Personal study, homework, flipped learning, or self-study; whatever name we choose for it, can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on a student’s attainment and progress… if we get it right. Get it wrong, and it can negatively impact a student’s well-being and overall engagement toward learning.

Research informs us that if teachers set high-quality personal study, it can boost students’ progress by up to 5 months (Education Endowment Foundation and Professor John Hattie).

5 Months’ Progress…what could this mean?

Consider a Senior School student as an example. Over a school career, this amount of additional progress can add up and have a significant impact on results when it comes to public examination at GCSE and A-Level.

The major caveat to this research and data rests on the quality and amount of personal study set by schools.

Any task that a teacher assigns needs to have a purpose at the core. Personal study should centre around applying and refining newly learned knowledge, checking for full understanding, and implementing newly acquired skills independently at home.

When tackling a challenging piece of personal study, parents naturally want to support their child in trying to achieve a perfect piece of work. This desire to assist comes from a good place, but it is far more important for children to complete their work independently. Allowing this degree of autonomy provides teachers an opportunity to address any genuine areas for development and to clear up misconceptions when work is marked and feedback is provided.

To promote independent study at home, parents can provide structured study time within a quiet area, away from distractions. Parent involvement in personal study is encouraged but within the boundaries of asking questions about the work your child is completing, rather than support in answering the questions. Being inquisitive and showing an active interest in their studies will help to promote positive conversations about personal study. Asking questions enables students to practice recall and retrieval which helps to further develop their understanding and consolidate learning. Answering questions can also help children realise where they need some more help, guidance, or practice.

Some questions that you could ask your child are:

  • Can you teach me about what you are learning?
  • Can you explain to me how you came to that answer?
  • Can you show me how you did that?

My advice is little and often. Thirty to sixty minutes each evening should be sufficient for completing personal study each night. Any more than this may create feelings of resentment and could leave your child feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

We also need to be mindful that our children need time to be children. We must allow them time to enjoy hobbies and other interests, keep them active and ensure they are getting the required amount of sleep. If we can strike this balance then we are helping to provide the best ecosystem for our children to thrive, learn and be successful.