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Examination Revision and Overconfidence

It’s that point of yr once more. Nerves fray, college students and lecturers (most likely mother and father too) as we arm our college students with the compulsory revision methods, sources, wall plans, flashcards, apps, highlighters, revision guides, and no matter else we are able to get our fingers on, within the flimsy hope that a few of it sticks.

After a decade or so of guessing when it got here to revision methods and approaches, to not point out the complicated emotional mass that’s the teenage mind, I’ve begun to construct a extra dependable image from analysis proof about the most effective methods and strategies.

The analysis of John Dunlosky – see his very good ‘Strengthening the Pupil Toolbox‘ article – is a should learn for each trainer on the subject of dispelling myths about revision and impartial studying methods. This desk is a straightforward and highly effective distillation of the analysis:

Now, it’s all effectively and good consigning highlighters to the dustbin (learn my diatribe on the colourful blighters right here: ‘Why I Hate Highlighters!‘) and inspiring college students to start out observe testing and quizzing over time. And but, what we additionally know is that college students don’t like self-testing and don’t see it as the best technique, in order that they proceed to re-read their revision information and spotlight their notes within the privateness of their bedrooms and on kitchen tables across the land.

An answer is to coach lecturers, college students and oldsters, in how these methods work, however we additionally have to recognise that even when college students know what methods to use, they’re too usually overconfident of their judgment of studying to make use of them correctly. Researchers have studied this ‘Overconfidence in youngsters’s multi-trial judgments of studying‘, by Bridgid Finn and Janet Metcalfe. Merely being conversant in a subject can persuade college students they understand it effectively: “Ah, Vectors – we revised these in our Maths revision class final week. After all I do know ’em”. This overconfidence can have a dangerous knock on impact for the entire cycle of revision that our college students face within the coming weeks.

We have to assist our college students higher perceive their overconfident judgements of studying. As Finn and Metcalfe present, it issues an ideal deal for revision and related:

In contrast to adults, in the principle, college students wrestle to self-regulate their studying throughout revision. These college students who’ve weaker topic information and decrease literacy and numeracy ranges endure from overconfidence too. Certainly, college students remaining overly optimistic and confidence even after unfavourable suggestions could show an efficient psychological protection mechanism. Nonetheless, such a face-saver finally inhibits our college students from studying, so we have to cope with the matter, however achieve this sensitively.

Adults are higher at reining of their confidence with what’s termed as ‘underconfidence with observe‘. The extra we take a look at ourselves the higher we get at ‘calibrating‘ our confidence. For college students, this wants explicitly stating and we have to verbalise and talk about their seemingly overconfidence when revising. It’s the stuff of metacognition and self-regulation that’s so integral to profitable studying (see about these on the Training Endowment Basis Toolkit HERE).

One vital notion to share with college students is how effectively they house out their self-testing, be it previous examination papers, or utilizing flashcards with key ideas or phrase definitions. College students want to know that they may carry out higher on a take a look at relying upon how quickly they’ve revised the fabric. The true take a look at, in fact, is for them to check themselves after they’ve left an area of per week or extra, to see how effectively they’ve transferred their information into their long-term reminiscence.

We all know that from a really younger age that overconfidence in studying can emerge from easy wishful pondering. One option to mitigate that is to have college students working collectively and assessing their studying and the efficiency of each other. Regardless that we’re overconfident about our personal studying, we are able to nonetheless make correct judgements a few peer’s efficiency (harsh job masters that we’re!).

Calibrating scholar confidence

To summarise then, let’s think about some helpful methods to make sure our college students are usually not overconfident (however not under-confident both) throughout their revision:

  • Share with our college students the proof on the best revision methods – and why they’ll be immune to utilizing them (re-reading and highlighting feels good and retains them busy, whereas exams are trickier, however finally that deepens the training).
  • Share this data with mother and father and lecturers, in order that we are able to all nudge each other to use constant and efficient approaches to revision. Like all impartial studying, growing good habits that override our lazy brains is essential.
  • Speak about confidence and competence within the revision course of and the way they are going to be overconfident, fairly naturally, however they need to be cautious of that truth. 
  • Practice college students to higher ‘calibrate’ their judgements of their revision. Arranging a number of observe alternatives (seemingly ‘over studying’, even once they suppose they know the fabric at hand, is essential right here). 
  • Get college students to work in pairs or with useful members of the family when self-testing e.g. utilizing flashcards or quizzes, in order that they are often given some impartial judgments on how effectively they low the revised materials. 



Characteristic picture through Flickr: