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Science of Learning: ‘Learning how to Learn’

One of our BGS aims is to develop an excitement for learning which goes beyond school. However, with exam season approaching, as well as considering ‘what’ we are learning, it is also helpful to reflect on ‘how’ our pupils actually learn. Often it can be difficult for pupils to decide the most effective strategies to use to revise. The Science of Learning draws on cognitive research of how people think, learn and acquire knowledge. This year the fortnightly Year Academic Tutor assemblies and academic wellbeing sessions have been designed to teach our pupils the cognitive basis of learning and help them build more effective study habits. In essence, to equip them with knowledge of how the brain works, how we learn, and therefore, what are the best possible revision strategies.

The main application from cognitive science has been research on memory. Memory is integral to the learning process as it allows the processing of information and retention over time. Memory also provides a framework based upon prior knowledge and experience, known as schemas, which help make sense of new information. The diagram below demonstrates the three main processes involved in memory processing: encoding, storage, and retrieval.

It is important pupils consider the following aspects when studying outside of the classroom:

TIME: Ensure they start early, rather than leaving studying to the last minute. When adopting study habits the goal is to see changes over time, rather than in the short term.

IMPACT: Consider the goal of their study session and be specific in what the area they are aiming to improve. It is important to focus more on their weaknesses or gaps in knowledge rather than strengths.

MANAGE: It is important pupils plan their study time with breaks and ensure their study space is free of distractions e.g their mobile phone.

EVALUATE: When trialling a study strategy is important to reflect on how far they are finding it useful and effective. Is the specific strategy working for that pupil? If not, try another one. We are all different.

In our BGS Learner Toolkit you can find further information on Science of Learning concepts as well as each of the 5 key revision strategies taught to pupils: flash cards, brain dumps, self quizzing, mind maps and dual coding. This guide has been written to help support your child to revise effectively, so that they can study smarter, rather than for longer. However, when studying there are several key reminders not mentioned in this guide which should also be considered.


Sleep is one of the most important tools in facilitating learning. When we are sleep deprived, our focus and attention are affected, making it more difficult to encode new information. Our over-worked neurons can no longer function to retrieve old information properly. Pupils should aim for 8-10 hours a night.


The number one way to prevent stress in your child’s studies is for them to start revising early. Speak to any older pupils and they will recommend that get their study timetable on the go sooner rather than later to feel more confident about going into exams.


Of course, this blog is about effective studying, however there is a need for balance. Pupils need to make time to do the activities they enjoy whether this is exercise, music or their hobbies. Revision blocks are advised to only be 45 minutes in length - making time for themselves should be the priority.


Pupils should maintain physical activities that they enjoy. If ever they lack focus or feel overwhelmed, a break and a quick walk can help. Drinking lots of water and maintaining a healthy diet are important in our learning and also in regulating our hormone levels.


Pupils should maintain contact with their friends and spend time being social. Pupils are encouraged to speak to a friend, teacher, parent or a trusted adult if they feel that they are struggling in their studies. There are lots of people at BGS to support them on their educational journey.

Wishing all Year 11 and Year 13 students the very best as they embark on their exam journey.

Tamsin Yates, BGS Assistant Head (Learning & Teaching)

Check out the BGS Learners Toolkit here: BGS Learners Toolkit