How to scaffold pupils' revision using the 'seven-step' model'

By Gary Aubin posted 21-03-2022 10:01


The EEF’s Julie Kettlewell explains how teachers can scaffold pupils’ revision using the seven-step model.

Read the blog and then join the discussion in the Early Careers Club (11-19) here.

It feels like the Christmas decorations have only just come down, and yet in the blink of an eye the exam season is almost upon us. Supporting children to approach exams and to structure their revision effectively is always a challenge, but this is especially so this year when many pupils are likely to have had periods of absence and disrupted learning.

Fortunately, we have two planning support tools based upon the Seven-step model, from the EEF Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning guidance report, which offer us a useful framework by which to support pupils to structure their exam preparation, and crucially, learn how to do so with increasing independence.

Too often, we can assume that pupils should be able to get on and engage in independent practice such as revision; however, researchers have shown us how pupils routinely engage in ineffective revision practices. Therefore, pupils benefit from support and explicit teaching of revision strategies, and how to self-regulate their learning. 

The Seven-step modelling of revision in practice

The model offers a way to hone evidence-informed revision strategies. Take the commonly used strategies – self-testing flashcards: 

  1. Activating prior knowledge. Ask pupils when they have used flashcards in the past. When have they found them most useful? Do they remember how much information they should write on them? Will they look different in your subject to other subjects
  2. Explicit strategy instruction. Provide step-by-step instructions about how to complete flashcards in your subject – explaining why this is the most effective way to create them and use them (subtle subject specific differences may be easily missed).
  3. Modelling of learned strategy. Show an example of a completed flashcard, as well as possibly one that isn’t as effective (examples and non-examples) and explain why this is the case. Share your thought processes with the pupils if you complete one live for them, verbalising how you are demonstrating perseverance, resilience and learning from mistakes you have made in the past. For instance, it may be when you have written too much onto a card or dropped a card from the set too early, as you were over-confident.
  4. Memorisation of strategy. Check to see if pupils have understood the instructions. You could ask them to explain to their partner why one modelled flashcard is better than another and walk round the room to listen and check for accuracy.
  5. Guided practice. Start with some partially completed cards where pupils just need to fill in some missing words, then move on to providing a list of key words for a topic (you could ask the pupils to work in pairs to write the relevant descriptor for them). Some pupils may need the key words for the subsequent topic, whereas others may be able to do this themselves without support.
  6. Independent practice. All pupils then complete flashcards for the next topic independently and then try self-testing using the cards.
  7. Structured reflection. Individually, or in small groups, support pupils to think about what went well and what they would do differently next time. They could look at each other’s cards to think about different techniques (e.g. colour coding) and the possible benefits of this. You may also encourage pupils to reflect on how motivated they were during their self-testing.

Revision will always prove a challenge – perhaps this year as much as any. And yet, explicitly teaching pupils in this way should help enhance the accuracy of their judgements and support them to manage their revision with greater independence.

This blog originally appeared on the EEF website.

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1 comment



07-04-2022 14:18

Anki is also free and easy to use.

It would be good to see what a good set of flash cards were for each subject. It kinda cries out for an archive or subject specific template.

A key revision task from a brain-centrist perspective is to revise in the place you will be tested. The place has as much to do with recall as anything else. You can teach memory placement theory and increase the capacity to recall and the calm state of the candidate during testing.