6 Top tips for revision

Revision – love it or hate it, it’s important to ensure exam success. And yet it’s something that teachers rarely teach, perhaps because they’re not sure how to revise either.

Two great books for learning how to learn and revise are A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley and Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger an McDaniel. A Mind for Numbers is the easier read (and you can take a free online Coursera course for this), and both books are based on the latest cognitive science research, but if you don’t have time to read these then the best tips are below:

  1. Don’t just read or highlight your book or notes. You think you’re learning but you’re not.
  2. Revise without the TV on or other distractions such as your phone. You need to focus.
  3. Revise in short sessions up to 25 minutes long, and take short 5-10 minute breaks between study sessions. This is called the Pomodorro technique and really helps to focus you. If you don’t fancy revising at all just tell yourself that you’ll do one 25 minute session (or Pomodorro) and no more if you still don’t feel like revising. More often than not, after getting started you’ll get into the swing of it.
  4. Test yourself. A great way to do this is to use flashcards, where you make cards with a question on one side and the answer on the other. Then you shuffle them and test yourself. The process of testing yourself really helps you to learn, and it’s a technique that I relied on greatly during University. You can also make digital flashcards which you can access on your phone, tablet and computer.
  5. After going through a section in a textbook, revision guide or your notes, try to summarise the main points without looking at the text. If you struggle then go back
  6. Reward yourself. Hopefully you’ve got a realistic revision plan or schedule (if not, make one!). Tell yourself that if you stick to it then you can have a reward, such as a day off revision a week or anything you enjoy. For me it’s cheesecake! Tell your parents, grandparents and anyone else around you. That way you’re more likely to stick to it.

Cheryl’s birthday – can you solve this Singapore maths logic puzzle?

Singapore maths is all the rage at the moment, and now this super hard logic puzzle has been shared on the internet. Can you figure it out?

Cheryl's birthday - really hard Singapore maths logic puzzle

Cheryl’s birthday – really hard Singapore maths logic puzzle [Source: BBC]

If you want to ‘check’ your answer, here’s the solution below.



When are my exams again?!

Exam season is almost here, with just over a month until exams start for most students! In case you don’t know when your or your teenager’s exams are, here are the links to the GCSE exam timetables for the main exam boards.

If you’re doing an international GCSE (or IGCSE) with Edexcel then you can find the timetable here.

Good luck!


Mastery Assessment

Assessment in the classroom is vital. It drives the curriculum and gives teachers a good idea of where students are in their understanding of a topic. However most teachers and schools adopt the traditional approach to assessment – teach a topic, give students a test, assign students a grade and then move on. The assessment train only goes forwards – student’s test results for each topic are set in stone, and are not used to increase individual students understanding.

The reverse of this is mastery assessment, a concept I first came across a year ago when I read Sal Khan’s book The One World Schoolhouse. The idea is logical; test results are used to inform future teaching of the SAME topic, and so increase students understanding of it.  And instead of using long, end of topic tests, mastery assessment works best with smaller tests given more often.  With tools such as Google Forms and Flubaroo, teachers can do this without creating lots of extra marking work – students can complete tests online at school or at home, with multiple choice questions marked automatically.

Mastery assessment is something that I’m experimenting with in my own classroom, and is a topic that’s received some more attention with levels being scrapped in the UK National Curriculum.

If you’re a teacher, why not try to implement mastery learning in your own classroom?  It’s got the potential to increase student learning, and in so doing, engage your learners more.


The Top 10 Skills for the 21st Century Young Professional

Via youturn and the University of Phoenix.

How can teachers help students to develop these skills?


Using Research to Become a Better Teacher

Dr Ben Goldacre is passionate about evidence-based practice.  Not content with taking the pharmaceutical industry to task over not publishing all their negative clinical trial data, he’s also advocating a clinical-trial like process could be used by teachers to try out ideas and truly evaluate them in order to find if they really work.

Great idea!  But what about those teachers that feel their Goliath-like workload doesn’t allow them the time to generate new research?

Journal clubs are a way for other professionals, such as doctors, to keep up with, and discuss, the latest research in order to benefit their own practice.  And there’s no reason why journal clubs can’t be used by teachers, either face-to-face or using social media.  A great example of this is The Science Teaching Journal Club, in which anyone can use Twitter to discuss a paper and how it could be applied in the classroom.

Perhaps if more teachers engage in reading and adding to the body of research we can convince politicians to stop meddling in education and let the real education professionals decide.

Further reading: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6365275


Getting the Big Picture

I’ve just read an interesting blog post about engagement in maths education and teaching students the ‘big ideas’, helping them to see the overall story of maths (or the history of maths).

I think this is an excellent idea and could potentially change what is for some an abstract, irrelevant subject into an exciting story of human endeavour.

In fact, wouldn’t this be good for science education too?  Recently I’ve become aware of the Big History Project (BHP) that attempts to do just that for science, using the major milestones in the development of the universe, earth and humanity to teach content.  For me, one of the most exciting parts of this is how the BHP connects science to other subjects – such as history, geography and anthropology – that is doesn’t normally connect with in schools.


GCSE Results Impact On Young People’s Aspirations

GCSE results day has come and gone for another year, but how do young people really view their results?  Perhaps more importantly  than we think, according to new research by the Prince’s Trust.

One of the most surprising findings is that those with fewer than five GCSE grades A*-C show that 45% believe their life would have improved if they had done better at school, 26% think that their exam results will hold them back, 34% predict they will end up on benefits, and 20% have abandoned their ambitions altogether [from this article].

For me, it is shocking that at 16, so many young people can become despondent about their future and significantly lower their aspirations.  Rather they should have the attitude that anything is possible.  But how can we help them to do this?


Childhood bullying damaging

Childhood bullying

Bullying at a young age is more damaging than previously thought.

A shocking new study (reported here) has shown that childhood bullying is more damaging than previously thought.  It can affect a person right into adulthood, affecting their health, career and relationships.  Furthermore school bullies were found to be more likely to become adult criminals.

This gives further reasons why bullying can not be tolerated, and raises issues about how schools deal with it.  All too often teachers and schools, with many other things to deal with, can think it is relatively unimportant, or that it is up to parents to deal with such issues.

Has school bullying affected you?  Or if you’re a teacher, how does your school deal with bullying?


UK education reform too fast?

At last some MP’s are saying that the planned education changes may be too much too quickly.