- The "brain based" spiral teaching approach is uniquely suited to closing the achievement gap in a fast logical way
- Spiraling math and reading curriculum challenges and stretches advanced students
- Using a spiraling teaching approach in reading provides repeated exposure to foundation concepts that build phonemic awareness and literacy
- Teaching a spiral curriculum exposes students to advanced concepts in a way that encourages students to take academic risk
- The spiral teaching approach gives fast formative data to students, parents and teachers
- Builds long term memory and stops the, "cram, memorize, test, then forget everything model"
- Developing real long term learning is easier with the spiraling teaching approach.
As a special education teacher "Spiraling Curriculum" really helps me as a teacher grow all my students skills. My at risk and special education students are making two years of growth using a spiraling approach for reading and math instruction. Students learn in a holistic way and they learn one of the most important compensatory skills and life skills, "developing academic skill and knowledge takes repeated exposure, rehearsal, and concentrated practice over time" Spiraling Curriculum in my Opinion is the Most Effective Approach to Teaching Complex Subjects! Sean Taylor M.Ed
When it comes to complex topics in schools, there has been much debate as to the most effective teaching technique. When not treated with care, the students can get frustrated and this leads to them switching off. Often, this is due to the teaching technique but today we are going to discover the ‘spiral curriculum’.
What is it? - For many years, learning would be concentrated in short bursts. However, the spiral learning technique looks to spread this out over more time. Over a period of months during the school year, complex topics will come up time and time again. This way, the students aren't under pressure to understand everything from just one session. Instead, the work soon ingrains into the mind until they can repeat all of the important points.
Does it really Work? - After reading the title, you can probably tell our stance on the matter, yes, it really does work for all students. When this technique has been employed by highly trained teachers, the results of students were an vast improvement compared to students who learned in the traditional single topic or concentrated way. Not only does it lead to good results in the short-term, there is also evidence to suggest that students have a higher chance of remembering information later in life. As many of us know, most of the knowledge we learned in our school years is now gone so this could be pivotal.
In addition to high performing students, spiraling can also be used on those with learning difficulties. In the early stages of the program, the difficulties can be identified. Then, the key concepts will be the areas of concentration over a period of weeks and months. Eventually, the student will recall this information when the spiral comes back around each time.
Comparisons with ‘Massing’ - As the more concentrated form of learning, massing is the basic approach that we see today and there are some reasons why spacing (spiraling) can be more effective. Firstly, something we have already touched upon is that students lack attention and motivation with massing. As soon as they get lost, at any point during the lesson or series of lessons, they switch off automatically. Considering the topic doesn’t come back around, this area of their examination is left blank.
Furthermore, massing can be effective but only for the short-term. For example, the night before an exam students might stay up all night ‘cramming’ information. For the test the next day, they will be in a great position to succeed. If they were to take the same test even five years down the line though, most of the knowledge would be gone. If the education system is interested in producing work-ready individuals, spiraling needs to be used as it enables the student to hold information for a longer period of time. Additionally, there is a focus on progressing from simple points to more advanced areas. Suddenly, the complex themes don’t seem too outlandish when it is broken down in this way.
The Future - With all of this in mind, all that’s left to answer is ‘why isn't this approach used widely across the US?’ and this is a good question. Although there is no definitive answer, we could perhaps look to the targets of the schools. Since they are interested in short-term results above all else, they feel as though massing is the answer for this. Sadly, short-term performance is seen as more important than long-time learning.
Finally, we could also say that spiraling isn't well-known which is another problem. Also, students could find spaced learning a little more difficult despite being more efficient and leading to better long-term results. Perhaps once the benefits are widely known, we could see a change in the national curriculum. Until then, it seems as though massing on a single topic will continue to be used.