Complete Learning

How do we talk to students about their learning of the formal curriculum?

At Wilmslow High School we talk about ‘Complete Learning’, by which we mean the process through which students move from taking on a set of facts and vocabulary to putting it together into a full and fluent understanding of an area knowledge. In all of the subjects that make up our powerful curriculum, Curriculum Teams have established the key areas of knowledge or skills that a student must know by the end of a unit of work. Often Curriculum Teams will share this information in the form of a ‘Knowledge Organiser’ which breaks down what a student needs to know into smaller elements. When a student begins learning a new unit of work, he or she will usually know very little of the content within it. We describe this level of learning, in which the student is looking at information for the first time, as initial understanding. As the student begins to make sense of the material and to practise it, his or her knowledge becomes more substantial. We expect much of this practice to take place at home as part of homework, and teachers will help students develop the subject specific and more general skills they need to practice. When a student has made sense of what he or she has been taught and remembered it, then we describe that knowledge as complete. We expect every student to have complete knowledge of what he or she is learning at the end of a unit and we believe that the student is responsible for this. The final stage of learning occurs when the knowledge is so familiar to the student that it can be applied automatically. It takes time, and plenty of practice, for a student to gain this level of understanding. An outline of this process is in the table below:

Level of mastery Description
Fluent When you have understood it really thoroughly and are able to apply it in new situations and solve problems. At this stage much of your knowledge is so good that you are often not even aware of using it – it becomes automatic and unconscious.
Complete When you have made sense of the ideas and remembered almost all of the important information. You can apply your learning but you probably still need to think quite carefully about parts of it in order to ensure you are doing it correctly.
Substantial When you have understood the general idea and started to remember the key facts. With careful thought and a bit of help you can apply your knowledge and solve problems.
Establishing When you are starting to make sense of what it all means and starting to learn the key facts.
Initial  How well you understand something when you have first been shown it.

We believe that regular low-stakes testing and quizzing are the best ways to ensure that a student can develop complete learning. Such tests will form part of lessons and we will work with all students to help them develop the skills of how to quiz themselves at home and how best to manage their own learning and revision.