Multiple exposures is a high impact teaching strategy that allows students multiple opportunities to engage with new content and skills.
It sounds simple - provide students the chance to interact with course content more than once - but with competing priorities, it can seem difficult to achieve. Many educators are struggling to get through the syllabus whilst keeping students engaged, let alone find ways to provide multiple exposures.
In this article, we talk about what multiple exposures are (and more importantly, what they are not), explore why educators might want to include this pedagogical practice in their classroom, and provide suggestions on how to easily and effectively integrate it into everyday teaching.
What are multiple exposures?
Let’s start with the easy part. Multiple exposures are not the same lesson repeated again and again. Not only is this boring and would cause students to disengage immediately leaving teachers to fix a huge behavioural mess, but it also has little to no benefit. Even if students didn’t understand the lesson the first time, there is no guarantee that a repeated lesson would help students understand that piece of content or skill.
Multiple exposures are thoughtful spaced interactions with new skills and knowledge (Victorian Government, 2022). This will help foster deep learning and genuine understanding between students and learning outcomes (Victorian Government, 2022).
Benefits of multiple exposures
It is vital that educators understand what the benefits of a pedagogical practice are, before jumping in and taking action with their classes. This is because teachers are time-poor, and are uniquely positioned to make the best decisions on behalf of their students. Not all approaches will work with certain groups of students, or they may not be needed in particular situations.
Hattie’s (2009) research found that space practice yielded an effect size of 0.71, in comparison to 0.41 for massed practice. This means that students were able to understand concepts more clearly when repeated multiple times over several days and even weeks.
Multiple exposures can also enhance both memory and contextual memory over time (Chen & Yang, 2020). Chen and Yang (2020) found that providing students with multiple repetitions allows for more vivid recollections of details and higher retention rates (Chen & Yang, 2020).
It is also significant to note that linking these experiences is essential to generate meaning for students (Victorian Government, 2022). Understanding how exposures and connections help build context for students and provides teachers with the most bang for their buck.
So research tells us that students will be able to understand and connect more strongly with learning intentions when provided with spaced, meaningful and engaging interactions. With classes that are struggling to grasp concepts quickly, this might be a perfect strategy to implement.
Examples of using multiple exposures
To successfully implement this approach two things should be taken into consideration. The types of activity and the feedback provided.
Types of activities
For some students, seeing information before class time allows their mind time to formulate questions, generate context and link prior learning. Pre-work is a great way to establish exposure without taking precious lesson time. For example, an educator may have an already established hands-on lesson planned.
By taking the time to find work for students to do before coming to class and then linking that pre-work to the learning goal, you can provide repetition for students. Examples of pre-work could include watching an Atomi video, doing some required reading or generating some questions in a reflection activity. This is particularly helpful for students that struggle to grasp new concepts quickly as it allows them more time to sit with the content.
Alternatively, for students that are moving quickly through content, more robust practice may be needed. Using class time to explore concepts and then assigning work that requires them to apply the knowledge learnt to unknown situations can be a great task. Examples include leaning on past paper questions, responding to stimulus materials or creative tasks. Atomi’s extended response practice questions are a great way to quickly and easily assign this style of work to students.
If you are looking for ways to include multiple exposures more during class time you can vary the style of lessons and interactions students have with learning intentions. For example, content-heavy lessons can be followed up with more creative explorations. This could include a lesson on stem cells followed by a class debate on the ethical considerations of stem cell use. This asks students to draw on content from a previous lesson and apply it differently.
In addition, asking students to complete reflection tasks can be a great way for them to learn where their strengths and weaknesses are as they try to remember information across multiple lessons or even weeks.
You can provide multiple exposures in assessment by using a wide variety of tasks. By providing students with multiple ways of displaying their learning you can ensure each student has an opportunity to show off what they have learnt! You could also use a choice grid as an assessment option.
While there are many great ways to provide repetition, the strategy comes undone if proper feedback is not provided to students. Timely feedback will prevent misunderstandings and repeated mistakes and ensure students are moving forward successfully (Victorian Government, 2022). It is also a great opportunity to gather information about where more careful explanations or extensions may be needed, particularly when trying to differentiate for each student.
For at-home work, leaning on self-marked questions and marking criteria can be the most time-effective approach. Platforms like Atomi provide students with feedback on each question they answer immediately, ensuring no mistake is left unaccounted for. These platforms can also provide students with marking criteria to use, freeing up teacher marking time.
For in-class strategies, peer marking and modelling marking are great ways to provide feedback on mass and can be used simultaneously. Peer marking asks students to mark another student's work while modelling marking is where the teacher will verbalise the marking process to the class and provide examples. This is often done together where students will mark another work alongside the teacher, ensuring each student gets feedback without relying solely on the teacher to mark them individually (always a win!).
In summary, multiple exposures help students move information from their working memory into their long-term memory (Nuthall, 2000). This means that students will have a deeper connection with both content and skills and will help them build their understanding of each subject over time.
There are many ways to include this type of approach both at home and in class. All it takes is a little bit of planning, some creative thinking and away you go!
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Sarah-Eleni Zaferis (Bachelor of Education and Science) writes on all things pedagogy, teaching strategies, student and teacher wellbeing. As a high-school educator herself, she is passionate about exploring the ways that educators can put time back in their day while boosting student engagement, motivation, and academic achievement.
- The Department of Education and Training, 2022, High impact teaching strategies (HITS), Victorian Government
- Hattie, J. 2009. Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Milton Park, UK: Routledge.
- Chen, H. & Yang, J. 2020, Multiple exposures enhance both item memory and contextual memory over time Frontiers in Psychology
- Nuthall, G.A., 2000, The role of memory in the acquisition and retention of knowledge in science and social studies units.Cognition and Instruction, 18(1), 83-139.