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Jamie Black

TE 804 005
Science Inquiry Project Reflection/Analysis

The Effect of Lesson Closure on Student’s Knowledge Retention over Time

Inquiry Focus Topic

Throughout my research action project I analyzed whether or not closure of a science


lesson leads to student’s long term knowledge retention. In order to do this I compared the
closure of the science lessons taught in my classroom with the lack of lesson closure that my
students were receiving in their environmental science lab class. I carefully planned each lesson
with a closure activity that lasted at least five minutes and following the lessons I would ask
students what they remember from previous science lessons. Both the environmental science lab
teacher and I were teaching the same content, a second grade unit on landforms. My students
attend this e-lab class twice a week for an hour each time, therefore designated science time in
the classroom is limited. A typical e-lab class starts with an introduction to the lesson in which
the teacher has students write in a science journal to share their ideas on a topic or go over some
definitions. After writing in their journals students usually go outside to walk the nature trails
connected to the school. At the end of the class period students walk back to the classroom, there
is no real lesson closure. Due to the lack of closure in this class my students have little to no time
to review what they learned so with this research project I set out to change that.

Rationale

After all the work a teacher puts into teaching students and engaging them in a lesson the
closure of a lesson is one aspect that usually goes ignored. The purpose of closure should be to
help aid student knowledge retention. Research by Schlesser (as cited by Bloomquist 2013, p. 5)
shows that “the rate of knowledge retention by students for a particular lesson decreased from
70% to 30% in the time that it took students to leave the classroom until they departed from their
bus ride home.” This is how quickly student knowledge retention can fade and it is because of
this that lessons need solid closure. Many teachers fail to bring closure to their lessons due to
time constraints, so I hoped to study the effects of quality lesson closure on student’s retention of
the science concepts being studied compared to lessons that have not been brought to closure.
Among the many educators that study the importance of lesson closure is American educator
Madeline Hunter, whose Instructional Theory into Practice teaching model stressed the need for
closure followed by independent practice. Hunter’s teaching model “…included a closure step so
that not only was there resolution of the lesson but students could reiterate the key learnings and
prepare to transition to something different” (Bloomquist, 2013, p. 7). The reiteration of key
learnings is what I was hoping to promote during my research and see if it truly does improve
long term memory of the content. Before I started my research I noticed that when science
lessons were taught in my classroom there was no time at the end for students to talk about or
reflect upon what they just learned. I also noticed that in their e-lab class the lessons consisted of
a great introduction and exploration but no closure.
As a teacher this distinct lack of closure brings me to an important question: how do I
know if what I am teaching my students is actually being learned and remembered? According to
Allison Banikowski “Educators must ensure that students attend to learning, attach new learning
to previous learning, actively engage in learning, construct meaning, and demonstrate their
learning” (1999, p. 1). Throughout this research action project it was my goal to give my
students experiences that would help them reflect upon their learning in hopes it would help
them better transition the material to their long term memory.

Planned Intervention

Planned intervention strategies are based on at least three ideas from the literature (readings
cited), MT and others.

My proposed intervention was two-fold; first, I needed to design lessons with quality
closure and second, I needed to compare this with the lack of closure in my student’s e-lab
lessons. The two types of closure I was able to implement in my lessons were a turn and talk and
a graphic organizer. Both of these concluded the lesson and lasted at least 5-10 minutes.
Since I was investigating the effect of closure of a lesson on memory it is important to
take into consideration how memory functions. In a study by Allan Bloom (as cited in
Baniknowski, 1991), “learners will retain:

10% of what they read


20% of what they hear
30% of what they see
50% of what they see and hear
70% of what they say
90% of what they say & do.”

Based upon such research, I decided that my lesson closures should involve students to voice
what they have learned and also directly participate in their learning by using a hands-on style.
One instance of closure that I allowed students to say and do the task at hand was completing a
graphic organizer. As a whole class my students and I looked at pictures of various landforms
and then we read a paragraph about each one. As the lesson closure I asked students to take some
time to complete the graphic organizer by drawing a picture of each landform and making bullet
point notes about each one. I let my students first explore this on their own and then let students
share their ideas to the whole class. There are a lot of factors that affect long term memory and
what this means for the learning process. According to the cognitive load theory by Chandler and
Sweller (1991) (as cited in Bloomquist, 2013,) learning can be inhibited by taking in too much
information in a short period of time. Essentially, this means that if a teacher provides too much
information to students they will have a hard time processing it all and storing it into their long
term memory. Fortunately, in the research of Bell and Limber (2010) (as cited in Bloomquist
2013) organizers break down information and synthesize it into smaller and more manageable
chunks to remember. Hence, using a graphic organizer as closure was my attempt at allowing
students to pull in the characteristics of all the landforms we have been studying during the unit.
Another way to ensure closure is by using metacognition in which students take control
of their own learning. My assessment lesson to my landforms unit involved students creating
their own landform creature in which each part of its body was a different landform, the lesson
closure was them doing a turn and talk to explain their creature to their neighbor. I chose to do a
turn and talk because metacognition research by Barry Beers (2006) shows that students learn
more when given the opportunity to talk and explain their thinking to others. Through this turn
and talk I was hoping to provide my students with a lesson closure that they were involved in
rather than a “teacher talk” summary of the day’s lesson.

