Your teen is playing a game right now in their study and exams, whether they signed up for it or not.
The game is all about responding to demands.
- How well can they do it, with the knowledge they have.
I want your teen to enjoy playing the game and ideally, WIN at the game - if they want to.
Therefore the game I'm playing is to give you, your teen and their teachers the 'how to play' sheet, by delivering the insider info, skills and tactics to help them win AND make it fun.
You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode 63, where we get clear on The Game. The game your teen is in and playing right now in their study and exams, whether they signed up for it or not, and in this episode I’m going to explain how to help them understand the game, enjoy the game, and if they want to - win at the game.
Hey VIPs! How are you? I hope everything is going SUPER-well and that you’re having a great week. I can tell you that I am feeling very inspired and energised right now. Because I’m coming off the back of things I’ve mentioned in the past couple of episodes - the teacher Professional Development Training Day I led. We had some awesome and really positive and engaged teachers there. And then the Next Level student Event - and a business development workshop I attended as I continue building Rock Solid Study.
It’s always a good sign when you come away from a big round of events feeling energised rather than exhausted. I can tell you I’ve definitely experienced both in my time. And so, instead of needing some time to kind of recover and refresh, it’s the opposite. I am chomping at the bit right now and here’s why:
All of these events have come together, just coincidentally but it’s really made me see how everything fits together in the bigger picture of what’s going on here, with high school and college students today and their study. And I thought it might be valuable to you and your teen to also have this bigger picture view of things so I want to share it here on the podcast.
Now, a little bit of background. It’s been almost a year since I delivered a professional development day because, honestly, this isn’t something I actively promote, but
A) I forgot how much I enjoy doing them, and B) I was blown away by the really positive comments I got at the end and in the feedback survey afterwards. So that, like it would for anyone, gave me a lot of feel-good and a boost. Not just for me as a presenter, but because, I know how important this information and training is for teachers, not just because of how I know it influences our teaching when we have it, but also because one of the most common comments I get from parents is: “I can’t believe schools don’t teach this stuff.”
As you’ve probably heard me say before, I didn’t know about all this either until I became an external exam marker. I knew some of it but I didn’t know all of it and I certainly didn’t understand just how critical it all is. How critical Exam technique is to exam performance and results, how important active revision is in prepping for those exams, how focused an essay response needs to be in order to meet the top criteria, how to add more detail, how to stop the waffle, how to stop hedging your bets in answers, how to cut the spaghetti throwing and actually know what a question is asking.
Which is why, the work that I do with students AND with parents and WITH teachers, is all about knowing the game. What the game is that students are playing when they are learning the subject content, completing assessments and sitting exams. Now, I definitely know that schools and education are about more than that, but this is definitely part of it for most students. And therefore for teachers and for you as the parent or carer. So, that means that we ALL need to know what the game really is here. What the rules are, what the goal is and what are the tactics to win. And of course winning could be achieving the grades your teen wants. Or it could be just enjoying the game - winning at having a good life balance and enjoying the process. Or it could be both. And I believe it could totally be both.
What I THINK is going on overall, - and this is just me, based on my experience as a teacher, as a study coach, as a marker and panel member for exam boards - What I see going on in the most part, is that schools are teaching students a lot of information. They’re delivering what the national curriculum and the exam board syllabuses (I can’t bring myself to say ‘syllabi’) state. And they aren’t doing anything wrong here. This is exactly their role, their job. And yes, sometimes the syllabuses do also state that skills and competencies related to the subject also need to be learned, e.g. experiments in science, sports skills in PE, but these are usually still very prescriptive, still very subject- specific, subject oriented. Again, nothing wrong with that.
But… then, your teen is expected to do something with that knowledge or with those skills. They have to APPLY it in a certain way. To an essay title, to an exam question, to an assessment task. And they are judged by what they write on that paper. Or what is produced in that project or performance.
And THIS is the real game.
The game is not - how much information can I learn and memorise? How many pages can I fill in my exercise book, how many practise questions can I answer? Or even how many things can I make or perform - if it’s a more practical subject?
