It’s revision season in our school. We have some excellent resources on ‘active revision strategies’, and we’ve taken the principles of a ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’ seriously. I personally have learnt a lot from Christodoulou’s excellent book ‘Seven Myths About Education‘ (2014).
Yet what we are perhaps lacking in is enough transparency about the importance of struggling when revising for closed-book examination. ‘Transparency’ is a key component of ‘Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning‘ by Brown, Roediger and Mcdaniel.
A recent whole-school focus on ‘Growth Mindset‘ has served as a first stage in creating this kind of transparency. Yet I wanted to talk to my pupils more about the perils of “illusions of knowing” – the biggest illusion being that re-reading information means learning it. Retrieval practice, on the other hand, has been shown to be much more effective.
How did I explain the importance of testing over reading? Using the techniques described by a Biology Professor called Mary Wenderoth, as outlined by ‘Make It Stick’, along with a little creative picture-editing. Here it is (you can also download this as a PowerPoint on the Resources page):
The pictures made a few Year 8 students crack up with laughter, yet I enjoyed more success with Year 12. Perhaps they would have agreed to do anything, however, considering how close we were to the exam – even put a pair of pants on their head and stick two pencils up their nose…