A Knowledge Organiser (KO) sets out the important, useful and powerful knowledge on a topic on a single page. With the content demands of new courses, and Alsop High School adopting a dynamic knowledge rich curriculum, these are becoming increasingly popular.
For students to succeed in a particular area, they must have a foundation of factual knowledge, understand those facts in the context of a conceptual framework and organise knowledge in order to facilitate retrieval and application. We can see KOs as a way to enable this, in a much more systematic way than traditional revision guides and textbooks.
There are many arguments made for the necessity of the memorisation of important knowledge. Our working memory capacity is limited, so by storing more in our long-term memory, we can free up working memory capacity. With careful design and use of KOs, we can construct schemas, complex architectures of knowledge stored in long-term memory, with a view to automating their use. For a relatively complex task such as writing an English literature essay, for example, we can reduce the extraneous cognitive load by allowing students to access knowledge and quotations from their long-term memory.
It should be noted that KOs have a purpose outside the more obvious benefits for students. The construction and regular use of knowledge organisers can also develop teachers’ subject knowledge. The process of creating KOs in a specific subject then leads to a consideration of pedagogical content knowledge, the integration of subject expertise and an understanding of how that subject should be taught. A KO can be a valuable starting point for effective curriculum design and a useful primer for those new to the topic.