• GUEST BLOG: Fine-tuning teaching traditions

    960 640 Stuart O'Brien

    Traditionally, when it comes to subjects like English Literature and history, lessons involve hefty textbooks and sometimes language that simply doesn’t resonate with today’s students.

    Similarly, scientific analysis and mathematical equations can be complex – especially when you’re left staring at a page or screen trying to take it all in. In reality though, how many children actually understand or remember the information beyond the lesson itself?

    Here, Study Tracks Founder George Hammond-Hagan (pictured, above left) explores a different way teachers can offer the information in a way that suits students and actively engages them in their studies and revision preparation…

    Day in, day out students have to consume huge amounts of information, commit it all to memory, and then ultimately recall it in order to ace their exams. Some people may argue that these exams are just a test of memory, rather than a test of knowledge. However, if a student is really engaged with a topic and has a thorough understanding then it is easier for this information to stick, and be recalled.

    So as teachers, how can we do this effectively?

    It comes as no surprise that 91 per cent of millennials own a smartphone and spend in excess of 115 hours a month using them. Therefore, surely the best way to encourage students to engage with learning is to incorporate this technology and put it somewhere front of mind – or at the tip of their fingers!

    Smartphones offer a multitude of functions for students, including trawling social media, playing games, surfing the internet, taking selfies and listening to music. The latter has been the subject of numerous debates, particularly around its links to performance and focus. There’s no denying that music affects the brain; it stimulates our long term memory, affects our mood and many people argue that it actually helps them concentrate. Many students – my son included – listen to music when revising, but other than allowing them to focus on the task in hand, how can we ensure that it is actually impacting the way they retain and recall study material in the way we want?

    Rhythm can positively affect brain stimulation and this is certainly true when memorising facts and figures for exam situations. It’s not uncommon for students to write or recite facts over and over again so that they become embedded in their long-term memory. After all, our brains seek out patterns and associations. Therefore, if we blend what we’re teaching in lessons with the rhythm and hooks of music, and provide it in a way that is not only appealing, but convenient for students to engage with, then we can create a more effective way of understanding and memorising information.

    Take Shakespearean English as an example. The language used can be difficult to digest and often challenging to understand. It’s not the way we speak in this day and age, so why would we expect students to engage with it easily? But, if you took an excerpt of Romeo and Juliet say, put it in plain English against the rhythm of rap music, suddenly the play comes to life. Not only does it ‘speak the language’ of today’s 21st Century student, but through repetition of the lyrics, they can memorise and recite words like they would any other chart song – regardless of whether they’ve heard it recently or not.

    Using this as an extension to what is being taught in the class will ensure that students are able to fully grasp topics, and will allow teachers to monitor the progress being made beyond lessons to demonstrate the impact it has on their learning. Exploring resources and tools that can be used to send tasks and homework directly to students’ phones or tablets will ensure that you can see who is logging in, how long they are spending on tasks, how many times they have repeated the same activity and how they are performing. This is particularly effective in identifying which students may need additional support in specific areas; something that you may not have necessarily picked up on during lessons.

    Now more than ever, we need to be aligning what is taught in the classroom to what can be learnt at home. Offering it to students in a way that suits their lifestyles means they will be more likely to actively engage with their studies. Setting tasks ahead of the lesson on their phone means it will also free up more time during the lesson to delve deeper into the specifics.

    Ultimately, using tech and the ways students interact with it in their time outside school can help give teachers a deeper insight and indication into their progress and achievements, and students succeed in studying and acing their exams.

    For more information, visit www.studytracks.education



    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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