Independent School Adopts Study Week Model

Whole-school approach to study skills

Independent School Adopts Study Week Model

Our Lady’s, Abingdon (OLA), in Oxfordshire, was founded in 1860. It is a leading Catholic, co-educational independent day school, catering to pupils from nursery to sixth form.

A few months ago, Barbara Habayeb, Vice Principal of Our Lady’s, contacted Study Skills Zone to discuss options. The result of this was that, at the start of the school year, a series of workshops took place over a four-day period for students in years 7 to 13. The following extract from the OLA’s own website will best convey how the School felt about the event.

Study skills to start the year

Monday 22nd September

Senior School

Last week, all senior school pupils attended a series of study skills sessions run by Study Skills Zone. Each year group took part in its own session, tailored towards their stage of learning.

The main aim was to help pupils understand that a growth or positive mindset (the ‘I can’ approach) can help their brains function and develop more efficiently. The pupils were also given strategies to help with their learning, along with demonstrations of how they could work.

We are planning to run these sessions again next year so that pupils can develop new skills and strategies for learning and coping with work pressures as they move up through the school.

Well done to all our pupils for showing so much enthusiasm during these sessions!

Listed here are some of the comments made by the pupils themselves about their experience of these workshops. In answer to the question, ‘what was helpful about the day?’, some Year 7 pupils, who followed the Blast Off! programme, commented as follows:

• I learnt how to improve my memory by making up a story in order to remember things.
• I learnt how my brain works and that my brain can keep on growing.
• Watching the video clips, I learned about how to relax and also how to grow my brain and become ‘smarter’.
• I learnt that I can be smart in many different ways.

Equally positive responses were received from pupils in all the other year groups, and some of them are included below.
Year 8 pupils followed the Accelerate (into ‘high gear’ learning) programme and some of them commented as follows.

• I learnt how to grow my brain by improving homework and classwork habits.
• I learnt about being organized and time management and how this could help me to manage stress.
• I learnt about some of the different learning techniques which would help me to ‘grow my brain’.

The Year 9 programme is called Action Stations and here are the comments from some pupils:

• Learning how to do a mind map helped me to find a different way to improve my learning.
• To me, the best thing was the fact that I learned the different ways of studying and different learning strategies.
• I realised that learning and revising can be made fun and therefore more memorable.
• I appreciated the tips on when to do my work and how to make best use of my time.

The Drive for Results programme, undertaken by Year 10, aims to focus pupils’ attention on the best ways to learn and revise, how to improve memory and time management techniques, at the start of GCSE courses. Pupils commented as follows:
• I was able to work out good ways to break topics down so that they were easier to learn and revise.
• Taking time to read instructions carefully was an important lesson which was reinforced.
• I was able to find out more about how I learn best and how to improve my memory.
• Learning and revision techniques and particularly why they work, were a useful skill I gained.

Our 5 Steps to Exam Success for Year 11 students reinforces earlier programmes, but focuses on specific revision methods and exam techniques. Once again, pupil comments in answer to the question ‘what was helpful?’ were very rich.

• ‘Active learning’ was explained and stressed and it is something which I will now do more of.
• I found the section on procrastination particularly useful and relevant and I learned strategies to avoid procrastinating.
• Learning about organisation, good use of my time and active revision were most useful to me.
• Planning revision well ahead of my exams and thinking about the ‘forgetting curve’, was really useful.

Study Skills Zone have five different programmes for sixth form and OLA chose to combine two of them for Year 12: Transition and Independent Learning. The sixth formers responded particularly positively.

• The time management matrix and how to prioritise my time were aspects I found most beneficial.
• I found it helpful to review how I work best and to work on my memory skills.
• It was useful to examine the different learning methods which I could use to improve what I remembered and how I studied.
• I found it helpful to see how group work can help with revision.

The School selected the Next Level programme for Year 13. Here are some pupil responses about what was helpful.
• Learning more about the brain and how the ‘I can’ approach can improve learning was very helpful.
• I found it useful to learn about the Cornell note taking technique.
• I realised that working productively in a group can really improve my learning and retention of what I have learned.
• I gained a better understanding about how my memory works and how to use my time more efficiently.
• I learnt about the forgetting curve and how to use spaced learning to refresh my memory.

The pupil feedback on the programmes was most impressive. Each student was asked to rate the programme according to eight measures, which included interest, relevance and enjoyment.
Here are some of the comments from staff who sat in on the workshops:

• Students had the opportunity to learn how the ‘growth mindset’ can work for them.
• They were given useful strategies to help them with studying and organising their time efficiently.
• The reinforcement of the importance of positive encouragement – the ‘I CAN’ attitude, was very helpful.

Sean Moses, who ran the programmes for Study Skills Zone, commented: “I really enjoyed working with all the year groups at OLA. There was total commitment from the students. They were eager to respond fully to all the activities and to take on board all the suggestions for how they might become even better learners.”

At the end of the week, Barbara said: “This proved to be a very successful model. Our pupils not only enjoyed the programmes but also gained some very useful insights and strategies on how to improve their learning.”

The Principal of OLA, Stephen Oliver, added: “We were delighted with the way our pupils responded to these study skills workshops and have decided that we will repeat them next year.”
Stephen Oliver, Principal
Our Lady’s Abingdon
Radley Road
OX14 3PS
t:  01235 524658
e: Via the website

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