Research case study: Shifting students’ beliefs about how much study is normal

11 October 2018

Author: James Crane

The Problem

Too many year 11 students, as they approach their Christmas mocks and summer exams, do too little personal revision (outside of school organised revision sessions).  Conversely, others will get very anxious about not doing enough revision.  This is often based (incorrectly) on how much revision they think their peers do.

What does the research say?

A team led by Steve Buzinksi at the University of North Carolina have been looking at this issue – article here.  Their main findings are:

  • Students tended to underestimate how much time their peers spent studying for an upcoming exam.
  • Students’ perceptions of the social norm for studying were correlated with their own study time.
  • Their decisions about how much to study were influenced by what they felt was normal.
  • The researchers had thought that underestimating typical study time would be associated with choosing to study less, and in turn that this would be associated with poorer exam performance.
  • However, what they actually found was that the students who overestimated their peers’ study time performed worse in the subsequent exam, and this seemed to be fully explained by their feeling unprepared for the exam.
  • The researchers corrected students’ misconceptions about the average exam study time and this had the hoped-for effect of correcting perceptions about normal study behaviour.
  • Average exam performance was superior after this intervention.
  • This suggests that correcting misconceptions about others’ study behaviour is beneficial in exam performance.
  • Buzinksi and his colleagues recommend it could be beneficial to use class discussions “…to correct potentially detrimental misconceptions”.
  • “Unless we as educators actively intervene, our students will approach their coursework from an understanding based upon flawed perceptions of the classroom norm, and those most at risk may suffer the most from their shared ignorance.”

Mobilising the research

In PE at Durrington High School to mobilise the research findings, with an aim of eradicating students’ misconceptions surrounding time spent revising, coupled with increasing students perceptions of appropriate revision time amongst peers to a more realistic understanding, we are going to follow the steps below:

  • Firstly, we are gong to survey our high performing students to find out how much personal revision they do (outside of school organised revision sessions).
  • Once we have this information, we will explicitly tell all GCSE PE students how much personal revision time the high performing students are doing.
  • This should hopefully increase the amount of time being spent on revision by those students who currently underestimate how much they should be doing and relieve the anxiety of those who believe that they are not doing enough.
  • We will then monitor the personal revision time all students complete through effective (pre-taught) revision strategies with an aim of optimising not only the time students spend revising but also the impact it has on outcomes.
Posted on 11 October 2018
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