The game is knowing what to do with those facts and with that knowledge.
It’s knowing how to give the marker what they want. AKA how to meet the success criteria.
I know some of you, and some of your teens find this depressing or disappointing.
Especially when we’re told that education should be inspiring and build curiosity and a love of learning. And I totally get that. I really do. One of my favourite things when I taught Geography back in the UK was where one of the actual components for the subject in the national curriculum was literally called Awe and Wonder. We actively had to create and drive that in our students. But, I also don’t think it’s a bad thing that there is a game to be played here. In fact, it could actually be one of the most valuable lessons in education, if we choose to embrace it and use it to our advantage.
I don’t think that these things are mutually exclusive. Creating a sense of awe and wonder can exist alongside performing well in an exam or other type of assessment.
Because remember, the study success formula is Knowledge Plus Application equals Success. Curiosity, awe and wonder are all part of building that knowledge.
The application is where we ALSO - not instead, ALSO - decide what knowledge to put across, in what way, when it is required in a certain way.
Here’s why: One of the things that we talked about at the business workshop I attended, was where things are going in the world and in education on a bigger scale.
And in schools, we have things like AI that mean reports or short stories can be written at the click of a button, we have Google to look up facts. All those traditional education-y things. So there’s a lot of debate and - ha - curiosity wafting around right now about what that means for traditional education, and whether things like exams or essays, are going to become redundant?
Now, personally, and I could totally be wrong here, I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon. And I actually think there’s an opportunity here. Because, this is where the higher level concepts and skills actually come in. Knowing how to deliver upon request. Knowing how to select and apply certain information. In the mark schemes and rubrics, that’s written as statements like ‘discerning selection of evidence’ and ‘detailed linkages within and between concepts’.
A lawyer needs to learn about the legal system - the different elements and how it works. That’s the knowledge. But ultimately they need to know how to USE that information to the advantage of their client.
Yes, a statistician needs to know how to use certain calculations and formulae.
But ultimately, they need to know what data to collect and then how to process that data in order to get statistics that are meaningful and useful to the client or for the purpose required.
That is why I think, aside from just getting good grades, it can be helpful for your teen to know how to play the game. They need to understand and have the skills and strategies to give the examiner, the teacher, the client, the end user, what they want and need to see. What they’ve asked for. But right now, so many students - and parents and even teachers to some extent - THINK the game is to learn as much as we can about the subject, or be as expert as possible in all the things on the syllabus - and beyond. How often do we hear about ‘extra reading around the subject’? Urgh.
I can tell you that I have more than once heard ‘ they get it in class, why can’t they do it in tests?’ - from teachers. I may have even uttered it to myself in my early years of teaching.
We don’t realise that we’re all playing the wrong game. We're playing the game of deliver, learn, memorise as much information as possible, and then wondering why the results aren’t turning out as well as we think they should be. Why your teen isn’t getting the results you know they’re capable of. Why that class isn’t getting the grades that matched their knowledge in lessons.
If we really think about it, we probably should be grateful that just learning and memorising and then regurgitating information isn’t the game that academia is requiring students to play. Because, of course, we have google for that. We want more to be required of our teens, right? We want them to be critical thinkers, creative thinkers, problem solvers. And so thinking through and working on and delivering all of this over the past ten days or so I’ve made a clear and simple goal for Rock Solid Study: to share and teach The Game to every student, parent and teacher who’s a part of this style of education system.
No fancy vision and mission statements. Just get this message and training to as many students as possible to help them learn and master the game. Of course, this is my core focus delivering the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program in the best possible way and with the best possible content. And to work with those students who want more in Next Level. But there are two other key stakeholders involved here. So, as part of that, it’s also to help as many of their parents as possible to be aware of and understand the game. And help as many teachers as possible have the skills and insight to support your teen as they play the game.
Basically, my goal is to put myself out of business by having every one of those people in the know. So, here’s to understanding the game and helping your teen enjoy it and if they want to, win at it.
Have a wonderful week, meet you back here next week.