Autumn term is a long, busy term, forward planning to reach syllabus content goals and making sure that the highest impact revision strategies are added to the mix.  Throw in a bit of student overconfidence in self-assessments and a whole new landscape stretches across our pedagogical platform with a signpost of ‘metacognitive knowledge’.

We arm students with revision tools and techniques to support their independent learning and hope that they don’t turn to their favourite revision technique – highlighting, highlighting, highlighting.  Asking students to pick out and highlight the specifics in a piece of text can often result in whole paragraphs being decorated with large blocks of pink, orange and yellow.  It feels productive, it looks ‘revision like’, but we know that simply using neon colours over key information isn’t effective. Self-quizzing and practice testing is to be encouraged, yet we also know that for some students, they don’t see it as their favourite strategy.  Researchers have studied this too, and have concluded that, ‘students who are overconfident in their evaluations of learning may fall short of their learning goals’. (Overconfidence produces underachievement: Inaccurate self-evaluations undermine students’ learning and retention.’ – Dunlosky and Rawson 2011.)

John Dunlosky’s ‘Strengthening the Student Toolbox’ is a great read to sort out what works and what doesn’t in terms of revision and independent revision strategies (see table below).

John Dunlosky

For a number of students, organising revision time, monitoring and regulating their learning independently is a challenge.  All are intrinsically linked.  Given the amount of content students must learn across a wide variety of subjects and the level of student literacy and numeracy, a new need comes into play – a need for students to achieve durable learning and to also use their time efficiently.  Add a dash of student over-confidence (maybe to hide the truth of their struggle) and we, as teachers, are presented with a matter that has to be dealt with in a sensitive way.  If left, it has the potential to hinder student success.

The EEF has much information on this in their toolkit under metacognition and self-regulation – both at the heart of successful learning.

How can we ensure students are confident but not over-confident and choose the most effective revision strategies?

  • Space out self-testing to strengthen long term memory
  • Low stakes quiz at the start of a lesson
  • Share what revision works and what doesn’t – give them the reasons why
  • Share the information with parents too – we can all be a part of a supportive revision team and can create consistency of approach
  • Get students to ask their friends/parents/guardians to help test them when self-quizzing – it provides instant feedback on how well they are retaining the material being revised
  • Encourage students to practise retrieval and not passively re-reading material until they think it will stick

We need to ensure students are confident in a measured way and have a clear understanding of how they learn best.  As educators, we can facilitate this through providing opportunities for the teaching of effective revision techniques to support them in successful independent learning.