With exam season fast approaching, George Hammond-Hagan, founder of Studytracks, looks at how schools can encourage revision in a way that fits in with students’ lifestyles and appeals to the masses
In a recent study we conducted with 500 students, only 14% stated they were calm and confident about their exams. However, maybe this could be something to do with the fact that 62% of students admitted to only starting revision one to three weeks before their exams. Giving themselves such a short amount of time to prepare is undoubtedly going to cause unnecessary stress and pressure. So how can we encourage them to become independent, active learners?
Learning techniques and styles vary person to person and it’s down to each individual to work out how they revise most effectively. Without proper preparation and a plan, students often find themselves procrastinating, and before they know it, exams are days away and they haven’t actually achieved much. Students therefore need to be actively engaged with their learning to get them thinking and building those ever-important capabilities and skills.
With this in mind, here are my top three tips when it comes to motivating students to revise and prepare for their exams:
Tip one: Change perceptions around revision
While the words ‘studying’ or ‘revision’ often evoke adverse reactions from students, the lead up to GCSE and A-Level exams is a crucial time and teachers need to be supportive in ensuring that students are being proactive and productive when it comes to revision.
Of course, setting homework tasks throughout the year will help build their knowledge and skills to a certain extent, but then the focus shifts to inspiring students to actively want to continue their learning outside of lessons, all of which will help them achieve the best possible grades.
Try to encourage revision in groups or pairs; after all ‘teaching the teacher’ and sharing what you’ve learnt can be really effective
When lessons are engaging and inspiring, students will leave wanting to learn more and explore topics further, expanding on what they’ve learnt so far. Therefore, revision should be an extension of this and not seen as a chore or something to fear or loathe. It should be an opportunity for students to build on the existing skills and knowledge they have learnt from their teachers.
Group work in the classroom can often be very productive, especially when the group is made up of mixed abilities and talents; each person brings something different to the team, and strengths and weaknesses can be supported and balanced by one another.
Therefore, try to encourage revision in groups or pairs; after all ‘teaching the teacher’ and sharing what you’ve learnt can be really effective. As well as it being more sociable, it is believed that when we teach others, we retain around 90% of the information. Testing each other and talking through what you’ve just learnt helps to develop a deeper understanding, meaning it’s more likely to be embedded in your long-term memory, ready to be recalled during exams.
Tip two: Finding something to fit in with their lifestyle
These days, most children don’t want to be confined to a desk flicking through the pages of a textbook and writing notes over and over again. They are more likely to be out and about, and more often than not, glued to their phones. Therefore, it’s about making resources as accessible as possible for them.
Today’s students are incredibly tech-savvy and with the amount of digital resources available to enhance learning, this process is no longer confined to within the classroom walls. Teachers should encourage their students to find ways of studying that fits with their lifestyles and forms part of their routine – whether that’s active, on the go, or relating to hobbies and interests including music and gaming.
Students use smartphones and tablets on a daily basis, so encouraging them to use these tools as part of their education, means that studying isn’t seen so much as an additional task
For example, students could use apps that combine music and revision, allowing them to listen and learn anytime and anywhere. Or they could use online resources that feature gamification elements that allow them to play against classmates to encourage a bit of healthy competition and engage them in their learning in a fun way.
Students use smartphones and tablets on a daily basis, so encouraging them to use these tools as part of their education, means that studying isn’t seen so much as an additional task, but something that simply forms part of their online exploration.
It’s the responsibility of the class teacher to make independent learning as compelling as possible, only then will students understand the purpose of what they’re learning and why it’s important, rather than just an extra task that needs to be ticked off.
Tip three: Advising on and supporting their learning
There are numerous online revision services and apps available for students, but it is important to identify which resources will stimulate and motivate individuals’ needs the most. Some of the more basic resources simply provide students with general revision guides or interactive games to aid the learning experience.
students need to be able to effectively engage with independent learning and appreciate how valuable it is
However, others provide a wider range of support and development, helping to bridge the gap between lower and higher-achieving students.
It’s important for teachers to assess students’ levels and abilities; from here they will be able to recommend and advise suitable resources and tools to suit their needs. With so many different learner types – including visual, auditory and kinaesthetic – you will find that some students prefer to learn from the screen and watch videos, some want to listen to voice notes, tracks and podcasts while some would even prefer to use interactive tools and resources to bring their learning to life. There is not one right way to revise; it is about assessing what works best for that particular individual, then encouraging them to explore the different avenues available to them and supporting them in the lead up to exams.
Ultimately, students need to be able to effectively engage with independent learning and appreciate how valuable it is. With the right resources and tools available at their fingertips, they can continue their exploration and deepen their understanding of the topic, allowing them to expand on what they’ve learnt in lessons but in a way that suits them and the lives they lead beyond the classroom.