Today we’re talking strategies.
I’m going to tell you some of my top study strategies that I train students in AND the strategy that I see many students using (and that they and their parents are in fact sometimes relying on), that isn’t a strategy at all.
You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode 41 - all about study strategies. I’m going to tell you some of the top study strategies that I train students in and MOST IMPORTANTLY for today, the strategy that I see many students - and their parents using, and sometimes relying on, that isn’t a strategy at all.
Hey VIPs! How are you? I hope you are doing awesome. I am awesome. The weather here is still fantastic, totally perfect for me. That summer humidity has gone and the sun is just shining every day. I’m pretty sure that I talked about the weather in the last episode, but the novelty of having huge stretches of amazing weather just doesn’t wear off for me, even after more than 12 years of being in Australia. And talking about the weather is what English people do a lot of, so that clearly hasn’t worn off for me either.
And my back is gradually getting better. I strained my back a few weeks ago and I’m actually planning on getting back to one of the functional training classes at my gym this Saturday and seeing how that goes. So I am in a good mood in general right now. And today I want to talk about something that sounds super-positive, when you say the word, it usually has lots of good connotations, but actually, in my experience when it comes to your teen and their study at least, it’s not a good thing. Or I should say it’s a sign of something not so good.
I want to talk about HOPE.
Or, more specifically, relying on hope and the way that I see so many students, and parents too - often relying on HOPE that things will go how they want in terms of study. For students, they hope that they’ll get the grade they really want on that assignment. They hope that a certain question will be the one they ask on that essay, the essay they WANT to write. Or, they hope that a certain topic WON’T come up on the exam.
And for parents, you hope that the senior years won’t be too stressful for them. You hope that exam goes well so they don’t have to feel the disappointment or deflation if it doesn’t. You hope they get the ATAR or grading or points score to get them into the uni or career or course they want.
Hope is not a strategy. It’s not an action that has a result. It has no tangible, specific outcome. When we use hope, we rely on external circumstances or the actions or decisions of others.
This is why I never say good luck to students anymore - well, really I try not to say it to anyone. I talked about that in episode 29.
But a word I have found myself using more and more over the years of being in this world of training and coaching on top of teaching, is ‘strategy’. You’ve likely heard me talk about STRATEGIC study. Or strategically planning. Or having a system or engineering something.
These are things that have a proven method or steps, and they are intentional.
Because I believe some of student’s stress - especially when it comes to exams, comes from uncertainty. And if we can minimise that, then we can reduce their stress as well as maximise their success. So, I want all students to have go-to strategies that they can rely on whenever they get given an essay, when they’re sat in the exam hall, not phased by having no idea what questions are on the paper, have priority and time management skills when they have a ton of assessments due, or need to plan their revision for a big exam block.
I do not want them to be ‘guessing’ or just ‘doing their best and hoping’.
So, when I was preparing and writing notes for this podcast, I went and looked up the definition of the word strategy. And here is the first definition I found:
It said a strategy is a plan, method, or series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result.
As you can imagine, I really liked that. But what I’d love even more was if it also said ‘proven’ in there. A proven plan or a proven method or series of maneuvers. Because, if your teen can have - and not just have, but also accurately action and execute - a proven plan or method to tackle their study and assessments, that’s going to increase the chances of them achieving their desired goal or result. And it’s likely that they;ll do it in the smoothest, most direct and least stressful way.
But then… I saw another definition below that, and on first glance I didn’t think it was relevant, because it was in relation to battle strategy, to military strategy. But for some reason, I still read it. This was literally just in ‘dictionary.com’ - so you can go see it yourself if you want to. And here’s what it said:
In military usage, a distinction is made between strategy and tactics. Strategy is the utilisation, during both peace and war, of all of a nation's forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory. Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.
Now, I’m not loving the focus here on war, or fighting, or combat, but here are the words I do love.
Strategy is the utilisation during both peace and war.
So your teen is using strategies for success ALL of the time. Not just when things are stressful or busy or high stakes. They’re using them ALL of the time. So that, actually, things don’t get so stressful, so they are actively setting themselves up for success, and doing it with control and confidence. And then there’s the part that says ‘with ALL of a nations forces, through large-scale long range planning and DEVELOPMENT’ which is like having a full toolkit of study strategies all the forces, skills and techniques and also ‘developing’ them; advancing and honing and practising them. Skill and techniques that apply to all different subjects and types of tasks, so that even when your teen is faced with a new topic, or a new assessment task, even an unforeseen circumstance or situation, they have the concepts, skills and tools to deal with it and not only deal with it, but - as the definition said - ensure victory too. Ensuring victory. I like that part too.
So, what are some of these strategies?
Well, some of the proven strategies I train students in, in the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program are things like the two-step Topic and Focus system for breaking down essay titles and building a structured and focused response.
