Three models of revision: which was most effective?

An Action Research Project by James Barr (History)

Due to one of those timetabling anomalies at the start of the year, I was given a group of seven students who were part of a larger GCSE History group but unlike the rest of the group, were not studying Triple Science. Consequently, they had been given one additional history lesson per-fortnight while the rest of the history group was in a science lesson.  As their normal history teacher was unable to take this extra lesson, it had been given to me.

I was briefed from the outset that the students would be expected to manage their own time and use the lesson to consolidate and revise their learning accordingly. I booked ICT rooms for the session and let the students work independently on SAM learning. From the outset I wanted to monitor their revision and adjust it accordingly to find the best fit for the class. The data I analysed was from SAM learning logs, student books and knowledge tests undertaken throughout the year. The students also had access to revision guides and resources given to them by their main teacher to support their learning and revision.

Model 1: ICT based revision using SAM Learning

From the start there were huge differences in the level of engagement of the students. Those who were more dedicated and self-motivated revelled in the freedom and enjoyed being able to work at their own pace. Whereas, half the group struggled to remain focused on the task at hand. I regularly had to give out sanctions for misuse of ICT and move students as they struggled with the independence that had been granted to them. This was backed up by my initial findings from the data generated on the SAM learning website.

Student Subject Year Time Home School  * M/F
Pupil 1 GCSE 11 2:45 61% 42% 77% M
Pupil 2 GCSE 11 2:55     87% M
Pupil 3 GCSE 11 2:30 90% 50% 68% M
Pupil 4 GCSE 11 14:35 28% 37% 79% M
Pupil 5 GCSE 11 41:10 37% 25% 86% M
Pupil 6 GCSE 11 70:45 47% 30% 82% M
Pupil 7 GCSE 11 1:55   13% 72% M

Fig. 1 Students’ overall usage of SAM learning across all subjects

Figure 1 shows the overall usage of SAM learning by the class across all subjects. This showed me that the students were capable of using SAM learning and most of the class used it at home but there was a huge divide between the students who used SAM learning effectively and those who didn’t.

Student Subject Year Time Home School  * M/F
Pupil 1 HISTORY 11 0:50     83% M
Pupil 2 HISTORY 11         M
Pupil 3 HISTORY 11         M
Pupil 4 HISTORY 11 3:40 16%   70% M
Pupil 5 HISTORY 11 12:05 37%   83% M
Pupil 6 HISTORY 11 8:15 36%   77% M
Pupil 7 HISTORY 11 0:30     63% M

Fig 2 Students’ overall usage of SAM Learning in History

Figure 2 demonstrates the usage of SAM Learning by the students for History. This illustrated the lack of engagement of some learners with SAM learning in History. Pupil 2 and Pupil 3 did not even log in to the SAM learning History section at all during our sessions. They either worked while not being logged in or completed work in different subject areas.

On seeing these statistics I immediately changed tack and moved to a more classroom based approach to these lessons.

Model 2: Classroom Based Independent Revision

We then moved on to classroom based revision lessons. As previously stated the revision sessions were meant to be independent and student led, so the students were given workbooks, the relevant textbook and revision guides to help them revise different areas of the course. At the end of each session the students would take a short knowledge based quiz to check their learning for that session. I logged the scores of the tests at the end of each session.

Student Average Score
Pupil 1 60%
Pupil 2 15%
Pupil 3 45%
Pupil 4 80%
Pupil 5 98%
Pupil 6 88%
Pupil 7 40%

Fig. 3 Students’ average score in knowledge based quizzes following independent revision

Figure 3 demonstrates that there was an improvement in performance and that more effective revision was actually being completed. However, on analysis of the actual work completed a number of the students copied the textbook verbatim, not really changing the information in any way or trying to engage with their learning. This had an impact on the results obtained by those students.  Looking at this information I decided that a different approach was needed again!

Model 3: Teacher led revision

At this stage, after observing a colleague’s revision sessions, I decided to adopt a more didactic approach. Telling the students the information that they needed to use with regard to each topic and then giving them time to record and learn it before testing their knowledge at the end. The topics were arranged on A3 learning mats with 9 key subtopics on each page, with boxes where the student could add notes/information. This was then tested at the end of the session and the results were again logged.

Student Average Score
Pupil 1 80%
Pupil 2 55%
Pupil 3 75%
Pupil 4 90%
Pupil 5 98%
Pupil 6 92%
Pupil 7 74%

Fig. 4 Students’ average score in knowledge based quizzes following teacher led revision

Figure 4 demonstrates to me an overall improvement in the class. The nature of the teacher led lessons and the completion of the learning mats, meant that the students had to focus on the tasks at hand, which lead to the information being easier to remember for the test at the end. Although, I felt that those students who had been working well all year in each of the three models had lost a degree of independence by the very rigid structure in the teacher led lessons, their marks did not suffer. Though possibly, they would have been better served by being allowed to work independently.


Overall, I felt that the most successful structure for revision was the more didactic, teacher led method of delivery, coupled with the use of learning mats for the whole unit. SAM learning and independent revision led to a wide range in student knowledge and attainment, whereas the more didactic method closed this gap, although, as stated previously, this did have drawbacks.

Moving forward, I would recommend that students should be allowed to revise individually if you have confidence in their ability to learn/revise independently but also to have targeted groups in the class that the teacher can teach directly to ensure that they effectively gained key ideas from the course to advance their revision. This would then be structured by using course based learning mats to give the students a clear framework to use in order to structure and record their revision.

Featured image: ‘Man Reading’ original image licensed under Creative Commons Zero – CC0 from Max Pixel


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