Using the RAR approach in practice - webinar round-up

This webinar, hosted by teacher and author Geoff Petty, looks at a method of structuring learning that is evidence based, works well in the classroom, is based on cognitive science and has been improved over many years. It is adaptable to most topics and subjects and makes a massive difference to learners.

Below you can read the round-up of the webinar, including the discussions which took place and some highlights from our live question and answer session.


Download the full presentation from the webinar.

Register to watch the on-demand version.


Of all the things that teachers can change, their teaching method has the greatest effect on how students will learn. ‘Whole class interactive teaching’ can double the rate at which students learn, and any teacher can use this method to become an outstanding teacher.

The Receive-Apply-Reuse (RAR) approach, like all evidence-based methods, needs to be practised to become effective; Geoff recommends using this new approach five times to get used to it, and 25 times to reap its true power.

RAR is used to teach topics (it is not a lesson plan). A three-phase approach is used:

RECEIVE – this happens in three steps; the purpose of this stage is to orientate learners

  1. Establish what prior learning students have on the topic, to build effectively on current knowledge. Get them to write down what they already know.
  2. Summarise in advance what you are going to teach – use an advance organiser like a mind map.
  3. Set goals, in order to get learners to realise they will need to use this information later on and therefore need to listen.

APPLY – in this stage, students complete a ‘ladder’ of tasks

  1. Learners reproduce the new information.
  2. Learners need to apply reasoning to questions on the information.
  3. Leaners will address challenging, ‘open’ tasks, using the new information.

Each of the steps on the ladder has clear success criteria and builds on the knowledge from the step before. This can take more than one lesson, and differentiates learners, so teachers can focus on who needs help.

REUSE – to consolidate the learning, the new knowledge should be reused at least six times.

One ‘reuse’ method is to give the students a quiz (which they know about in advance). They then discuss their answers in pairs and self-assess against model answers. Another day, they re-take the questions they previously got wrong. This makes the quiz a formative learning and improving experience, not just a measurement of knowledge, or as Geoff says, “You can’t fatten a pig by weighing it”.

Another way to get students reusing information is to give them an assessment to mark. This can be genuine, from a previous year, or one the teacher has made up. Using assessment criteria, students mark the work, then in pairs discuss how they marked it and come up with suggestions for improvement. The teacher then show how they would mark the assessment and the class can discuss it.

Geoff discusses more methods and activities in his book, 'How to teach even better', 2018.

Throughout the RAR approach, there is continuous feedback for both teachers and learners, creating a high-quality learning cycle that builds on prior knowledge. A key point is that the teachers need to give students time to think.Questioning strategies

Unlike the most common teaching methods (for example, where a teacher asks questions of the class or nominates someone to answer), whole class interactive teaching uses group work, pair checking, peer explaining, nominated group representatives and assertive questioning, to ensure that students listen well, as they know they might be called on to answer.

In this webinar, Geoff talks about how assertive questioning revolutionised his physics class when he was teaching, and described in detail an example of assertive questioning on the topic of stock taking in a shop.

Assertive questioning is done in steps:

  1. Ask a thought-provoking, ‘meaty’ question about the topic.
  2. Ask the class to come up with answers in groups of 2 or 3.
  3. Ask if anyone needs more time (this feedback helps identify those who don’t really understand the topic yet).
  4. Get answers – choose a representative from each group to answer on their behalf.
  5. Ask if any other groups have a different answer (or ask every group in turn).
  6. Collect all the answers and summarise them.
  7. Ask who is right to spark a class discussion and debate.
  8. Reveal the ‘right’ answer and praise those who got it right.

This strategy results in high participation and allows teachers to really see who is understanding the topic and who isn’t.

Peer explaining – where pairs of students explain parts of a lesson to each other – helps students to self-assess themselves against the key points of a topic.

A ‘graphic organiser’ task, which the teacher pre-warns students about, can lead to better understanding through mind-mapping, peer comparison, self-assessment and class discussion.

Why RAR is better than conventional methods of a teaching:

  • We learn and remember things we have thought hard about.
  • We understand new things by connecting new learning to old learning.
  • Students create their own meanings and form their own understanding rather than just remembering the teacher’s.
  • Students’ understanding can be improved by feedback.
  • Learning needs to be reused about six times to be remembered well.
  • Teachers also need feedback on student understanding to correct errors and omissions during learning.

Your say

  • This is brilliant - I wish I'd learned this months ago.
  • They won't feel so much pressure.
  • They will bypass the terminology and make it simple to understand.
  • Students 'world view' stock is taken into account in the equation.
  • Reforming the information/explanation in their own words helps with understanding of concepts and recall.
  • Develops deeper knowledge and understanding, takes responsibility for own learning, encourages critical thinking.
  • It gives the students a chance to reword the explanation with their vocabulary.
  • They have the same level of thought process and they feel more confidence.
  • Easier to remember when you explained yourself.
  • Effective talk in the classroom is student talk that is engaged and enquiring. But getting 'talk' going in online classes is a real challenge.
  • The quiz sounds like a great idea, thank you.
  • The idea of them marking a piece of work is something I use. It is very effective and the students really like doing this.
  • I will use this as I find this very productive.
  • I need to think about how I can apply this RAR approach in GCSE English, but the assertive questioning is (I think) going to be my new favourite thing.
  • I do breakout rooms and use the interactions for all learners and also allow them to discuss the topic and feedback to the whole class and it has worked very well.

Your questions answered

Is the pair checking the most effective method used by most teachers?

Geoff: "It is one of the most effective, but it depends on your class. With shy learners or adults lacking in self confidence, it might not work so well."

Do you seek students' help in planning lessons?

Geoff: "No, but asking them about their pre-requisite learning engages them. You might find you have to re-teach the pre-requisite topic if they don’t remember it."

How can the approach be adapted for 121 teaching?

Geoff: "The teacher becomes the other half of the pair. The process is to form understanding, expressing it, and correcting mistakes."

When you task groups with the same questions, do you find lots of repetition in the answers?

Geoff: "That depends on how deep the question is. You don’t’ have to ask every group, just ask for ‘different’ answers."

In a small group situation where not all are participating equally, what I could do to improve their equal engagement?

Geoff: "Using nominated representatives makes each student think they might get picked, so weaker students tend to ask enough questions to make sure they know everything."

Is this suitable for all level learners? I ask especially for lower-level learners.

Geoff: "Yes, the topic would need to be adapted ad short – you could fir three topics into one lesson. Research shows that RAR works better for weaker students."

Are there any adaptations for students who find listening challenging and are nervous about communication?

"Using breakout rooms online and smaller groups; any interaction makes a difference – see Geoff’s previous article for SET, 'Learning teams and study buddies’.