Our Term Review!

Education, Exams, Learning Performance, Revision, Study Skills

Wow, what a fantastic term! We have finally caught our breath and done a review of all the successes we have had this term. In three short months we worked with over 200 schools across the UK (and Europe!). This means we reached just over 50,000 young people empowering them with effective revision strategies such as, memory techniques. That’s not to mention the thousands of staff and parents we visited too.

 

We are incredibly proud that so many schools, colleges, and universities chose us to help raise achievement and inspire a love of learning!

 

Here are some of our favourite comments from the past term:

My students absolutely loved the session and found it extremely useful. Thank you to you and the presenters. It was a great success. I will be recommending the session to my colleagues.’

 

‘Amazing and really boosted my confidence.’

 

‘Very good day, this changed my outlook towards my teaching.’

 

‘It was very motivational and inspirational.’

 

‘It was an eye-opening workshop’

 

‘Off the charts :)’

 

‘Thank you once again for providing such a high quality presenter- the pupils loved him and thoroughly enjoyed their workshops.’

 

‘I just wanted to say a massive thank you for the brilliant course’

 

We are thrilled to be making such a difference. Here’s to a fantastic Summer Term and best of luck to all those taking exams – You’ve got this! #YouAreAwesome

 

 

Part 5 of the Philosophy of Memory: Review It

Creativity, Exams, Memory, Revision, Study Skills, Teaching and Learning

This step is the most important of all. Reviewing work regularly strengthens the neural connections making memories stronger. This means you can recall information easily when it matters, most in the exam.

Strategies for Success AI

This graph shows what is happening to those neural connections with each review you do. We call it the Review Philosophy which is based on scientific evidence of how the brain learns and recalls information, otherwise knows as distributed practice.

Following the Review Philosophy means reviewing revision notes for ten minutes around ten minutes after writing them. A day later you review them for five minutes. A week later you review them for between two and five minutes, and the same again a month later.

Essentially, reviewing a subject in small chunks, several times in short bursts, has a far greater impact than cramming three hours before the exam.

You can download our free guide to creating a revision timetable based on the review philosophy here.

Part 4 – Unleash Your Imagination

Creativity, Education, Exams, Memory, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

Strategies for Success AI

Yes, really. You can improve how you learn, remember and recall information by unleashing your imagination. The crazy, absurd visual story you used to remember the key dates of WWII has created stronger links between neurons making it easier for your brain to recall the information when you need it most, in the exam.

So go wild, enjoy using your imagination and creativity to make learning easier.

#MemoryMatters

Philosophy of Memory Step 3: Link it together!

Creativity, Education, Exams, History, Learning, Memory, Mindset, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

Strategies for Success AI

Capturing the brain’s love of imagination and logic is a powerful way to learn. Creating a whacky story, a mnemonic, a memory palace or a number system (to name a few) is an efficient and effective way to learn.

These techniques are particularly great for lists, processes, dates, formulas, and people. But what about entire topics?

Breaking down the huge information into key points e.g. Theme, Main Idea and Details, is vital. Then you can turn it into something creative, logical and most importantly, memorable with Mind Maps. Here is an example!

Henry A - Map

 

The Philosophy of Memory Part 2; Mindset

Creativity, Education, Exams, Memory, Mindset, Motivation, Revision, Study Skills, Teaching and Learning

Henry Ford’s, “If you think you can or you think can’t, you’re right,” is the lifeblood running through all our programmes for young people. So much so, it’s part 2 of our Philosophy of Memory!

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Mindset and self – belief is vital. Memory techniques is a big part of this as they demonstrate the brain’s plasticity – it can develop and grow. Intelligence is not fixed.

Often during our workshops students are amazed at just how much they can recall when they use a technique. Their mindset is transformed from “There’s no way I can remember all that,” to “I can do it!”

Getting rid of that little fixed voice that whispers, “you can’t do this,” is one step towards conquering all those obstacles that stop pupils achieving.

You got this.

#MemoryMatters

Memory Matters.

Creativity, Education, Exams, Learning, Mindfulness, Revision, Stress, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

The national curriculum and exam changes are transforming the way our children have to learn. They have to retain and recall huge amounts of information when it matters most, in the exam.

