A Level

Active Learning – Is It Worth It?

It’s common knowledge that reading your notes is never enough when it comes to revision. The work won’t sink in, and unless you’re one of the rare (and lucky!) people who has a photographic memory, it won’t do anything in your efforts to prepare for your exams. While you’re probably fed up of your teacher or tutor telling you that you need to do more in your revision, it’s in your best interests to listen to this advice. Only 5% of what we hear in a lecture, and 10% of what we read, is remembered – and that’s not enough to get you through exams!

Listening to lectures, reading notes and watching demonstrations are all classified as passive teaching and learning methods. While they help you take initial notes and go through the subject in a clear way, they aren’t good enough to base your revision on. These methods don’t engage enough parts of your brain – hence passive – so your ability to remember is much lower.

Discussion Groups

To increase your chances of remembering notes and information, you need to engage with active revision methods. These are known as participatory teaching and learning methods, and they live up to their name. The difference in memory retention rates is huge: discussion groups help you remember up to 50% of what you learn, ten times as much as what you retain from reading.

Forming discussion groups is a great way to revise. Being in groups with other people not only helps with improving how much you remember, but also your motivation levels. Working alongside people in your class, or people who study the same subject as you means you can not only go over areas you struggle with, but help your peers with any sections they find difficult. Talking about an area you’re revising is always more beneficial, and less mind-numbing than re-writing notes and revision is less of a chore when you’re socialising at the same time – just remember to stay on track!

Practice by doing

The next best participatory learning method to utilise is practising by doing. This can help you retain up to 75% of what you learn, purely because of how many different parts of the brain it engages. There are lots of imaginative ways of fitting this process into your revision too, and thinking them up is part of the fun. Experiment with chemicals in science class for example, and you’ll realise that formulas aren’t hard to remember. Similarly, getting your hands on a game of Operation to label parts of the skeleton and body shouldn’t be too hard!

With subjects that seem less likely to lend themselves to this method, you need to get more creative. English Literature students: can you re-enact the play you’re studying? Perform the poetry? History students, why not set up parliamentary debates to rule over the decisions you’re studying? There are lots of ways to engage with this method, you might just have to wrack your brains a bit!

Teach someone

For the most information retention, teach someone. This method helps you hang on to 90% of what you’re learning, due to the mixture of reciting ideas, engaging with someone else, and responding to questions on the spot. It doesn’t matter who you teach – your cat is an option, but obviously you won’t get any reciprocal questions! The person you’re teaching doesn’t need to have a clue what you’re talking about, in fact this can be even better. The less someone knows, the more simple and clear you have to be about your subject.

See? Revision doesn’t need to be restrained to the covers of a book and a notepad: while this works for some, it shouldn’t be your entire learning strategy. Get active, get up on your feet, and get involved. Revision will be more fun, less hassle, and more likely to produce results!

By a guest blogger

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