Cognitive Psychology in the History Classroom – An Introduction

In January of this year, we were lucky enough to hear a presentation from Dr. Yana Weinstein from the University of Massachusetts (@doctorwhy) and Dr. Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel from the University of Dundee (@pimpmymemory), both from the organisation  The Learning Scientists. We heard them give a talk about six strategies to help students develop their long-term memory. These strategies were:

  • Dual coding;
  • Retrieval practice;
  • Elaboration;
  • Interleaving;
  • Spaced practice; and
  • Concrete examples.

We were very impressed.

What made Weinstein and Kuepper-Tetzel’s presentation different was the fact that, unlike so many of the fads and fashions teachers have been encouraged to take up, what they were saying was based upon actual scientific research.

This is not the place for us to (badly) rehash their work. If you want to know more about what these techniques are and their background, we heartily recommend you visit The Learning Scientists’ website.

This is, however, the place to discuss the opportunities and difficulties faced by history teachers in applying their work. With that in mind, we intend to post some blogs about cognitive psychology in the history classroom based around these six techniques.

Hello World!


Welcome to ‘…what a wonderful world this would be’ a blog about teaching history.

My name is Matt Stanford and I am a history teacher at a proudly comprehensive, non-selective, co-educational, 11-16 state school.

Recently, my colleague Corinne Goullée and I have had some people express interest in learning more about the workshop that we presented at the Schools History Project Summer Conference on the possible application of ideas from cognitive psychology in the history classroom. While we were flattered at the interest and very happy to share our thoughts, the presentation on its own made little or no sense. So, we thought that it might be more useful to share the ideas in a different way.

Hence the blog.

While that work will probably form the content of the first few blog posts, we also hope to offer thoughts and questions on other aspects of history teaching.

This is intended to be a collaborative blog by me, Corinne and our colleague Geraint Brown and we hope that our musings here will be of some interest and possibly some use.

Comments and criticisms will be warmly received.