Study Techniques at WASCZ
At Wycombe Abbey School Changzhou, we take pride in preparing pupils’holistic development and to equip them with the skills needed to be competitivein the 21st century. A crucial part of any pupil’s skill set isthe ability to learn independently on their way to top universities.
As we approach the end of the school year, pupils will test their academic knowledge and skills in the End of Year Exams. As they prepare for these, their teachers will be guiding them on how to study effectively. Their teachers will draw upon the latest research in educational neuroscience and psychology to help them develop the best study habits so that they can eventually become independent learners, who are more self-sufficient and not only take on the challenges of the End of Year Exams, but also become more able to take on the challenges of the 21st century.
Some of the techniques our pupils will learn challenge some outdated ideas about learning. For example, pupils tend to do either of two things. Firstly, pupils overload themselves by reading book after book, again and again. There is often too much information for the brain to process, which is why we get tired after reading complex subjects. Secondly and in contrast to the first, pupils tend to repeat tasks that are easier to complete, such as highlighting text or copying paragraph after paragraph from a book. Scientific research shows that these are passive techniques, and the brain is not working hard enough to develop memory. Most people will not remember the exact details of what they wrote down during passive activities. This makes passive techniques dangerous because technical terms get lost or misunderstood. The key point here is that the brain needs to work to build memory and use the information before it becomes overloaded.
Rather than stick to older ideas about studying for End of Year Exams, our pupils will learn how to assess their knowledge and skills and supplement their assessment with techniques such as the Richard Feynman Method or Access Recall.
The Feynman Method works on the principle that, if you really understand something, you can teach it to someone else. A pupil would start revising by getting a blank sheet of paper and a pen, with no other distractions. No notebooks, textbooks, iPads or laptops.On the blank sheet of paper, they write a topic title at the top of the page, then everything they know about that topic. It does not have to be neat, but neatness and organisation certainly help!
Once they have written down everything they know so far, pupils must then access their notes or textbooks. Occasionally, a good online resource can be used, but we have to be careful with these because many of them contain misleading information. The pupils must read their textbook or class notes to check their work for accuracy. They should adjust their notes on the blank paper if necessary.
Any complex terms that are added must be broken down to as simple as possible. For example, many of know what “melting” means. But a chemistry pupil would break this word down further: it is when enough energy is supplied to a substance so that it vibrates enough to break the bonds between particles in a solid.
Once the complex terms are broken down, the pupil would access a quiz or a worksheet, preferably one set by their experienced teachers! Questions from the textbooks are good also. Using their revised notes, they should try and answer the questions. Check the answers at the end, then readjust their notes if they made any mistakes.
Retrieval Practice takes advantage of how the brain builds memory. It should be done in a low stress environment to give the highest impact. This works because using it requires the learner to reach back into their memory (which they might be close to forgetting) and link important concepts to more recent ones. The best way to do this is to use Flash Cards, old practice tests or to quizzes, without looking at a book or notes. This includes all the Internal Assessments done throughout the year. They form a very important part of the revision process!
Having read through previous tests, pupils can then make your own questions that they think would be on a test. If pupils work together in a study group, they can encourage others to do the same, and trade questions. From all these questions and notes, pupils then must create flashcards. The must make sure to practice your retrieval technique. Instead of flipping a card over prematurely, write the answer down and then check.
We are starting this guidance with our pupils now because research shows that there are two things that boost pupil attainment more than any other. These are assessment of their knowledge and skills and spacing their practice over time.
We hope you find this article useful and supportive for your child. We are committed to outstanding academic results for all our pupils on their path to top universities and our academic team is working with our pupils every day to do this.