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Learning to Learn

For a number of years, Down High School has worked hard to sell to our students the need to develop a range of study skills methodologies that work for them as individuals in order to equip themselves not only for the demands of GCSE and A-Level examinations, but for university and the world of work. In the past, pupils and parents indicated that they were cognisant of the need to revise for tests and exams, but many felt unable to articulate how they should actually go about this.

The school places an emphasis on empowering pupils by creating a menu of revision and learning methodologies that can assist them in their learning and raise levels of achievement. Our strategy was predicated on the principle that a “one size fits all” approach to revision was inappropriate because what works for one pupil does not work for another. But we have also tried to discourage pupils from thinking that they have a single learning style. Each child learns through a combination of visual, kinaesthetic, auditory and other factors.

Through a self-reflective analysis of their own learning, pupils need to find revision techniques that work for them. To help achieve this level of understanding about how they learn, every year group attends an annual study skills seminar, led by members of the school’s Learning and Teaching Committee. In order to help learning skills become embedded, we believe that such a one-off event needs to be accompanied by the use of a range of obvious revision strategies in the classroom, such as mnemonics, mind-mapping, closed book memory testing, self-teaching, the 6Ws and super-summaries.

We aim to give the pupils time to try out strategies rather than simply listing the methods they could use. We also try to involve the parents of pupils in Years 8 and 13 by organising information sessions on how the pupils are encouraged to learn how to learn. Pupils’ homework diaries contain age-appropriate study skills strategies.

With homework suspended in the period before internal examinations, pupils are encouraged to bring in their revision materials and discuss the ways in which they were revising so that expectations can be raised and good practice shared.

We believe our pupils can be empowered by being encouraged to ask themselves questions about how they learn and experiment with strategies that may work for them and thus increase their motivation. Their experiences are discussed during Self-evaluation Days, with an emphasis on becoming more resourceful learners. Revision, if creative and at the same time challenging, does not have to be boring.