Friday Mindset #110

Helping students get better at studenting

Happy Friday fellow travellers.

The corridors have cleared, the classrooms are empty and the last of our learners - shirts untucked and skirts rolled up - have capered through the gates, heading for the sweet shop.

But not for us the Strawberry Laces and Hubba Bubba. Oh no. We’re going to stick around just a little longer, and now that darkness has drawn in, we’ll be enjoying a moment of reflection and mental clarity. And some very bad instant decaf served in a suspiciously stained mug.

That’s right - we’ve got some new stuff for you to explore! Let’s dive in.

Something to try...

We’re still banging the money-isn’t-everything drum with our students, particularly when we discuss motivation, goal-setting and vision.

Understandably, given their current circumstances, many students aspire only to ‘be rich’. But study after study shows that (i) using ‘potential money earned’ as a motivator tends not to increase performance in cognitively challenging tasks and (ii) studies of happiness show the relationship between earnings and happiness is already a weak one.

The powerpoint that follows represents our latest attempt to persuade students to aspire to meaningful and engaging work first and foremost - careers, courses and opportunities that feel engaging and exciting to them.

Hope you can find ten minutes for this in a tutorial with key stage 4 or 5-ers…

Something we're reading...

This article is a very good read. It takes three cognitive-science approaches to revision and critiques the evidence for them. First interleaving is put under the microscope. Then comes spaced practice, them finally, retrieval practice. We regularly advocate for the second and third strategies; they’re a strong part of our encouraging students to revise more effectively, and we have VESPA activities inspired by them.

But the article below takes them to task a little... or at least the evidence base for their effectiveness. It’s well worth exploring, if only to remind ourselves of different views and consider all evidence rather than dismissing that which fails to fit with our current way of thinking.

Check it out:

Portal Talk/Our Latest Offer:

We’ve been up and down the UK since the beginning of term talking to students. Many of our sessions have been around revision strategies and the importance of planning what to revise in the build up to mock exams.

At VESPA we view revision as an extension of Independent Study - the practice element of the model. In an ideal world students should simply be transitioning to more cognitively active activities during their independent study time as they build up to their exams……however, we also understand that we don’t live in an ideal world! Many students simply don’t know the most effective revision strategies to use, or how to plan an effective revision. From our research only 16% of students in Yr12 or 13 use a revision timetable, and 46% of students decide what to revise when they sit down to do it:

Response to the question - How do you usually choose what to revise?

We have also been conducting a poll on the use of revision timetables. To the question - “Have you ever created a revision timetable and then never used it?” the “Yes” vote is currently 71% of all students we have spoken to.

These responses have got us thinking so we’ve produced some slides for one of our new activities, “Sticky Timetables”. The slides are based on the idea that revision timetables are so easily dismissed by students because they are often over optimistic about the amount they can do, so they quickly fail and give up on them.

In this activity we ask students to add in all the positive aspects of their life first, hobbies, sports activities and so on. Once these moments of connection and joy have been added, students can then put in their revision timeslots, making it much more likely that the timetable will stick. We also get them to plan weekly, and spend time planning what to do and how it will be effective.

Coming soon is a revision planning app which will create planned, weekly timetables for students, sending them a pdf copy and allowing them to add time slots to their online calendar. We’ll be sharing the first version of this in next week’s newsletter. In the meantime, here’s the activity:

And that’s it for this week. Pour the last inch of that horrible coffee into a colleague’s pot plant, ditch the mug in the sink without washing it, and let’s get out of here. All the best to you and yours!

Martin, Tony and Steve

p.s. We’ve done quite a few training sessions on developing a positive organisational culture in 2023, so the quote that follows really struck us.

Horace Mann was an American educational reformer and slavery abolitionist often referred to as ‘the father of American education’. “If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a year,” he reportedly observed, “you would end by believing it.”

The power of storytelling in establishing organisational culture - often counter to any evidence - never ceases to fascinate us. What stories does your organisation repeatedly tell itself?