This article was published in the TES on 5 May 2017.
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Last year I wrote a book on transition but, like most literature on this subject, it focused on pupils’ transfer from primary to secondary school, as well as between the various years and key stages of compulsory schooling.
However, whilst working with FE colleges across the country, it’s struck me just how important the transition from school to FE is and how unprepared students are for this change.
A common mistake FE teachers make – particularly when planning assignments – is to assume that in the six weeks between leaving school and starting college, students have – somehow, somewhere – acquired an armoury of study skills and, perhaps by a process of osmosis, become adept at working independently.
Study skills, however, are not innate; rather, they must be taught – a process that’s about making the implicit explicit, the invisible visible.
Teaching study skills is about breaking down complex processes into their constituent parts, modelling each element, then providing opportunities for students to practice and refine them.
For example, if an assignment requires students to research information for an essay, we must explicitly teach them how to use multiple sources, how to skim and scan for key facts, and how to distinguish between fact and opinion and detect bias. We must then teach them how to use evidence to support an argument, including how to embed quotations, and how to write a bibliography citing their sources.
If we expect students to work independently, perhaps drafting and re-drafting work based on feedback, and to do so outside of lessons without our support, we must teach them how to manage and organise their time, how to revise (avoiding cramming by distributing and spacing practice, and interleaving topics), and how to self-assess then re-draft, referring back to the success criteria.
If we expect students to engage in classroom debates, we must teach them active listening skills and turn-taking, as well as how to agree or disagree with someone else’s contributions without it becoming personal.
If we expect students to adopt a growth mindset, willingly accepting and acting on feedback, taking risks and regarding mistakes as an integral part of the learning process, then we must teach and model resilience.
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