Raise attainment by redefining revision as a continual practice throughout the course…
The place: Stroud High School was an early adopter; Smart Revise has now been used by over 68,000 students.
The challenge: Tackling the ‘forgetting curve’ – a phenomenon whereby students forget what they have been taught over time, as investigated by Ebbinghaus in 1885 and later measured by Murre & Dros in 2015.
As we return to a new, post-pandemic ‘normal’, attention will again be turning to preparation for those all-important terminal examinations. When should students start their revision? After Christmas? At February half term? At Easter?
Evidence suggests that the very best practice is to establish revision as ongoing preparation throughout a course, not just at the end.
After all, that’s how marathon runners prepare to run a race. It takes years and months of preparation, with gradual increases in distance and performance improvements over time.
Similarly, we need to apply the same approach when preparing for school exams.
What we did
As practising teachers, we recognised several problems our own students were experiencing as they were learning. It’s common to go through the content of a course in a linear fashion. Not necessarily in the order of the specification, but certainly one topic at a time.
More recently, it’s been suggested that interleaving concepts, instead of blocking learning, might have a positive impact by frequently returning to previously taught material and building upon it.
This requires careful curation of the scheme of learning, as students can get lost in the journey if it doesn’t match the specification and published textbooks.
“We thought there must be a more effective way to retain knowledge over long periods of time”
We found it frustrating that regardless of approach, students could sometimes forget the basics – the very foundations upon which their knowledge should develop.
In computer science, for example, we might ask, ‘What is the purpose of the memory address register?’ – only for students to forget this days and weeks later. We thought there must be a more effective way to retain knowledge over long periods of time.
How we improved
Frequent, low stakes quizzing on all previously taught material was the answer.
It’s important to find time in busy lessons for knowledge recall, but that can be quite a challenge when you only have just enough time to cover the course content. This is where technology can provide a solution.
Many online quizzing tools will only create short quizzes of content from a single unit, but Smart Revise is different. It automatically interleaves and melds questions, in response to the teacher enabling topics as the course progresses.
Crucially, it also creates a never-ending differentiated question playlist that is personalised for each student. Adapting over time with a focus on mastery, these question sets will change dynamically for each student in real-time as they engage with Smart Revise.
Since the questions prioritise and cycle in an infinite loop, there is no fixed number of questions. Instead, students always have another question to answer, with teachers free to choose how long they wish to spend on the activity.
- We know that frequent low stakes quizzing isn’t enough to ensure success. It solves the problem of retention, but doesn’t prepare students for longer answer questions.
- Smart Revise, therefore, also includes hundreds of examination-style questions with a ‘Smart Advance’ mode, together with command word help and a unique guided marking interface for students, which encourages them to engage with mark schemes.
- Additionally, there’s the ‘Smart Terms’ function, which facilitates the Leitner system with subject-specific terminology.