A deliberate attempt to use the name of the movie to generate … intrigue I know, but the point is that the IB2 students should have been working on their individual revision for the exams for some time now, and ‘independent learning’ is what it is all about.

Revision presents teachers with a number of problems. It is the time in the process when we are at our laziest – we set the students up with materials and we assess them when we can, but the bottom line is that we cannot do it for them – they MUST ensure that they go into the exam and ‘achieve’ as well as they can.  Anything we do to impede their ability to do that would not be good.

For example, it would not be a good idea to stand in front of the class and go through the questions for them.  This simply allows them to confirm in their own head, that if they had answered the question, they would have given the same answer the teacher did!  Or equally worse, that they will feel they could never have given our answer and they just feel useless.

We need to allow them to summarise or confirm their knowledge and then to work through past questions and marking schemes to effectively ‘train’ themselves for the exam.  We should emphasise that knowing the physics is not the same as being able to answer the questions – and we should not allow complacency to set in – although that is far easier to say than to do!

The revision programme I have starts last September.  My students have been doing a Paper 1, once per week since then.  For the last 6 weeks or so, they have been working through a set of documents I have prepared  – two for each Topic – one booklet of actual questions and one booklet of marking schemes.  They are told to ‘pulse’ their way through them – trying 3-4 questions and then marking them with the marking schemes.  Then the next 3-4, etc.  If they do not understand an answer they should (i) check their notes or (ii) ask each other.  They should use me as the last port of call – for the questions they are really stuck on.

So does this work?  Yes and No.  This style of revision allows the students to train to the schemes and this should be the best way.  It throws the weight of the responsibility onto their shoulders and this should also be where it lies.  It should give them every chance of achieving (or maybe exceeding) their potential.

However, if students have not worked through the two years, if they have been lazy and ignored the advice we give, on how to work, then they will not be able to cope with this form of revision – it will inevitably require more from them than they can give.  For those students, they are in a position where they are unlikely to do well – so we need to cut our losses. Those students will need more one-to-one help if we have the time to give it. In the actually lessons, they are often seen making revision notes rather than looking at past papers.  My offer of extra help would usually then be at a convenient time for both of us, but not in lesson time. The lessons are used to help those who really are stuck, and also for random spot tests, definitions tests, etc.  In the one-to-one sessions, the teacher will need to focus attention on the most important parts of the topics that come up in exams more often than other parts.  This is of course filled with problems because if you guess wrong, then the exam may go poorly for the student – and the teacher gets blamed.  It is all too easy to forget that the reason this style of revision happened was because the students did not work hard enough in the first place.  And the awful nature of this style of revision is that you can probably look at your IB1 now, and identify those students that will be like this next year.

So like ‘a puppy is not just for Christmas’, I guess independence is not just for the end of the course – independence in IB1 makes independence in IB2 and more importantly, independent revision and a far more powerful and fruitful process.  So encourage it now with IB1 – they will thank you for it next April.