When it comes to your child’s exam prep and study, a lot of people out there think that “Content is king” or “Of course, what else should they focus on besides the stuff they need to put in exams?”
In fact, in Chinese culture, there’s even a specific phrase describing whether a student knows their stuff for an exam. It roughly translates to “whether they have enough ink” and whether they know enough to answer all the questions.
An exam tests the knowledge a student has acquired over a defined period and asks them to put it down on paper without reference materials. And that’s what we’re taught to focus on while we’re growing up — learning content and absorbing information as much as possible.
And because of this, what I’m about to say might shock you. But after working with thousands of students and families, I can guarantee you it’s NOT just about the content.
“But what else is there?”
In unlocking higher exam results and success, how your child learns the content — how they revise, how they present it in an exam, and how they cope with exam pressure, is way more important.
That’s why at Kalibrate-Ed, we believe in teaching your child how to learn, not what to learn. Students may be learning under the same syllabus, absorbing the same information and even the same content, but that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.
Your child’s learning experience is unique to them. But if the strategies and techniques they’re using in their studies and exams don’t match this unique learning profile or they can’t adapt on the fly, then they won’t be performing at their highest potential.
Your Child’s Unique Learning Profile
Students are like sponges — they try to soak up everything around them. Traditional learning methods, like tutoring, revolve around this concept, teaching children everything they need to know to accomplish assignments and answer exams. Some students do well with this approach, but others struggle to retain and understand what exactly they’re learning, pulling their exam results down and leaving parents stumped as to why their child isn’t performing as expected.
What many miss out on is their child’s specific set of traits and quirks when it comes to learning — their Unique Learning Profile or what we call ULP. Every person has their own ULP, and it’s unique to each one, like a DNA fingerprint. Sure, some might have similar DNA fingerprints, like you and your siblings. But even identical twins who experience life in their own shoes have distinct ULPs. The only way for you to have the same ULP with someone is if you experienced learning in the exact same way, which is very unlikely to happen between any two students.
The Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) reports that students who actively engage in metacognitive strategies, such as self-reflection and self-assessment, demonstrate improved academic achievement and a deeper understanding of their learning. A 2022 study on high school students also confirmed that students who showed higher levels of self-awareness reflected higher improvements in their academic performance. These just show that understanding their ULP is one of the biggest, game-changing steps your child could take.
Understanding their own ULP is the first step to students being able to rapidly adapt to different learning environments, different subjects or even different educators. Whether your child has expressed their sentiments about their teachers, like they “really, really like this teacher but the other one isn’t so great and they’re just boring,” or it’s an issue about what their teachers can be doing to be more inclusive (which is a whole other article) … they can adapt their ULP to their teacher’s style and close the learning gaps they have.
Impact of Cognitive Adapters
Our education strategists bank on this idea and equip students with a set of tools, skills, and processes that students can draw from to adjust their ULP to their environment. We call that the Cognitive Adapter — something to link the two and activate your child’s boosters to the racing line when it comes to learning.
Overall, having a cognitive adapter in place allows your child to be flexible and adaptable to their learning process. It’s like having a universal dongle that can plug into any environment or educator while being able to calculate their study effectiveness — no matter how a teacher presents information, how they learn, or how they keep their productivity and engagement to learn.
Many of our students have made huge improvements by implementing a cognitive adapter in their personalised learning strategy. For example, one of our students Sam had a brilliant mind that was buried under his ADHD and anxiety. He struggled to stay organised and on track with tasks and struggled to process the information he learned in class well enough to put down in extended responses. He’d frequently run out of time in exams and often made careless errors because his brain would somehow skip over parts of the question under exam pressure. We helped Sam put in a way to adapt his preferred cognitive learning profile to go from being constantly distracted and barely passing his assessments to improving marks in Extension 1 and Physics. He rose 20 ranks higher in English, and consistently scored 80% throughout his HSC.
Battling Procrastination and Distractions
A common symptom among students who aren’t able to adapt their cognitive focus on demand is their vulnerability to distraction and the inability to stay focused during their studies. If your child isn’t able to cognitively adapt to different learning environments, they’ll be less likely to struggle to work productively through distractions like phones, conversation noise or peers.
By having an effective cognitive adaptor, students are able to instantly assess, adapt and pivot their study techniques. These students are the first to identify how to work around certain distractions and not lose their focus during exam study or an assignment. It also makes staying on track easier and puts out a far higher quality of work in a shorter span of time compared to students who don’t have the ability to toggle and adjust as their energy levels and focus fluctuate through any given unit of study.
Performance Under Pressure
Academic success is more than just studying and all the information in your child’s head. It’s also about how they perform in pressuring exam conditions. There’s a lot of research documenting that we all regress to our default settings, whether that’s “fight” or “flight,” in times of stress. Many students admit to experiencing mind blanks and even full-blown panic attacks on the day of their exams. It’s not their brains aren’t functioning well. It’s just that they might have missed an important stage in exam preparations, whether that’s in absorption or retention, making it more difficult to access all the knowledge they worked so hard to absorb.
Understanding your child’s default settings makes it instrumental for them to cope and adjust their performance during exams. Cognitive adapters can help them facilitate that and maximise their marks without straining themselves.
Better Engagement and Motivation
According to a 2019 study by the University of New South Wales, students who received personalised learning interventions based on their unique learning style were more engaged and motivated to study and gained higher academic achievements compared to those who didn’t.
A finely tuned cognitive adapter that’s strongly anchored to your child’s ULP can boost their interest and motivation to study because they’ll be able to adjust their process to what suits their learning modality. It can also help students self-regulate their energy levels and prevent them from burning out too fast by reducing stress levels over time and helping unlock better academic results with less effort which in turn powers the reward centres of the brain. At the end of the day, they’ll be able to enjoy learning and the boost in their performance and from the effects are just exponential.
Parents have an important role to play as leaders and protectors of their children. If you’d like to help your child take control of their studies and prevent them from burning out from ineffective studies, make sure you check out our FREE planning session we’re running in January 2024.
The School Year Kick-Off: 2024 features Australia’s top Education Strategists sharing the best ways to set students up to be motivated and organised to improve marks in 2024 without repeating the mistakes of 2023, so they can access the best university for career and future success.
Don’t miss out and reserve your spot: Register Here