Thursday, 26 October 2017

6th Form Study Skills: Learning & Note Taking

"A man maie well bring a horse to the water, But he can not make him drinke without he will." wrote John Heywood in A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue. It was true in the 12th Century, and it remains so today. We cannot always get our students to do what we know is best for them, despite telling them over and over.

However, we must continue try, and do it from multiple approaches. I am looking forward to leading some CPD for staff on key principles of 'learning science', I introduce students to the Learning Scientists , I build the principles into lessons through my planning, I write MCQs for our department website and so on. 

I also offered to lead some 6th form assemblies, as I have seen in my own classes that there is a great needed to help students with the demands on the new A Levels. As I made clear to students:

  • You do not start with ‘easy’ material and work towards progressively harder material by the end of Year 13
  • You begin with challenging material, and work with more and more challenging material.
    • You will need to store a vast amount of knowledge in your Long Term Memory.
    • Your Working Memory is relatively small (5 to 7 things), while your Long Term Memory is vast.
    • You need to organise the information into schema in order to access or recall it.
    • You need to adopt a systematic approach to learning, rather leaving it chance.

I then took them on a brief overview of what we know about learning, and how our brains work. I left them with some practical suggestions, including adopting the Cornell Note Taking system. I wished someone had suggested it to me at university or 6th form. It fits with all the other knowledge we have now about effective learning. Why would you not use it? 

Their half term task was to go away and read this... but I will email it to them again next week as a reminder. And I have emailed to all staff to refer to in their lessons. I am going to spend 10 minutes of my first lesson back with 6th form writing CUE at the top of every margin, and drawing a line 5cm above the bottom of their page for summaries. 

There are bits I simplified, this was a 10 minute assembly, not an hour long lecture. However the affirmation I got from a colleague is when he pointed out to the students that it took him 28 years of classroom teaching to work out these principles of effective learning, and now they are pretty much contained in a 6 slide, 10 minute assembly. 

I'm not sure our students realise how lucky they are with what we now know about learning and try to share with them. 

Big thanks to Kim aka The Hectic Teacher and Steve D'Arcy for their help with this presentation

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