Friday Mindset #122

Helping students get better at studenting

Happy Friday, fellow travellers.

A reminder that the lovely folk at Crown House have sorted a 20% discount on The VESPA Handbook for you… just click the picture -

OK. so this will be our last update before half term - it’s such a busy time of year and you’ll have all your attention focussed on exams so we’ll be back on June 7th.

In the meantime, though, we’re thinking about next year’s training sessions, next year’s curriculum planning, next year’s tutorial activities… and we’ve got some exciting stuff for you.

Let’s dive in.

Something to try...

We’ve been dipping in and out of Quiet, Susan Cain’s 2012 classic. It’s been a long while since we read it properly. This time around, we noticed her reference to a study by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister. It concerned workplace environment and performance, and it grabbed us immediately.

We’ve made a powerpoint that summarises DeMarco and Lister’s work, and gets students reflecting on what it might mean for them… encouraging them to think about the spaces they choose to work in, and the effect those choices might have on their outcomes.

It could be really effective with students at the start of next year, so check it out and save it up!

Now… this is designed, of course, for students to hear in September.

But it might get you thinking right now about study spaces. Do we have sufficient? What are they like? How can we use the summer term to redesign some of these spaces? We’ve experimented with this in the past, changing furniture and layout in order to change culture and behaviour. It’s been interesting to see the results.

Something we're reading...

This paper is a readable and fascinating insight into 30 high-achieving first-in-their-families-to-attend-university students at Reading and Imperial College London. The researchers interviewed each of them for ninety minutes, asking them about… experiences at high school, how university had been different, how they prepared for assessments, what their feedback had been like, how they solved problems and crucially, what advice they’d give to others. 

These students are all on different courses - criminology, sociology, international relations, education - but their interview answers are surprisingly similar. What follows are extracts taken word-for-word from their advice to new students. The patterns are remarkable:

  • “They’re lecturers, not mind readers … talk to the staff in your modules, really speak up.

  • “I realised the value of showing your lecturers your draft[s]. I’ve learnt to let other people look at my work… [it] really helped.

  • “If you need help, you need to go to the lecturer. They’re not going to come find you if something is wrong with your essay…you have to up your game now.

  • “Don’t be afraid to talk to your lecturers. You know, always communicate with your lecturers, tell them if you don’t understand something.

  • “Go and bother your lecturers and ask them to see drafts.”

Not only does this paper make a great case for asking for help, it gives us a range of insights into the challenges facing university students.

Great for tutors of year 13s, or leaders of projects encouraging greater levels of proactivity…

Portal Talk...

I always find this time of year really important in establishing or reinforcing the culture of a school. The “Changing of the Guard”, as Yr10 step into the shoes of Yr11, and likewise for Yr12 into Yr13, is both a time of uncertainty and also opportunity, as roles switch and new student leaders emerge.

I like to focus back to Vision at this time of year, and to get the new leading year groups to consider their dreams and aspirations for the future. We have over 20 Vision Activities which are instantly accessible on the VESPA Portal. However I though I’d create a unique one for today’s newsletter, based around the work of Victor Frankl. Frankl was a holocaust survivor, who became a psychotherapist. Following his traumatic experiences in the Nazi Concentration Camps he went onto write the book - “Man’s Search for Meaning” and form the therapeutic concept called Logotherapy, based on the idea that a lack of purpose or meaning can lead to depression, aggression or addiction.

Below is a new slide deck for you to use with students explaining the concept, with some ideas on how to apply Frankl’s ideas to everyday life.

We think this is a great way to get students reflecting on their future and to use their experiences, to date, to consider purpose and meaning as they progress into the final year of their current educational phase.

If you liked this slide deck please get in touch about subscribing to the VESPA Portal where, among many other things, you can also access 80 slides based on all of the VESPA concepts.

Please email me using - [email protected]. Or use my calendar link below to book a short zoom call.

Our latest offer...

This week’s offer is for anyone looking to book staff or student training from us this term. For every school who books one of our staff or student, face to face sessions, we are offering a 30% discount our VESPA coaching portal.

Click on the image to browse our staff and student training sessions, and use the form to get in touch if you would like to find out more.

And that’s it for now. Have a wonderful half term break, when it finally comes… and fingers crossed for all those exams between now and then.

All the best to you and yours,

Tony, Martin and Steve


This metaphor struck us recently. There’s something in it, for sure. Is it a useful mental model? We think so. Useable with students? Maybe. With staff? Definitely…

Mouse or antelope?