In Mark’s recent blog, Lessons in Revision for Heathfield Teach Share, he explained how he had been using the Heathfield Revision Clock to model revision for students and to get them into the habit of revising effectively. Mark ends his blog with a summary of his key principles that he now follows in regards to revision, one being: “Pupils need to be taught [Revision] strategies, in the same way they would be taught anything else.” This echoes recommendations made by the Education Endowment Fund’s recent guidance on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning, one in particular based on teachers explicitly teaching students how to effectively organise and manage independent learning, although revision is only a tiny aspect of that.
The Revision Clock at Heathfield (see image) has been used for a couple of years now across the college in every department. In my role as Pedagogy Practice Team Lead and as Head of History, I have actively promoted the clock as I believe it provides a simple structure and emphasises what we know works (e.g. it emphases self-testing). However, in the past I’ve found that getting students to the ‘Test’ stage of the clock difficult for various reasons:
- It’s the hardest as they have to apply what they know in exam conditions. Students therefore will happily spend too much time in the ‘Review’ stage, rather than moving on to the ‘Test’ stage.
- Students tend to select too much to revise at once. This leaves them taking notes on too many different topics to fill in gaps and then they run out of time to self-test effectively.
- The notes that they take to fill in gaps in their knowledge are overly long so, again, they run out of time to self-test in any given revision session.
- Students feel overwhelmed by the ‘Review’ stage as they are unsure where or how to use the materials to fill in gaps in their knowledge before they self- test in exam conditions.
How to overcome these issues?
I believe it comes back to Mark’s comments about modelling and the EEF recommendations about explicit teaching. To that end, in history, we’ve worked at creating a series of short revision videos for GCSE students that explicitly take students through the stages of the Revision Clock in real time. They work like this:
Step 1: Review
Students choose a revision video to work through on a topic they feel less confident about. At the start of the video, students are provided with a stimulus and instructed to jot down what they can remember about the topic. They are asked to do this in just 2 minutes. After that time, they then hear some information that tells them more about the topic. They are instructed to add to their notes anything that they missed out.
Students are then shown what their notes should have looked like and key words/ dates/ statistics that they should have included are highlighted. This serves the purpose of modelling what effective note taking in the subject should look like in an attempt to get students out of the habit of mindlessly copying or writing in unnecessary full sentences.
Step 2: Test
In the video, students are then set the exam question. They are reminded to set aside all other materials and complete the exam question in silence and in timed conditions. They must play the video while they are completing the answer; the teacher gives them a one-minute warning when their time is almost up.
Step 3: Check
Students are then shown a model answer and the teacher talks them through what makes the answer good and what improvements could have been made. In the video, the students are asked to use the model and their initial notes to make improvements to their own response, focusing on specific names/ dates/ places.
It’s one just one small step towards effective revision….
The revision videos only tackle one type of common exam question in the GCSE history course, but they serve the purpose of modelling the Heathfield Revision Clock. By using the videos, students should become more familiar with the process, including the amount of time they should be spending on the Review/Test/ Check sections of the Clock. They are shown what good note taking looks like when revising. These videos are used as homework and for assessment revision in the first year of the students’ GCSE course and they have had received positive feedback from students who like that they are short (they are around 20-30 minutes). However, like all good modelling and scaffolding the end goal is that, as students progress through their GCSE course, they will begin to revise without the support of the videos as they have become more competent at revising effectively. They should be able to transfer the skills they have learnt by using the videos and apply them to testing themselves with different topics and different types of exam questions. The revision training wheels will need to removed gradually; as an intermediate step students will still need to be guided by asking them to select from 1-3 topics to revise from, pointing them clearly in the direction of the relevant revision materials and what ‘testing’ they should be doing. In this way (HOPEFULLY!) we are moving students on from getting stuck in Review to a place where they are using their time to Test, which is where the magic happens!
Emma Smith, History