FREE evidence-based revision resource (a highly technical piece of blue card…)

10 February 2018

Author: Niki Kaiser

I’m just putting together the finishing touches for our training course, starting after Half Term: Long-term Learning. During the course, we’ll draw on research around memory, cognition, self-regulation and effective study strategies, thinking about how we can structure teaching and learning most effectively.

But even if you space, interleave, retrieve and elaborate throughout your teaching, you still need to consolidate learning as exams draw nearer, and make sure that knowledge is accessible and applicable.

And if you haven’t done all this spacing and retrieving and interleaving throughout the course (because, let’s face it, most of us haven’t!… either because we felt we didn’t have time or because we didn’t know how to… or because we just didn’t know about this stuff) then effective revision is even more important.

A few years ago, having read this excellent post by Shaun Allison about Dunlosky’s research into effective study, I designed a programme to help my students space and interleave their revision for their upcoming Chemistry exams. I called it 10-minute revision because this felt like a reasonable, achievable amount of time to ask students to spend on their Chemistry revision, if they were to revise Chemistry repeatedly within a particular week, and especially if they were to stick at it over the course of several months.

Each week, as part of the revision programme, pupils answered self-assessment questions. I was trying to encourage a degree of self-regulation and metacognition, at the same time as gaining useful feedback that I could use to structure lessons. I’ve written before about how useful I find Google Forms for encouraging metacognition.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 11.51.10

Generally, the feedback from pupils was encouraging: they appreciated the structure and guidance. However, it was evident that they found it onerous at times. And it was a hugely time-consuming process for me to set the site up.

So last year, I introduced a “highly technical, evidence-based piece of blue cardboard”. It worked well, so I’m using it again this year. It looks a bit like this!


I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time up until now explaining to them the importance of retrieval, the forgetting curve and simple desireable difficulties. So all I did was give out a blue piece of card. I then told them to draw some columns on it, so it looked something like this:


This is a photo of my whiteboard. You’ll have to imagine the blue bit…

Here’s what I asked them to do (and my reasoning):

  • Aim for 2 or 3 sessions of Chemistry a week. I realise they have lots of calls on their time (both inside and outside of school), and I’d like them to do this regularly and to keep it going, so this feels achievable 
  • Note down the date, topic covered, and what you did. I want this bit to be really easy. To take seconds. So it’s a very minor part of what they do. But I need them to make a note of what they’ve done, so they can fill in the final column later.
  • As you get further on with this, make sure you review the things you’ve already looked at. Tick this off in the final column. I want to get the idea across about how important it is to space and review things but, again, I don’t want them (or me) to spend so much time planning this in that they don’t get on to the important stuff.
  • Choose the topics you cover, but look through every now and then to make sure you’re covering all of them. Again, I don’t want this bit to be restrictive or onerous. However, what I have been doing is telling them which past topics would back up current topics (for example, I’ve told them to look back at Chemical Reactions and half equations, as we cover electrolysis now).
  • Do all of this on your highly technical blue piece of card, and bring this to lessons. I don’t want the planner to be the “thing” that takes their attention. I want it to be a working document. And I want to keep an eye on what they’re doing. Blue card stands out, so I can see it and check it! I’ve said I won’t tell them off if it’s blank, so I don’t want them to make things up! But I do want to glance at it every now and then, so I can talk things through with them.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

Posted on 10 February 2018
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