Evidence based approaches to revision

Recently we held our first venture into assessing the evidence around effective revision strategies. With an examination structure at both GCSE and A-Level based around linear exams it is now, more than ever, crucial to ensure that students are trained and exposed to the most effective evidence based strategies for preparing for these exams. Durrington and Sandringham Research Schools have both put together a three day training package around this very topic and here at Meols Cop this is certainly something we are going to look towards in the future. For the meantime we thought we would test the appetite for such a training package by offering a free twilight session for those interested to look at the most effective evidence based revision strategies.

As a starting point for putting together the materials for this twilight we drew upon the work of John Dunlosky, Professor of Psychology at Kent State University. In 2013 he published the journal “Strengthening the Student Toolbox” in which he drew upon a number of studies to ascertain the most effective revision strategies. The conclusion to his work was that practice testing and spaced practice were the most effective for students to engage in and for teachers to use in their practice. He concluded that these strategies would “help students regardless of age” and “enhance learning and comprehension of a large range of materials.” In addition to this he also concluded that interleaved practice, elaborative interrogation and self-explanation also had much promise in terms of effective strategies. The study demonstrated the ineffectiveness of many tools that students use such as highlighting, re-reading and summarisation. He concluded that these strategies have “inconsistent effects on student’s learning.”

The session also supports the work of Dunlosky with ideas taken from Daniel T Willingham in “Why don’t students like school?” and “Memorable teaching” by Peps Mccrea. As well as drawing upon the evidence of cognitive scientists and educational researchers the sessions also hopes to provide practical strategies which show these theoretical aspects put into classroom practice. The work of the Learning Scientists (@acethattest) has been instrumental in developing practice here at Meols Cop and has given us a range of practical strategies that can be used in a range of subject areas. Their work focuses on the following six strategies – Retrieval Practice, Spaced Practice, Interleaving, Elaboration, Concrete Examples and Dual Coding and they have produced a number of downloadable materials to highlight their research and its practical application in the classroom (click here to further explore the work of the Learning Scientists).

There is a wealth of material available to support the practical application of the evidence on effective revision strategies. Alex Quigley, Director of Huntingdon Research School as put together his top ten revision strategies on his blog (see here). This also includes further ideas such as Cornell Note Taking, Graphic Organisers and Exam wrappers – all practical ways of ensuring that students are using evidence based strategies when approaching their revision.


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