It is a big demand on our young people. We can meet this demand head on with *wait for it* creativity and imagination. Yes, that’s right. By unleashing the power of creativity and imagination we can empower students to learn independently with effective memory techniques, learn to learn and study skills.

Over the next five weeks we will be sharing our 5 Point Philosophy of Memory as part of our #memorymatters campaign.

The first step in our Philosophy is RELAX. 

Strategies for Success AI

 

The brain reacts to physical stress (think hungry lion chasing you down the street) exactly the same as emotional stress (think exams). It automatically goes into flight or fight mode. Stress hormones like adrenaline, run rings around you. When stressed your body is in a high state of alert – trouble sleeping, change in appetite, fast or shallow breathing, struggling to make decisions, lacking focus – are just a few signs of stress.

It is incredibly difficult to learn, retain and recall information when your stressed so it is important to know how to relax. Here are our Top 3 Relaxation Tips that you can do even during an exam!

  1. Mindful Breathing. 

Breathe through your nose for the count of 5, then out through your mouth for the count of 5. Really focus on your breathing. This will help calm your thoughts and soon your brain will realise you’re not going to get eaten by lion (unless you are, then run.)

It’s a great, simply, subtle technique. No one needs to know you are breathing mindfully and it takes just a minute.

2. Mindful Listening. 

Close your eyes for 30 seconds and concentrate on all the sounds you can hear – a ticking clock, tapping of a pencil, a car passing, your own breathing. This will help to clear your mind, to slow down and to focus. Open your eyes and the world will be a little bit clearer.

3. The Ten Second Count

This is a variation of Tip 1 but rather than focusing on your breath, close your eyes and focus your attention on slowly counting to ten. If your concentration wanders start back at number one!

For more information about Memory Matters click here and don’t forget to check back this time next week for Step 2…!

Forget Paxman – The Real University Challenge

Education, Exams, Learning, Motivation, Politics

More young people than ever are applying to university, with 495,600 getting a place in higher education in 2013.  That’s a lot of teenagers applying for the same courses.  I found out recently that the most popular of these can have up to 18 applicants per available place – what?!

I know what you’re thinking.  Not another student complaining how hard their life is, how difficult applying to university is, bla bla bla.  But give me a chance – I promise I won’t moan too much…actually don’t hold me to that one!

A lot of changes concerning higher education have happened during my time at secondary school, notably the rise in tuition fees.  The pantomime villain responsible for this, according to most students, is Nick Clegg.  After Clegg (boo hiss) promised the National Union of Students that he would oppose any rise in fees, the coalition government proceeded to increase the cap on the amount to be charged to £9000 a year.  Hmmm.

My main memories from this time are of the student marches in London and the auto-tuned YouTube parody of Nick Clegg’s apology (if you haven’t already seen it you’re missing out).  However, now that it’s time for me to start the university application process myself, I’m realising how much of an impact changes such as this are going to have on the choices I make.

It could be argued that the rise in tuition fees has had some positive effects.   After a dip in applications in 2012, numbers have continued to rise.  The difference is that teenagers have to think much more carefully about university – it’s no longer an option if you aren’t sure about any aspect of university life, or your course.  Interestingly, despite the increasing price of attending university, the numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education have never been larger – the reasons for this welcomed change are not yet clear.

Since higher fees have encouraged teenagers to look into other ways of gaining further education, it could be argued that this has prevented many young people from making the wrong decision.  Unfortunately, I know of a few students who have taken up a course and realised that it wasn’t what they wanted a few years in.  Now that tuition is so high, dropping out or switching courses is a huge decision to make; £9000 is a lot of money to ‘waste’.  As a result, it seems to some students that once you begin at university, there really is no going back.

The main thing that I have noticed since starting to consider higher education is the increased pressure to guarantee employment after your course ends.  Again, this is largely down to the amount of money you are investing – it makes sense to want to get something back!  The continued popularity of medicine, education and law courses support this idea, but what about those of us who don’t want this sort of job?

