You do remember the Generation Game, don’t you? Started in the early ‘70s… and as kids we loved it, especially the last game where the two families tried to copy an expert in a skill needing the ability to pay close attention and copy accurately.
One week there’d be an origami napkin folder; another, a pizza dough spinner; another time, a glass-blower; next a plasterer etc etc
They were all activities that look easy enough – until you try doing them yourself!!!
I guess that’s why it made such good entertainment. There’s something funny about utter chaos and incompetence in close proximity to the effortless actions of an expert!
But do you remember a time when watching and copying were the only way we learnt anything?
Of course! We were expert copiers in our formative years. Watch any toddler with a toy ‘phone or a teddy bear. How did you learn to tie your shoe-laces? By watching and copying and trying over and over again, until you got the hang of it.
In some circumstances we still use this innate skill. Ever been to the golfing range with a golf coach? Watching, copying and trying time and time again…
So why is it that oftentimes, instead of using our natural ability to physically move as we learn, we metaphorically sit on our hands and still expect to retain what we’re learning?
Unfortunately, while school starts off with plenty of opportunities to do stuff, to physically play with things to discover how they work (remember the sand pit and the water tray?), it soon becomes the norm to sit in rows and watch and listen to the teacher doing all the fun stuff instead.
Things are much better in schools these days, but when I was at school, history lessons consisted of taking dictation at top speed and trying to learn what I’d written for a test the following week.
I wasn’t very good at that. None of it meant anything to me. Same for you?
It wasn’t because I was stupid. I never had to ‘learn’ physics and maths equations and formulae. They made sense and I ‘got it’. But history? Dictation? Nah!
These days, in history lessons the pupils are given artifacts to handle. They’re given separate accounts of what happens, as told by, for example, a local farm girl, a soldier from the invading army and a noble landowner whose land is being laid to waste. Pupils are given the much more exciting (and realistic) task of trying to fathom out what really happened and how it affected the folk at the time.
It’s more interesting. It’s more relevant. They’re ‘doing stuff’ and learning as they go. And they’ll find it much easier to remember what they’ve learned when the exams come along.
So what can we glean from this as we undertake revision for professional exams?
Well, if you’re the sort of person who hasn’t lost the practical knack of copying; if you’re good at physical movement of any sort, from dancing to sport, from painting to cookery – you might find it useful to see how you can bring to life the revision you’re doing right now.
For example, once you’ve made your revision notes, trace the keywords in the air with your finger. It might feel a bit daft at first, but if it works for you it could make a huge difference.
Take lots of notes as you revise. Doodle! Do something as you learn. Fiddle with something. It all helps.
Imagine role-playing, miming and imitating or acting-out the content of your notes.
Move around. Try revising in different positions. Maybe sitting at the desk isn’t the best place for you after all. Experiment by lying down or propping yourself up on a cushion and see what keeps you the most comfortable the longest.
Take frequent study breaks. That’s important for everyone, but especially for the movers and shakers among us! Take steps to avoid getting bored or distracted. Keep your revision purposeful by doing it in short bursts.
There are loads of things you could be doing to help the information you’re learning go into and then stay in your head. To decide what’s going to work well for you, do what you do best and try out some ideas for yourself.