What if we told students NOT to revise?

Picture this scenario up and down the country in many classrooms with Year 11 students at this time of the academic year:

Teacher – “Okay Year 11, who’s started revising for their exam?”

Student A – “Not yet, I’m starting mine in a few weeks.”

Student B – “I don’t know how to revise.”

Student C – “I don’t need to revise.”

It’s that time of year again when teachers are encouraging their Year 11 to revise for their examinations in the summer. Students are being given advice from various avenues on how to revise, how to create revision timetables, and the importance of being prepared, but what if we told students NOT to revise?

The word revision in relation to study is defined as, ‘study of work you have done, in order to prepare for an exam’. For many years, the word revision tends to be linked to preparation for exams and is a strategy that seems to be more likely promoted by schools in the run-up to the end of GCSEs and A-levels. Let’s take a pause here.

For learning to take place we know that there needs to be a change in long term memory.

This change in long term memory requires us to make deliberate efforts to move information from our short-term memory into our long-term memory through storage. There are a variety of techniques we can use to organise information based on meaning and store that information into long-term memory for later retrieval, including:

  • Repetition – the act of practising recalling information. This can be achieved through low-stake quizzes by creating flashcards.

  • Elaboration – the process of connecting new information with prior information and looking for relationships between information. We can elaborate by thinking of examples of concepts, practising explaining a concept to someone, or creating a summary based on notes.

  • Organising Schemas – our brains find it easier to remember information if we can make associations and connections between ideas. By doing this, we can create a structure of knowledge of information, making it easier for us to remember facts.

I believe secondary schools should create a culture where students are encouraged to review their learning each week from the beginning of Year 7. For the past few years, our department has focused on encouraging students to continually condense and reflect on their learning to commit knowledge to long term memory, therefore, we no longer do revision lessons or ask students to ’revise’.

Every week students are:

1) Condensing their learning through ’geog your memory’, creating flashcards and low-stake quizzes, providing opportunities for repetition and elaboration.

2) Reflecting on their learning through retrieval quizzes at the start of a lesson, writing a summary at the end of a lesson using the Cornell notes layout and Seneca learning.

One thought on “What if we told students NOT to revise?

  1. Pingback: Research Spotlight – March | Heathfield Teach Share Blog

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