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No amount of diet coke or coffee can make me truly alert after just four hours sleep, even if a boiling hot shower can convince my body in the short term that I’m refreshed and rested.
Research supports this. Work by Karen Bradley (2011) suggests that the brain needs sleep to consolidate learning and memory. It also needs the right kind of breaks.
If the break can rest the tired part of the brain, then this will strengthen memory traces. However, following on from research by Duke University (2006), if the break activity is emotionally charged it will cause the student’s performance to decline.
Study breaks should not cause stress that engages the tired area of the brain. Exercise and listening to music can rest the brain, but engaging with social media may exacerbate its exhaustion.
Those conscientious students – and there are many of them – brave enough to organise their own revision schedule must remember not to sacrifice sleep for study.
Research by Andrew J. Fuligni, professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioural sciences at UCLA showed that if a student gives up sleep in order to study more than usual, he or she is more likely to have academic problems the following day.
He said: “Academic success may depend on finding strategies to avoid having to give up sleep to study, such as maintaining a consistent study schedule across days, using school time as efficiently as possible, and sacrificing time spent on other, less essential activities.”
The popularity of holiday revision classes are growing rapidly with one tutoring organisation expecting more than 3,500 students this April.
Whether students are attending sessions run by their own schools or those set up by independent enterprises, it strikes me that they are going back to the classroom, when what they need to be doing is consolidating their own learning.
Most of the course content for GCSEs, AS and A2s will have been taught by Easter. Most of the assessment and portfolio work will be completed and moderated.
It’s the perfect time for students to sit down with their own notes and text books to figure out what they have learnt and what is still a slight mystery to them.
These two weeks empower them to fix these gaps and come back to their teachers with the questions they still need answering.
If, instead, they are sitting in some ‘fits all’ revision session that is covering a number of key points, they are not targeting the areas that they personally need to develop.
There is so much unhelpful spoon feeding that we are taking away the ability of some students to discover and plan for themselves. They will need to be able to study independently when they go onto further education and we should allow them to begin now.
The worry is that for some students knowing that a revision class is scheduled for Easter may make them believe this to be some sort of magic solution and that their simple attendance will wipe away the fact of not enough effort until that date.
I think they can have false hopes as to how much progress these sessions can bring them.