Exam season is creeping up upon us quickly. How your students learn and study over the next few months can make a significant impact on their final grades. So, what can you do to help ensure students feel as prepared as possible?
Review students’ learning
Reviewing your students' learning regularly is a great way to do this because it incorporates two of the best revision strategies: Retrieval Practice and Spacing. When students recall information little but often, they are more likely to master it and be able to later recall it.
In his 10 Principles of Instruction, Rosenshine suggests engaging students in daily reviews, which will help them overlearn content, as well as weekly and monthly reviews, which help to secure this knowledge into their long-term memory.
There is a range of ways to do this in your lessons, such as:
- Getting your students to test themselves with flashcards
- Asking questions to your students
- Low-stakes quizzes
- Marking homework as a class
Interleave your teaching
Essentially, Interleaving consists in switching between different concepts within the same topic. So, instead of interleaving three different subjects (i.e., Maths, Geography, and French) in one go, they could interleave different concepts within the same subject (i.e., algebra, factorising, expanding). From this, students can compare and contrast each concept, which will reinforce their understanding of each.
Research continually shows that students who interleave their studies achieve better results than those who block their revision. However, educators still tend to teach concepts separately, one at a time. This is probably because Interleaving is sometimes misunderstood and can be confusing to implement.
Thankfully, InnerDrive psychologist, Bradley Busch gives more clarity about how you can incorporate Interleaving in the classroom in this insightful blog.
Promote metacognitive strategies
Metacognition is students’ ability to monitor and evaluate their thoughts and behaviours. The Sutton Trust reports that metacognitive strategies such as critical thinking, self-reflection and goal setting can give secondary students an average of 7 months of additional progress.
Since metacognitive skills help students make practical steps towards achieving their academic goals, they could see improvements in their progress in time for their exams if they start using these strategies now.
Research has also shown that when students reflect on their thoughts and feelings about their schoolwork, they were more motivated and productive and had a better outlook on studying. Not only does metacognition boost academic achievement, it also helps students adopt a positive mindset about their studies. So, your students can see revision as an enjoyable and necessary process that will help them achieve their goals.
Teach stress management techniques
Even though a little bit of stress is good for students as it stops them from getting complacent, too much stress is harmful for both their mental health and academic achievement. Fortunately, you can advise your students on how to reduce stress leading up to their exams by encouraging them to:
- View stressful situations as a challenge rather than a threat
- Exercise regularly – even if it’s just a short walk
- Rely on their support network (you, their parents or guardians, friends…) if it becomes too much for them
- Take regular breaks between study sessions
- Create a revision timetable that uses Spacing to reduce procrastination and make the best of limited study time
- Take time out for themselves
- Develop a consistent sleep schedule, getting at least 8 hours each night
Get parents and guardians involved
Parents and guardians also have a crucial role to play when it comes to students’ exam success, and advising them to get involved can make a huge difference.
Firstly, they have the power to create a structured routine at home that supports their child’s revision by setting homework rules, motivating them to do revision tasks, implementing a consistent bedtime, ensuring their child eats breakfast, talking through their worries and exercising with them.
One study found that high parental expectations made the largest impact on students’ grades. So, encouraging parents and guardians to set high standards for their children can motivate students to do well – as long as they’re accompanied by high levels of support.
Another way for parents and guardians to support their child leading up to exams is by participating in Retrieval Practice with them. For example, parents can test their child with flashcards, or get their child to teach them a topic – not only is this a fun activity, this also secures students' knowledge.
Ideally, all of the above will already be part of a long-term plan and programme that you have put in place. Prevention is always more effective than a cure, and at this stage of the year it can be draining to always be in firefighting mode.
Hopefully, the above acts as a brief refresher, as opposed to a last-minute hastily implemented intervention. As such, it provides a firm foundation and additional top-up for students to feel confident, motivated and prepared to succeed in their exams (and beyond).