Data Collection

In order to see what science content my students retained I had to collect anecdotal data
by asking students what they learned/remember and why they learned/remembered that. Before I
taught a science lesson in my classroom I would review the previous lesson to see what my
students retained. To review, I made a game out of it where I had a frog stuffed animal and
whoever had the frog would get to speak about what they learned last time and why and then
would pass it on to a friend. As students shared their responses I wrote down their comments and
promised that I could post some of their ideas to our classroom website.
Since I only taught two complete science lessons in my classroom I extended this by
talking to students after the end of the science unit. During this time I surveyed my four focal
students and also 7 other students in which I would ask them what they remembered about my
lessons and also their environmental science lessons. One of the most common questions I would
ask them is “what lesson do you remember the most and why?” After asking this I took notes and
wanted to see if students would reference the closure activities we have done in class or see what
triggered their memory from e-lab classes.
When I surveyed students at the end of the unit we took a look at our classroom website.
On our website I update it with what we are learning in science class and in e-lab, so I told
students that I would post their comments on each lesson to the website. The website has pictures
that I have taken of students so that helped them remember what we did that day in class, so then
I asked them what they remembered from each lesson and why they remember that.

Results and Effectiveness of Intervention

Overall I found that my students responded really well to my lesson closures, but just
because closure lacked in their e-lab class does not mean their knowledge retention suffered
either. I found it is not just what they remember that should be taken into account, but what they
remember accurately. When I asked my 11 participating students at the end of the unit what
lessons they remember the most the majority of them (7) said that they remember studying
mountains and hills in their e-lab class the best. The following are a few quotes about what
students could tell me from this lesson:

 “I remember how mountains form"


 "We measured the mountains and they had to be over 2,000 feet, all the inches
were a foot"
 "A mountain has to be over 2,000 feet or it is a hill, we had to measure ours to
make sure it was tall enough to be a mountain”
When asked how they remembered this almost all of them referred to how they used the meter
stick to measure the mountains that each group made. On the meter stick each inch equaled a
foot and the teacher had students help him figure out how tall their mountains were and would
compare them to other group’s mountains. Another popular lesson remembered was a lesson in
which students went outside to build landforms in the snow. This day there happened to be a
substitute teacher and the two students that cited this lesson were very excited about her and
eager to tell me more about it. One student recalled “we built a mesa which was really tall and
flat so we had to keep adding snow.” Another student said that “we had to make rivers,
mountains, hills, and valleys and then talk to the class about them.” Of the 11 students surveyed
about the most memorable lesson, the remaining 3 said that they remember the most about the
landform dinosaur lesson, which was a lesson I taught in the classroom. When asked individually
all the students could tell me very detailed descriptions of what their own landform creature
looked like and why those body parts represented each landform. Here are some of the memories
about the landform creatures:

 "mine had a crown that was three mountains and caves, the mountains were tall
and pointy"
 "it was a horse and the belly was an ocean because it was really big and the main
was mountains that were pointed"
 "I still have mine at home just in case I need to look at it again"
 "the valley came down and connected to the head"
 "I made a chicken, the beak was a hill, the body was a plain and the eyes were
lakes because they were circles"
 "oh yeah, mine was a lion. The mane was mountains because they look like
squares and had a peak, his back was a plateau, and his head was a hill because
hills are rounded"

