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Students at Rooks Heath College

Smart collaboration with parents

Craig Ring at Rooks Heath College offers advice for working with parents on exam revision

Posted by Stephanie Broad | June 02, 2016 | Teaching

While I frequently hear about a lingering disconnect between schools and families – with parents feeling that they aren’t as involved as they should be in their children's’ education - at Rooks Heath the crucial role of parents is supported and nurtured.

Exam season is the time when this partnership comes to fruition - the work that students do at home is vital to their prospects in the exam hall. And it’s critical that teachers extend advice and help to families, to show them how to best support children at this often stressful time. Having taught in secondary education for more than give years, I’m pleased to share my tips for how teachers can best inspire, enthuse and help parents to get involved in exam preparation.          `

Take an interest

This might sound like the simplest of ideas, but simply encouraging parents to ask how their child is getting on with their revision is a helpful and motivational practise. Lots of parents want to go further than this, and teachers can share advice on how to help. Sharing templates for building a revision timetable, or a practice quiz, is an infrequently practised but potentially hugely beneficial activity.

Share praise and feedback

Revision can be a hard slog, so it’s important to let students know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We promote a collaborative approach to progress tracking - reporting successes along the way and facilitating discussion with students. Bringing parents into this feedback loop, and involving them in progress tracking and study planning, is also key. Enabling open dialogue promotes an inclusive approach to revision; a motivating factor for parents and students alike.

Use technology collaboratively

Technology use is crucial in revision. Online learning tools, such as Canvas, the Virtual Learning Environment that we use at Rooks Heath, facilitates the ongoing feedback that is so important - as well as giving parents the ability to access a variety of rich learning materials to help with their children revise. It’s important schools educate parents about the tools they can use, and encourage them to get on board.

Promote new teaching approaches

New pedagogy like the flipped classroom, where rote material is ingested at home, freeing up classroom time for interactive, discursive, teaching, is very beneficial at exam time. But buy-in from parents is key to making innovative techniques like this work. Teachers should encourage parents facilitate learning at home, helping their children to read up on notes ahead of class or watch a video on the topic that is to be discussed. This ‘flipped’ learning approach means that students will be prepared ahead of time, helping them to get the most out of lessons, and teachers must work to ensure that parents understand this.

Variety is the spice of life

Lastly, but importantly, teachers and parents alike must recognise that flexibility is required when it comes to revision. All too often, students stick to one revision method or simply just do what all their friends are doing. We’re all wired differently, so it’s important to encourage children to mix up their study habits and methods by watching documentaries or podcasts, recording themselves or accessing extra content online. Working collaboratively can also often work well for some students, who prefer not to revise on their own. There’s a study method out there to suit everyone, it’s just a matter of trying a few out to see what works best.

Of course, there is no shortcut for the age old mantra that practice makes perfect  -  and commitment is what will ultimately see even the most able student pass or fail an exam - but encouraging parents to be involved in their children's’ study is a vital motivating factor at exam time.

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