Learning mats – originally laminated sheets containing simple questions, learning prompts and drawing spaces – have been around for some time at the lower (particularly primary) levels of our education system, but with the increasing interest in Knowledge Organisers, which in many respects they resemble, they’re starting to gain some traction at both GCSE and A-level.

Having said that, I’ve only managed to find a couple of examples of their use in A-level Sociology and none at all in Psychology. This may reflect a lack of knowledge about Learning Mats, a lack of interest in their application to A-level study or, more-likely perhaps, a lack of time to create them.

Sociology

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to create Learning Mats, particularly at A-level, the two examples I’ve found should give you a good basic understanding of design and content. Once you get a handle on the resource you’ll be better-placed to think about the ways it could be used to support your students.

The first batch, created by Stacey Arkwright, focus on sociological theory (and more specifically, perspectives). The Mats all follow the same basic format, although there are slight variations depending on the specific content being covered. These Learning Mats generally require students to:

1. Provide an overview of a perspective, theory or concept.
2. Identify its main strengths and weaknesses.
3. Identify key thinkers.
4. Define key concepts / answer short questions.

In all there are 6 Theory Mats which I’ve left in their original Word format in case you want to edit them to your own specifications:

Feminisms
Functionalism
Interactionism
Marxism
New Right
Postmodernism

A couple of things should be immediately apparent:

1. It should be possible to refine this design so that it’s broadly similar (Overview / Strengths and Weaknesses / Key Ideas, for example) across any Learning Mat for any Unit / Module. If this can be achieved all a teacher has to do is produce a single Learning Mat template that students can apply across the whole of their course – something that represents a big potential saving in teacher time and effort.

2. Unlike Knowledge Organisers, where the onus is generally on the teacher to create and complete the resource, students do the bulk of the work when they complete each Mat.

The second example involves a much larger and more ambitious set of Mats created by the Hectic Teacher.

Although they use the basic format as Arkwright’s Mats, these are called “Topic Summary Sheets” to reflect the fact they’re designed to help students capture and summarise the content of a specific topic. At present there are three Units covered by the Mats, with two more – Theory and Methods and Beliefs in Society – in the pipeline:

1. Education: 15 topics covered using 20 mats
2. Families and Households: 15 topics covered by 15 mats
3. Crime and Deviance: 20 topics covered by 48 mats.

You can find the complete list of available topics on the Hectic Teacher’s Blog.

A couple of minor drawbacks are the fact the Mats are designed to cover specific areas within a topic that other teachers may not cover or may cover differently and the download files are only in pdf format. However, if you want a PowerPoint version (for whole-class teaching, editing to your own particular requirements or, indeed, both) just drop Hectic Teacher a line via her site Contact Form.

Psychology

Although I haven’t been able, as yet, to find anything similar to the above for Psychology. Mike Griffin’s short blog post gives you a simple-but-sufficient outline of the Learning Mat concept and suggests ways they could be created and used at A-level or GCSE.

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