Why finding your study style is like finding your fashion sense
It's a commonly known fact that teenagers like to fit in (whilst also standing out).
It's also fairly common for teenagers to feel a bit lost when it comes to their revision.
These two things mean that teens who are struggling to know how to revise will very likely copy a friend's study style, if that friend seems to know what they're doing.
But, this probably isn't a very good idea.
Universal principles of learning
There are some universal principles for successful learning.
- Repetition and testing recall are always going to be important for memory
- Practising the skills you need to demonstrate e.g. by doing past papers will help you when you're in the test or exam situation
However, within these principles things can vary quite a lot for individuals.
How learning preferences vary between people
I've always loved detailed discussion as a way of learning. Listening and talking really work for me as a way of taking on knowledge and getting to grips with the nuances of an issue.
However, I met a sixth former in a school where I was doing a revision talk who said he hated this style of learning. He just switched off and was bored.
Other students love making things really visual and exploring the many and varied links between ideas, causes and effects through spider diagrams and mindmaps. In contrast, some students would benefit much more from things being laid out in a much more structured and logical way.
Some students are quite happy to learn from books by reading text and looking at diagrams. Others need to see it and experience it for the knowledge to mean anything to them.
Why it's a problem to copy your best friend's study style
This is why it's a problem to copy your friend's study style.
If your friend is one of those who learns very well by reading a text book and making revsion notes, but you're the sort who has to experience things to remember and understand them, you're not really going to benefit from copying your friend.
Similarly, if you've identified that you're a social learner and study well when you're around other people or by discussing things with a friend, but your friend needs long periods of quiet concentration you're going to have a problem.
We all work slightly differently when it comes to studying. Young people need to understand and embrace this so that they can revise in the best way for them. It's really a bit like fashion sense – when they have the confidence to wear clothes their way they'll be much more comfortable and confident in themselves.
How to identify your study style
At my Revision Kickstarter Workshops I always include an exercise to help students to:
- Identify how they learn best (their study style)
- See how they can apply their study style to really effective revision
This is the first element of a successful revision plan. We also:
- Prioritise what to revise in a quick, easy and repeatable way so that they don't get over-whelmed by trying to revise everything
- Create a personalised and flexible plan for their revision over the next few months so that they know what they need to get done and when, and when they're going to take a well-earned rest
- Find out how to incorporate a little bit of revision into every day so that they don't fall off the revision train when they go back to school
Students leave the workshop feeling positive, motivated and organised about their revision and fully equipped to get on with it.