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Organising is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.

—A. A. Milne


Organising knowledge

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The way we present information and how we subsequently categorise new knowledge can make dramatic differences in our students’ learning. We can help learners to make sense of new information by being explicit about how we suggest information fits with prior knowledge.

Play this game that shows how organisation matters (modified from: Fink, D. (2015). Creating significant learning experiences. STLHE, Vancouver)

1. Count all the vowels (a, e, i, o, u; upper or lower case) in this list:

  • Dollar bill​
  • Dice​
  • Tricycle​
  • Four-Leaf Clover​
  • Hand​
  • Six-Pack​
  • Seven-Up​
  • Octopus​
  • Cat Lives​
  • Bowling Pins​
  • Football Team​
  • Dozen Eggs​
  • Unlucky Friday​
  • Valentine’s Day​
  • Quarter Hour

Now hide the list!

2. How many vowels did you count?

3. How many words do you remember?

This activity often generates a lot of groans. We want to succeed so much in the initial task that we barely pay any attention to the words themselves. When asked to shift and remember words, we are frustrated because we feel misled.

4. Now look at the words again. Did you notice the pattern of organisation? Each word is associated with a number.

5. Try the game again. How many words did you remember this time?

Most people remember more words the second time that they play the game. There are three reasons for this. First, they knew what the real task was by being provided the criteria for success. Second, the information was organised in a way to aid memory. Third, they were given more than one opportunity to practise remembering to stimulate the recall of previously acquired information.

This simple game covers a great deal of the seven evidence-based principles for learning that are discussed in this module.