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Autumn week 2

Mentor materials

Observation discussion - breaking complex material down into smaller steps

Teaching techniques to focus feedback on




To have practised breaking complex material down into smaller steps


Observe your teacher deliver an explanation and identify whether they have broken it down into small steps, removing any unnecessary expositions to avoid working memory overload. In the online study materials, this technique is referred to as ‘Name the Steps’.

Praise, probe and set precise actions

The following practise should be focused around the outcomes of the probe and precise actions, so that it is specific to your teacher’s developmental needs. However, below are some practise ideas based on the online study content to support you if needed.

Plan and practice ideas

Plan either the same explanation as covered in the lesson, or an upcoming explanation. Focus on breaking the explanation down into small steps allowing for pupil practice between each one. Ensure any unnecessary expositions are removed from the explanation to avoid cognitive overload. When completing the plan and practise stages, encourage you teacher to consider:

  1. What knowledge am I assuming the pupils have?
  2. Why have I chosen the steps that I have? Would it be beneficial to break them down further?
  3. Even after breaking down the concept, am I introducing too much in one go and risking overloading my pupils? If so, what can I do?

Key questions and talking points

  1. Why does breaking the explanation down into steps avoid overloading the working memory?
  2. What prior knowledge is the teacher assuming the pupils have?
  3. Would the explanation be different if the pupils were already proficient at a number of the steps?
  4. What else would breaking the explanation down into these steps support the teacher to do?