The landform creature assessment was part of my lesson closure, students had 7 minutes to do a
turn and talk with their partner to describe their landform creature. All of my students surveyed
remembered talking to their partner and the quotes from above are how they described it to their
partner.
Surprisingly, when I asked students how they best remember information at least four of
them said that they learn the best from books and writing the information down. One student
specifically cited my other closure activity and said he liked the graphic organizer “because we
got to draw pictures and all of the landforms were described on one piece of paper we can look
back to.” Previously in e-lab classes my students have been studying one landform at a time and
using their science notebook to take notes, but I included this lesson to bring them all together so
that it was a review.
In the end, what I noticed from my intervention was that it is almost impossible to
determine if the closure or non-closure lessons had a significant effect on student memory
retention. I am not the first person to research this topic and I may not be the last. As Bloomquist
(2013) has noted there is a lack of research that is able to connect the concepts of lesson closure
with student memory retention. All of the e-lab lessons that my students referenced that they
learned the most from involved a hands-on activity in which they had the opportunity to
manipulate objects, so I think that for my students lesson closure was beneficial in the classroom,
but e-lab gave them experiences and direct focus on the topic. There is research that implies that
closure may not be necessary, but now the focus is on independent practice. Madeline Hunter
developed her Instructional Theory Into practice (ITIP) model which lists closure as one of the
seven steps but according to Todd Bloomquist (2013),“While closure is part of her overall lesson
design recommendation, it is not specifically referred to in later works on effective lesson
construction Instead, Hunter emphasizes independent practice to help students transfer the lesson
objectives outside of the classroom (p. 4).” I believe what my students were doing in their e-lab
class was demonstrating independent practice which obviously had a profound effect on their
knowledge retention. Each time a student told me what they learned in e-lab they usually
referenced them physically demonstrating knowledge about the landforms which I would say
resembles independent practice.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Intervention

As you may notice, my main source of data is anecdotal notes from my students which I
feel may hinder my results. It was extremely difficult to decide based on what my students
remembered was due to closure or other experiences with landforms. Before I started teaching
landforms in class my students already started to learn about them in e-lab so I cannot be one
hundred percent sure that everything they remembered came from my lessons. For example, I
had a student talk about a butte and mesa that they made on their landform creature, when we did
not study those in the classroom, so this is one area I can see where that knowledge transferred
from e-lab class. Another weakness that I experienced throughout this research project was the
fact that I only taught a couple science lessons in my room. This did not allow me as much
comparison between my closure lessons with the non-closure lessons of e-lab. Unfortunately, I
did not get every student to participate in the data collection either. I hoped to do exit tickets but
with the lack of time to teach science it did not fit with my instruction.
Although there were a lot of obstacles to researching this topic there were also some
positive experiences to be gained. First, I put a lot of focus on closure and researched closure
activities so I feel more prepared to implement closure in my future lessons. Also, lesson closure
should be happening with every subject so being able to implement my closure broadened my
horizons and made me look at my lessons in other subjects that needed some sort of closure or
independent practice. Second, I would say my school is very unique in that it has a teacher that is
solely devoted to teaching science content and he has a lot of flexibility in what he teaches. By
researching the difference between my teaching style and his teaching style I found more ways to
make my landforms unit more inquiry based and creative. For example, one of my students said
that he really remembered “when other students got to be the teacher,” in which the students got
to use the whiteboard and marker and explain the landform to the rest of the class. This is
something that I could easily implement in my own teaching to make it more engaging and
interactive.

Effect on the Learning Community

Over the course of my research my learning community has changed in the sense that
through closure I saw my students a little more engaged rather than ending the lesson abruptly or
with some sort of teacher talk reflection. The lessons I taught in my classroom took a more
inquiry based approach so that my students examined patterns, experiences, and then came up
with explanations. During the turn and talk lesson closure and drawing of their own landform
creature, I have never seen my students so excited about their science learning. I truly believe
that giving them the choice to do what they wanted and then the opportunity to share their work
was something unique and exciting for them. As a result of this research I also had time to reflect
with students on my teaching and their learning, which did not occur before. It was refreshing to
sit down with students and ask them what they remembered the best and how they best learned
the material.
In order to better understand this topic I would need to study further development of long
term memory and how best to take information from short term to long term. Also, I could delve
deeper into the kinds of closure that I select and see which types of closure work best for
knowledge retention. If I were to do a similar study again I may want to tie this more in with
assessment and assess my students along the way to see what they remember and if it decreases
as time goes by.

Conclusion

From the anecdotal data I collected I have found that closure and/or independent practice
are what students seem to remember the most. My determination to end the lesson with some
type of closure will be something that I strive for in my future classroom along with chances for
independent practice. All too many times students are expected to copy from the teacher or
follow along with the whole group, but what I have learned from the e-lab class is that small
group work gives students the best opportunity to personalize their experience and therefore
maximize learning. Having another teacher to observe that was teaching the same unit as me was
very eye opening and I saw a lot of activities in his classroom that I will also use in my future
classroom. Although I may not have determined whether or not closure is necessary to the
learning process, what I feel that I did walk away with is the importance of content repetition and
review. The more opportunities students are given to review what they learned and already know
the easier it will be to transfer that knowledge into their long term memory.
References

Banikowski, A. (1999). Strategies to enhance memory based on brain-research. Focus on


Exceptional Children, 32(2).

Beers, B. (2006). Learning-driven schools: A practical guide for teachers and principals.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Bloomquist, T. P. (2013). Effectiveness of closure in lesson design: A quasi-experimental


investigation (Doctoral dissertation, George Fox University, Newberg). Retrieved from
ProQuest.