases the chances of information transfer to long-term memory, ensuring that students retain what they have learned well beyond their GCSE Business exams. Think of it as meeting a person for the first time, then you keep bumping into them, and soon they become familiar and you can recall their name and background based on previous conversations “How was the holiday Bob?”.
Tailoring Interleaving Techniques
While interleaving diverse topics like HRM and finance is valuable, it is equally essential to maintain a logical progression of concepts to avoid confusion. Grouping related concepts together can facilitate smoother transitions between topics while still promoting interleaved learning. This means using the exam board specification to group topics together and lending space to interleaving on the scheme of work. For example, when teaching enterprise and entrepreneurship bring in sole traders (ownership) straight away. Good interleaving takes topics that make sense and teaches them together.
Assessing Interleaved Learning
Educators can employ a mix of quizzes, problem-solving exercises, and open-ended questions to evaluate students' ability to apply their knowledge in a varied context. Such assessments focus on the application of knowledge rather than mere regurgitation, providing a more accurate representation of students' comprehension. Try the 50/50 method where you study one topic, then switch. Students will soon get used to this idea. Some teachers I have observed in 2-hour lessons used the change-over bell in the middle to swap topics. Students I asked said they enjoyed this way of teaching as it was “less boring”, they “remembered more” and “liked the mix of topics”.
Incorporating interleaving into GCSE Business education might enhance students' learning experiences and outcomes. By challenging students with diverse content, interleaving cultivates a deeper understanding of the subject matter, encourages practical problem-solving skills, and boosts long-term memory retention. The bonus is the students like it and if we have already prepared our lessons by buying a complete two-year pack from Revisionstation (quick plug) then all that needs to be written is a scheme of work that incorporates this idea. To be honest it is just one more column in your SOW spreadsheet. Why not try it with one group for a term and see if the results improve?
Sarah is the Hodder Education and Keynote Education business teacher trainer; she taught business for 23 years and has been a business examiner for 20 years. She is the sole trader and author behind Revisionstation and all the teaching resources they produce. She has a degree in business and a PGCE in secondary business education. She lives and works in the Midlands giving CPD talks to business teachers and revision/expert sessions in schools and colleges.