Jonathan Firth

Psychology teacher and teacher educator
Speaking at


University of Strathclyde (and also e-Sgoil, the online school of the Outer Hebrides)

Processing, cognition, working memory, cognitive load – these terms are becoming common in educational debates and discussions. But what do they mean – what is the science behind the terminology, and what do teachers really need to know? This session will walk delegates though these areas, investigate some of the most interesting and relevant recent research into cognition and related evidence from neuroscience. It will also delve into issues of attention and concentration, presenting practical strategies for supporting pupils’ day-to-day performance on classroom tasks.


Jonathan Firth is a psychology teacher, teacher educator, author and researcher. Having taught psychology at secondary school level for many years, he now works in teacher education at the University of Strathclyde, as well as teaching part-time for e-Sgoil, the online school of the Outer Hebrides. Jonathan has authored/co-authored four psychology textbooks for schools, and his new book ‘Psychology in the Classroom’ (co-authored with Marc Smith and published by Routledge) explains how to apply psychological concepts to teaching. His research focuses on the role of interleaving in learning new concepts.


How do we learn new concepts? Examples, differences, and interleaving.

How does a learner come to learn and understand a new concept? What exactly is a schema, and what does the latest cognitive science tell us about how information is represented in long-term memory? And on a more practical level, how can teachers best use examples and activities to efficiently teach new concepts in their classes? In this session you will hear a number of evidence-based ways to tackle these questions. We will look at how best to highlight the key aspects of a new concept, and consider the role that timing and learner expertise can play when using concrete examples in class. You will also hear about how learners make meaningful assumptions, learn the gist of texts and form their own mental models in a fundamentally different way from how they memorise details.