"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."
What do we mean by study skills?
A skill is the ability to do something well. Most people assume that learning is natural as we do it from birth. However, reading and writing are a relatively new skill in the history of mankind and therefore much harder to achieve.
Study skills are the range of techniques used to acquire and expand knowledge and understanding. As students mature, they need to become more responsible for their own education and develop the independence to plan, complete and review their learning.
- Time management
- Understanding new information
- Choosing the best methods to learn
- Checking and setting new targets
Whilst teachers manage this in school for all students, it is important that your child develop these skills for themselves.
Why is it important for my child to develop these skills?
Good study skills allow a child to take more control of their learning. This helps them develop confidence and increases their self-esteem. Employers look for these skills in a young employee as they demonstrate the ability to overcome challenges and use their initiative to cope with day-to-day tasks. Having a good command of these skills therefore increases students’ employability.
How do I know where to start to improve my own/my child’s study skills?
Understanding what skills we need to develop is an important starting point. Below is a questionnaire, to help your child evaluate their strengths and areas for improvement. Once complete, they can identify which sections to read to help them make improvements.
Each further link below will provide students with advice and guidance on how to become skillful in each key area.
It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.
Life is busy and we often feel like we don’t have time to get everything done that we need to. However, there are certain techniques that you can use to help you manage your time more efficiently.
If we delay completing work and fail to plan our time, the work will build up until we cannot achieve our targets and meet deadlines. This has a powerful impact on self-esteem, confidence and our mental health. On the other hand, planning homework and revision tasks, will allow you to feel confident, relieve stress and help you to enjoy free time more.
What do I need to know about managing time?
The statements in the questionnaire are a clear guide about what you need to achieve. However, if you need more guidance in achieving perfect time management, use the steps below to help:
- Write a “To Do” list. Check your Teams account carefully before doing this.
- Put each item on the list in order of importance. Check deadlines when doing this.
- Use a timetable grid to plan when these tasks will be done.
- Set realistic time scales.
Creating a timetable.
Begin by creating a timetable to use at home. You need to ensure that you plan for both time to work and time to relax and that you are realistic in your goals.
Below is a link to a template that you could use with an example of how to complete it. However, creating one in Outlook or on your smartphone might be more helpful as you can set reminders. There is also further guidance about how to create a timetable that you will be able to stick to.
How do I stick to my plans?
You might be skilled at planning, but not so effective at sticking to them. Below are some “Dos and Don’ts” that might help you to improve.
- Use a timer to gauge how long you spend completing tasks Be realistic when creating your plan
- Look ahead at deadlines to ensure you have time to ask for help or address mistakes Reward yourself when you achieve a target on your plan
- Plan to compete tasks the night before they are due. Overload your social calendar however tempting.
- Have your phone next to your when you are studying. This will slow you down! Plan to study late at night or without breaks.
- Leave the most difficult task until last.
Most importantly, know yourself. If you study better after lunch put study slots in the afternoon during the weekend. If you work better on your own, avoid study groups. The more you understand about your strengths and weaknesses, the more you will be able to stick to your schedule.
If you think you still need more advice and guidance, use the links below for further support.
Understanding New Information
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.”
Why do I find understanding new information so difficult?
The Working Memory
The human memory is amazing but very complex. When we are introduced to new information, we need to process it in our working memory, which can only manage a very small amount before it becomes overloaded. In fact, the working memory can often only manage 4-7 pieces of new information at a time. This is why it is so important to chunk new ideas into smaller sections.
However, if you already know part of the idea or can link the new information to other knowledge stored in your long-term memory, the new information becomes easier to process. Remembering prior learning and bringing it into your working memory, creates a sticky surface so that the new information clings to it and can therefore be stored more quickly and effective
Ultimately, this means that new information is much harder to understand and we must accept that in the beginning, we must break key knowledge into small chunks and be persistent in the learning of it.
If you find reading and processing new information challenging, download the “How To Guide” below.
