Term 3 in Year 7-10 ALT sees the integration of a new hard copy study journal. Every boy in their Year 7-10 ALT class have received a quality 5-subject notebook (with reinforced binding and inbuilt document wallets). We successfully trialled a paper study journal in Years 8 and 9 ALT in Term 2. The hard copy journal provides a simple track of student study efforts across subjects and time. Furthermore, a physical resource helps improve student organisation while acting as a physical cue in the study habit formation.
Monitoring the trial journal in Term 2 yielded trends in student study behaviour. Some of these were to be expected, while others were somewhat surprising.
Low-achieving performers: Study frequency is poor, is not the recommended duration or is not spaced using the recommended advice. Furthermore, students rarely use available resources (textbooks, practice worksheets, quizzes, etc.). Instead, they try to derive the questions/problems themselves, reflecting their limited level of understanding. They practice concepts they already know, consolidating at their level or Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Furthermore, they spend a significant time of their study session trying to come up with a question (again, when you come up with a question, there is a good chance you already know and are comfortable with it). Together these students are not studying/practising in any way that will help them improve. Ultimately, their practice best encapsulates what Robert and Elizabeth (UCLA Memory Lab) call the “Illusion of Competence”.
Summary: These students are neither taking on board the advice nor using the available resources. Their study (which is limited) is not helping them get better/improve.
Average-performers: This group is following our advice in general. These students spend the majority of their time doing/practising. Their practice reflects both spacing and time constraints. Surprisingly, these boys do not try to come up with their own questions; they use the resources available. The one thing that they rarely do is check their work nor understand how to space their work out properly. Often these students do not take advantage of the textbook solutions and rarely check if they are correct or not. These students struggle with identifying what to study and when if the exam covers a fuller period of time. In particular, these students focus on the immediate context, not going back in time in any meaningful way.
Summary: The study habits of these students are helping them in their immediate learning and are aimed at improving their short-term performance. However, the lack of spacing out their study to cover a more extensive sequence of the curriculum is inhibiting their longer-term learning. In particular, spacing and interleaving their study to cover an extended breadth of the curriculum will likely aid their ability to make deeper connections between and within concepts/topics. These connections are essential to building their understanding. Understanding is necessary for students to solve more complex problems or display more profound thinking.
High-achieving performers: Do what the average performers do, but better. Like the previous group, these boys do not try to come up with their own questions/problems; they use the available resources. However, they follow the advice and directions better. They often mark their work by using the provided solutions. Importantly, they are more likely to study across the semester and not just focus on the immediate curriculum. Despite casting their study over an extended curriculum sequence, their study sessions are likely to take around 20 minutes (on average) to complete. Finally, through this spacing, they are more likely to focus their study on “attacking their gaps”, than “protecting their strengths.”
Summary: These students’ study habits present a model aligned with the learning process. They use practices that best embody efficiency and effectiveness. Their ability to spread out their study over a longer curriculum duration is focused on building understanding and not just concentrating on their immediate learning. Furthermore, simply checking their study efforts against the provided solutions aids their metacognitive awareness of their current strengths and gaps in knowledge and understanding.