ISSUE 91 - February 2013 - by Phil Chambers
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Welcome to the February 2013 issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.
This month we have an article on exams and the plan to shake up he UK schools system plus our regular features of quote of the month, Mind Mapping tip and what I’m up to.
"Success is the sum of small efforts,
repeated day in and day out."
More quotes here
What's Phil Up To?
Mind Mapping Tip of the Month.
Work according to your preferred processing style: If you are a holistic learner and like to see the big picture first, filling in the details later, begin by drawing all the main branches. If, on the other hand, you are a more sequential learner, draw the first branch and develop its sub-branches before moving onto the second. Remember you can always go back and add to a branch if you think of something that relates to it.
How to Succeed with the GOVErnment Changes
The UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove has recently announced significant reforms to the school exams system. From 2017 GCSE exams will be abolished and replaced with the ‘English Baccalaureate’. This will initially comprise the core subjects of English, maths and science but will eventually include geography, history and languages. The key changes will be that modular exams with partial re-sits will be replaced with a single exam at the end of a two-year course. The current system of awarding a pass for grades A to G will be tightened with a new 1 to 6 pass grade, 7 onwards will be a fail. Currently, 22 per cent of students get an A or A* grade. Around seven per cent of all candidates gain an A*. Under the new system as few as five per cent may get Grade 1.
Gove has also announced similar changes to the A-level exam system. The current AS-levels will be separated from A-levels to become a separate qualification. A-levels will return to a two-year course with exams at the end and no assessment of coursework.
Many teachers have expressed disapproval of the new measures with fears that pupils will be under greater pressure and less able students are more likely to fail. I am all in favour of raising standards as, with the right strategy, all students can achieve more with less stress.
I am frequently contacted by parents of students who have three weeks until their exams, realise that revision isn't going well, and need help. There are some strategies that can work at this stage. These include doing past papers in the hope that similar questions come up, Mind Mapping key points and employing some mnemonics, even last minute cramming can help in some cases. However, at such short notice it does tend to become a damage limitation exercise. It is impossible to cover one or two year's worth of work in three weeks. Just because exams come at the end of a course does not mean that revision has to be restricted to the last weeks or even one month. This belief is one of the biggest traps that students fall into. Schools even give students 'study leave' in the weeks leading up to exams. This is madness!
If you are to retain anything long-term you have to revise as you learn. Put in place your revision from day one. Psychologists have found that for anything to stick in long term memory it must be revisited five times. This doesn’t mean that you have to read your study books or copy out your notes five times. The strategy is to make effective notes using Mind Maps that can then be very rapidly reviewed. A Mind Map that may have taken an hour or more to create can be reviewed in under two minutes. Even if we say that it takes 5 minutes per review, then it only takes 25 minutes to memorise the content of a chapter of a book or single lesson in detail. If less detail is required a whole book or series of lessons can be summarised on a Mind Map.
It is important to correctly space the reviews to get the most effect. These need to be: 10 minutes after studying, then 24 hours, 1 week, 1 month and if time allows after 3 months. The early reviews are vital to reinforce the memory while it is still fresh. If you leave your notes for a day or week before looking at them again you will have forgotten the majority of the detail and have to relearn rather than simply review. If you take notes at the start of a course and don’t look back at them for months then you needn’t have bothered making notes at all, as the recollection of the material will be negligible.
When it comes to the weeks before the exam just briefly review your Mind Maps, check that you don't have any gaps in your recall and do some past papers. Make sure you understand the rubric so that there are no surprises in the exam. It is amazing how many people don't know the format of an exam beforehand and in the heat of the moment fail to read the instructions properly. Don't throw away marks by answering the wrong questions. Finally, get some good rest. There will be far less stress because you know you know it. All you have to do is prove it to the examiner. Any jitters can be tackled with relaxation techniques and visualisation. Provided you were taught according to the curriculum, exams suddenly become easy.
That’s it for this month. I’ll be back in touch with the next newsletter in early March.