It seems to me that more and more people are choosing a subject because of its employability levels rather than how passionate they are about it.  Three years is a long time to study something you hate, even if you do get a ridiculously well paid job out of it.  This is one of the main issues with increasing the price of going to university; I’d like to think we should at least partly be motivated by doing something that we love.  Maybe that’s a little naïve.  Perhaps the opportunity to study for pleasure is one only available to a privileged few, with everyone else having to think in more practical terms.

I’ve faced issues frequently since deciding that I want to study English at undergraduate level.  Even though I love the subject, many people seem to see it as a waste of time.  When I tell people about my plans, a common reaction is a kind of strained smile followed by: “So do you want to be a teacher then?”  As well intentioned as this comment is, I often feel like screaming: ‘NO.  NO I DO NOT WANT TO BE A TEACHER’ (don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate teachers – I just don’t fancy it as a career).  The other frequent reaction is a look of surprise and a comment about me being ‘a clever girl’ – why don’t I want to study law or ‘something sciencey’ instead?

The answer?  I love literature and I always have done.  I’m not put off by the very small amount of contact hours for arts degrees and I want to do something that I’m good at.  I’ll confess:  I don’t yet know exactly what career path I want to take upon the completion of my degree (shock horror).  I’m sorry if at the age of 17 I don’t know how I want to spend my entire future – I’m certainly not the only one.

My last year of A-levels is going to be packed with decisions and applications.  The most pressing concern upon my return to college is writing my personal statement, something which seems to involve a whole military style procession of checks, redrafts, more checks and rewording.  Who would have thought that 4000 characters could be so intimidating!  The fact is that competition for courses at some universities is so fierce that a good personal statement is more valuable to a student than an iPhone.  Well, I say that…

But what about those who might not have had as much help with their personal statement?  There is still a heated debate over whether success depends primarily on preparation or natural talent.  Many people are complaining that a system which favours pupils who have been ‘trained’ during their A- levels reflects unfairly on those who attend less affluent schools or colleges.  Are university applications still affected by issues of class?

Essentially the UCAS application process seems to me like one big competition (I’m thinking a Crufts style arena and everything) where only the students with the best grades, the best work experience and the best interview technique  get to go where they really want.  No pressure then.

I know that there are options other than university, some of which are absolutely brilliant.  But for me personally, I feel this is the right choice – unfortunately this means A LOT of work for me over the next twelve months, as well as for the other estimated 500,000 – 600,000 people applying through UCAS this year.  Despite this I’m still excited about (hopefully) starting university in 2015.   I’m telling you, it had better be worth it!

By Gove he’s gone!

Education, Exams, Politics

Michael Gove got stuck in a toilet. Yes, you heard me right. Cue maniacal laughter from teachers all over the country who can’t quite believe their luck.  This incident capped what must have been a satisfying week for the majority of the teaching population. I think it’s safe to say that Mr Gove is not a very popular man.

As Gove leaves his position as Secretary of State for Education (accompanied, as I imagine, by sinister Darth Vader style music and a gleefully waving Nick Clegg), now seems a good time to reflect on his time in office.

As an A level student, I haven’t been subjected to many of the coalition government’s changes to the exam system as most of them are only now starting to take effect. I was one of the last years to take the ‘easier’ exams with more class based ‘controlled assessments’.  I sat those exams – easy is not the word I would use.

I have however, experienced a few reforms, such as the axing of the opportunity to take AS and A2 exams in January.   I appreciate that this is intended to make the exams harder, but Mr Gove, or more likely the minions he sends out to deal with this sort of thing, have not thought this policy through very well.

It now seems that all the arts and humanities subjects are examined together, as are maths and the sciences. This is all very well until you put it into practice and people like me end up taking 70% of their exams (all essay based) in one week. I could really have done with that January sitting. Just saying.

I’m not saying that Michael Gove is all bad (I didn’t say he was all good either mind you). Amongst some of his deeply unpopular proposals, there are elements of genuinely good ideas. A good example is the reform of the English GCSE. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly disagreed with most of Gove’s opinions on this subject. But, he did want to encourage children to start reading more pre-1900 literature.