Finding out why we don’t understand
Sometimes the reasons why we don’t understand something can be very difficult to explain. However, if we cannot tell a teacher exactly what or why we don’t understand, it can be very difficult to provide the right help and guidance. Often our difficulties have arisen because we have a misconception. This means we believe we understand an idea, but actually we do not and this makes trying to understand the new idea difficult. For example, if we believe that only ice melts, we may not be able to remember that the process of any solid becoming a liquid is called melting. If we believe that we always use commas when we need to take a breath, we might not understand when to use semi-colons.
When we are learning new information that we are finding difficult, it is important to pin-point exactly what we don’t understand.
Download the guide below to help you practice identifying what you need help with.
Choosing the best methods to learn
All work is not Equal
Choosing the best strategy to revise very much depends on what you want to achieve. You may be the type of person who spends hours reading and re-reading notes; highlighting chunks of text and completing all the revision tasks your teacher has set. However, your progress does not seem to be as fast as you expected. This is because not all work is equal.
For example, when you want to gain weight, eating extra portions of salad and vegetables is not going to be as effective as eating extra portions of pasta.
Choosing the right method to revise will automatically provide better results.
Consider the revision you need to do for a particular subject in preparation for the next test. Which of the following categories does it fall into?
- Remembering Key Knowledge
- Developing a deeper understanding
- Building sophisticated responses
Remembering Key Knowledge
You know you have covered a topic in class but you cannot remember any of it or very little. If this is the case, you need to complete tasks that will ensure the transfer of this knowledge from your working memory to your long term.
- Create/complete quick quizzes
- Reducing key information to 10 key words
- Summarising using key words
- Memory clocks
- Turn it into a story
Developing a deeper understanding
Once you are certain that you have a strong recall of the key knowledge, you are ready to begin to challenge your understanding. It is possible to remember something without fully comprehending the idea or concept. The tasks below will help you check what you do and don’t fully grasp and allow you to further investigate.
- Mind mapping
- Drawing diagrams and images
- Explaining to yourself
Having completed these tasks, you should use them to make a list of knowledge gaps and areas that are unclear to you. This is when you need to return to your teacher and ask for some help. Preparing questions to ask is an essential part of this process.
These tasks should be saved for when you can recall the key information with ease and are able to demonstrate a strong understanding of the ideas and concepts. If you are in this position, you may now be ready to target a more sophisticated understanding that requires you to be both evaluative and analytical.
- Evaluation – this can include strengths vs weaknesses; differing views; diamond 9
- Comparison – Venn diagrams
Checking and setting new targets
The odds of hitting your target go up immediately when you aim at it!
Often beginning the task of revising, is stopped by the fear of where to start. Students can feel that there is so much to learn, so much that they don’t know, that the likelihood of achievement is impossible.
If you are feeling like this, it is important that you begin with setting small targets and remember that every building project begins with laying the first brick. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Even the Romans needed a map; a step-by-step plan that would guide them to their victory.
Identify your destination.
Ensure you have a clear target in mind and make sure that it is achievable. If you are currently working at a Grade 4, do not target a Grade 8! It is not realistic. You need to build in the steps and the skills at a realistic pace.
Use the link below to help set SMART targets.
Plan your route
Once you have set your SMART targets, you need to create a path that identifies each stepping-stone. This will help you reach each goal successfully.
- Chunk each topic into sub-sections – revision guides and knowledge organisers will often do this for you.
- RAG each subsection. You must be honest!
- If you cannot RAG accurately, try taking some low stakes quizzes. These can be found on the Bitesize website.
- From these self-assessments, rank these topics from strong to weak in terms of your knowledge recall and understanding.
Now you have a list of topics that you need to work on in order to improve your recall of key knowledge or ability to perform certain skills Make sure you are able to choose the best methods to revise and develop your attainment. If you are not sure what tasks to complete to learn each of the sections on your revision map, read the section entitled “Choosing the best methods to learn” on this web-site.
Follow the path
Once you have identified what you need to do and how you need to do it, it is essential that you see this as a short route that needs checking at the end of each road.
- Complete revision tasks and assess your progress
- Make sure you have a good understanding of assessment criteria
- Ask your teacher to give you feedback and respond by reviewing your work based on their advice.
- Compare your work with a friends, identifying strengths and weaknesses