Evidence-informed practical strategies for the examinations run-in
Despite the constant challenges with supporting students to make suitable choices for independent study, we plough on with our best efforts. What might the available evidence suggest could be the best approaches to building study habits and revision routines for the run-up to exams? Here are four ideas we apply in our work in college:
Model the process of effective study habits. Our science team spend time to teach a 5‑stage process to their students, including ‘Consolidate, Learn, Assessment, Feedback, Action’. This approach encourages students to actively condense their notes (‘consolidate’) whilst also self-testing their knowledge (‘assessment’).
Developing a study plan underpinned by robust strategies. Understanding ‘spaced practice’ and ‘interleaving’ could really help students to plan their study more effectively. Additionally, applied approaches, such as modelling the ‘Pomodoro technique’ (using a timer to chunk down your revision sessions and to bake-in some potentially productive ‘spacing’) can offer students useful tools to apply independently.
Focus on active revision routines. Our students can be lulled into a false sense of security from re-reading or daubing their notes in a rainbow of highlighter colours. More active strategies, such as ‘map from memory’, ensure that students engage in the productive struggle of ‘retrieval practice’. Additionally, the ‘Leitner technique’, with flashcards, can offer a more deliberate revision strategy which ensures students reflect on their success.
Build-in reflection to revision routines. My colleagues will regularly encourage our college students to RAG rate their revision techniques to track their progress. This structured reflection is likely to help them better calibrate their routines and identify the most appropriate revision strategy for the job.
Alongside these ideas, I found that Julie Kettlewell’s blog ‘Supporting revision and the 7 step model’ proved a useful resource to take students through a framework for the effective use of flashcards. Additionally, Jade Pearce’s EEF guest blog on retrieval, offers useful insights for independent study.
Establishing new routines as final exams quickly approach is no easy task. And yet, for many of our students, if they build (or re-establish) good study habits during this period, it could prove a key factor for success, conquering that understandable angst about the prospect of exams.
This blog originally appeared on the EEF website.
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