Identifying the command word in any question - whether it’s in a text book, on an assignment or in an exam question AND also knowing exactly how to respond to it. How to accurately interpret mark schemes and success criteria. So your teen knows what the words ‘discerning selection of evidence’, rather than ‘appropriate selection of evidence’ really means. So they know what is required, AND what isn’t in their answer.
There’s the reverse-engineered revision planning system - so your teen never runs out of time to cover everything they need to and uses the 2-factor priority system to organise and focus on certain content when time is tight.
I’ll stop there, because (a) you can literally go see all of that listed out in the contents of the program on the summary page - just go to www.gradetransformation.com/join - but also (b) because what you’re probably thinking is ‘oh my goodness, how are they supposed to learn all of that on top of their subject knowledge’. And I totally get that. But the truth is, I’ve had hundreds of students do exactly that, in 10 Weeks. Because, some strategies literally take 5 minutes to grasp. Others take some practise. And of course, we do that practise together.
I often liken this whole process to learning to drive.
At first, everything does take concentration, just like you have to really think about which lever you use for the indicators, pressing down the clutch to change gears. But eventually, you become skilled at it and it becomes easy and automatic- it becomes natural. It’s just something you know how to do. Now, is doing a reverse-park into a smaller than you’d like spot on the side of the road still something you have to concentrate on? For sure. Not every part of your teen’s study is going to become totally easy. And nor should it, because that just means they’re not learning or progressing. Getting the car into that spot might even take a second go, but you know how to do it. But what we don’t do is, we don’t just get into a car and hope that we can drive and hope that we don’t crash. We don’t just keep trying til we get it right. Could you imagine if that were the case?!
And yet that’s what I see so many students doing.
They are writing out - or worse, copying out , typing out tons of notes, HOPING that the info will stick in their brain. Some of it might, but if they used ACTIVE revision, a lot more of it would and it’s proven to.
They give their essay their best shot with the scaffold or template they’ve been given, but without truly knowing the difference between explaining that quote and analysing that quote and they hand it in HOPING that they have enough detail, in the right places.
I literally call this ‘hand in and hope’. Hand in the exam paper, or hand in the assignment and hope it’s okay. Hope you get the result you want.
Sometimes parents HOPE that their teen can maintain a life balance and doesn’t end up super-stressed. Maybe even HOPE that by using a study planner and writing up their deadlines so they don’t get overwhelmed, without realising that the real reason things get stressful is that we don’t feel like we know what we’re doing or we don’t know HOW to get it all done.
The thing is, sometimes they work hard and then ‘hand in and hope’ works. And for many students, this is enough to keep going with this ‘strategy’. I don’t even want to say strategy there. With this ‘game of hope’. And when it does, that’s great - but I want your teen to know exactly why - exactly what worked that time, what they wrote that got marks and why it got marks. AND how they can apply that to another task or question in future.
I remember having a student in the 10WGT who told me he’d gotten an A in his Engineering assignment and that was of course, awesome. But I immediately followed up with - do you know why you got it? And he had a couple of vague ideas, but he didn’t really know. So we got to work on that. So he can confidently do it again.
Because, we can HOPE that we’ll get the outcome or the result we want. Whether that’s literally a grade or percentage result, or whether it’s the experience or the outcome. But it’s not a very reliable system. And I’m a bit of a control-enthusiast, so I like a bit of control and reliability if I’m putting in effort and time. And if we want control and reliability, we need to know and use specific strategies that have been proven to get those outcomes.
So, for this episode, I’d really like to invite you to consider, where is your teen - or you - relying on hope in their study? Where could they use some strategies, to help them move towards their desired outcome with more clarity, certainty and control? In the more peaceful times and in the ‘war’ times. In inverted commas.
Where are they playing the ‘hand in and hope’ game? What are you ‘hoping’ for for your teen and their study-life without feeling very sure on how to predictably make that happen?
If you and your teen would like to get some of my top strategies for free, then I am running a free parent and teen workshop-style webinar on Thursday 30th March. If you’re on my email list, you’ll be getting an email invite at the end of this week, with a very cool new one-click webinar registration link that I’ve just set up to make it easier than ever to get these strategies and info for free.
So if you’re listening to this and you’re not on my list, you can get on there by going to http//:www.gradetransformation.com and signing up for that. And either way, mark your calendar NOW for 7pm australian eastern standard time on Thursday 30th March. So, that’s 8pm NSW and VIC, 5pm WA, and Singapore, 9am UK. Please check your time zone and account for any daylight savings.
And let’s minimise the use of hope and get your teen some proven tactics, strategies and skills to get them where you’d love them to be in their study.
I’ll see you back here next week, have a fantastic week, I’ll see you then, bye!