• Question: If you were to write a 5 point ticklist of advice for students based on scientific research, in order to improve their learning, what would they be?

    Asked by mrgsimpson to Crawford, Dana, Iroise, Mark, Sarah on 22 May 2015.
    • Photo: Mark Mon-Williams

      Mark Mon-Williams answered on 22 May 2015:

      Hi Mr G Simpson

      What a brilliant question! I’m going to spend today drawing up a ticklist – it won’t be definitive but it will be better than anything I produce with only a few minutes thought!

      More later


    • Photo: Crawford Winlove

      Crawford Winlove answered on 22 May 2015:

      Right, here’s my attempt. Most of these suggestions seem to be more about generic “study-skills” rather than actual neuroscience. That is probably a good thing: it means we’ve avoiding the temptation, which pervades much of neuroeducation, of making inappropriate generalisations…..

      On the other hand, it also means that every teaching reading this knows this stuff better than me!

      Still, the things which I reckon are important are:

      1. Sleep. Without enough sleep then little learning will begin whilst awake, or be consolidated overnight: http://tinyurl.com/lcst39w.

      2. Meta-cognition. This means encouraging students to think about their learning, and encompasses everything from thinking about their motivation to simple skills such as setting goals. The might seem impossible wide-ranging, but there is excellent evidence that it works: http://tinyurl.com/n9mugaw

      3. Feedback. By comparing their performance relative to learning goals, subsequent learning should improve. Obvisouly, doing this sooner rather than later is a good idea! Full details: http://tinyurl.com/oe2fmt4

      4. Look at assessment criteria. I get the impression that this is now pretty well established – the students arriving with us from school are hugely keen on these. The ones that get the best marks, it is my anecdotle impression, are generally those that make sure what they submit closely matches the criteria. The frustration is that there remain loads of smart students that miss this simple step…..

      5. Work. Or don’t work. I see loads of students fiddle with their work – struggling with motivation, they drift along more scared to make the decision to recognise that something isn’t working and take a break. That isn’t to say I believe people need breaks every few minutes – but I do believe that if learning isn’t happening then it is time to walk away. Obviously easier to achieve outside the classroom!

      I confess, I’m not sure I ever managed many of these myself, but I checked with a couple of my current final-year students before posting this and they reckoned these things are in the processes of working for them…..

      Finally, you’ll see that lots of these links go back to the Teacher Toolkit (http://tinyurl.com/qcu55hf). Whilst this obviously isn’t a complete guide to the whole of teaching (!), I do think it is an amazing resource for checking the evidence. Best of all, the team behind it work hard at keeping it up to date!