While it could be reasonably argued that a move like this would be more suited to A level students, there is a real point to be made here. In both my English Literature GCSE and A level, I haven’t studied any author other than Shakespeare who is pre-Victorian. However, when (hopefully) I study English at university, I will be expected to have a working understanding of texts dating at least from the middle ages. There is definitely a knowledge gap here; I’ll at least give Mr Gove that.

Despite this, I feel Gove has been extremely misguided when it comes to English. As a graduate of the subject himself, I would expect him to show a love for a wide range of literature. But no. Many American authors are now ‘discouraged’ on the most popular exam boards, apparently down in part to Gove’s personal dislike of the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’.

Having studied ‘Of Mice and Men’ at GCSE, I can see why it is such a popular text. Its short length makes it easily accessible to the majority of students, but it also has layers of symbolism and multiple themes which make it hugely interesting to analyse. What Steinbeck ever did to Michael Gove is a mystery.

On a more positive note, after it disappeared from the reformed English syllabus, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ shot up to number nine on Amazon’s bestseller list. Suck on that Govey.

Ignoring (temporarily) some of Gove’s more…questionable policies, I think it’s pretty clear what his biggest problem was. I know a lot of teachers, both through family and my sixth form, and none of them has ever had a good word to say about him. In fact, one of my teachers hates him with such a passion that I briefly considered buying her a Gove shaped piñata as an end of year present.

Something about the man just drove people crazy, and whole articles have been written on exactly what exactly it is about him that caused this. When it came down to it, he was just a man doing his job. However, it seems to me that teachers specifically hate HOW he did it.

Most teachers saw Gove as a man who not only had no firsthand experience of teaching, but who refused to listen to people that did. Of course, being constantly in denial about just how disliked he was didn’t help much. All I can say for sure is that Gove alienated the majority of teachers, and therefore also the students that they are teaching. Not the smartest move for an Education Secretary.

So what next? Until last week, I have to admit, I had never heard of Nicky Morgan. She is a largely unknown figure who has a pretty tricky job ahead of her in attempting to win back the teaching population of Britain. Although portrayed in some parts of the media as a superman-esque figure here to rescue teachers from The Monstrous Gove ( I picture him as some sort of reptilian villain wearing glasses), I have my reservations.

Nicky Morgan desperately needs to provide some sort of stability within the examination system and give children a break from the relentless reforms that have been taking place over the last few years. Whether the urge to make immediate changes will prove too much is yet to be seen.

For many teachers and students (including myself) the attitude at the moment seems to be one of relief mixed with a sort of smug triumph. The conclusion for now seems to be: ‘Anyone is better than Gove’.

 

Timing is everything – Time Management

Education, Exams, Learning Performance, Motivation, Revision, Study Skills, Teacher Resources

I’ve been struggling to manage my time recently. There simply isn’t enough hours in the day. So I thought I better sort my chaotic life out, and practice what I preach.

Prioritising 

Everyone likes a good list, especially if you can tick things off immediately. But once I’ve written my list of things to do I rate them. The official line to students is to rate them as per the following:

A = Very Urgent (deadline imminent)

B = Quite Urgent (deadline about a week away)

C = No so Urgent (deadline longer than a week)

Personally, I use colour and symbols. I won’t tell you what the symbols are, they’re rude! Moral of the lesson is that you can use whatever rating system that works for you.

Good Plan

A list is all very good and well but you can action any of the points unless you can plan or know what you are going to do.

This is where my five golden features come into play:

1. Description of the task

2. Allocation of priorities

3. Estimation of the time needed

4. Setting up a timetable (if necessary – this is good for revision)

5. Monitoring of progress (basically a big fat tick when that blasted task is done!)

This may seem very basic and common sense (it is) but I’m always surprised to find students who simply don’t know how to manage their time.

It’s easy to identify pupils (and adults for that matter) who haven’t got effective time management strategies. They are usually the ones drowning in work, buried under the pressure of unfinished assignments and missed deadlines. Then you have the opposite spectrum; those who are so overwhelmed by the tasks ahead they bury their heads in the sand and pretend its not happening.

With exams so close, it may be an idea to remind students of these simple strategies to keep them in track. Failing that encourage them to download an app on their phone. I’m lost without my ScatterBrain app.

For more information please visit our website www.learningperformance.com