Running revision sessions

Person's hand is shown writing corrections on a printed document with a red pen, with a keyboard and a globe in the blurred background
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Students place great value in revision sessions that help them check their progress and feel confident, at least informed, about how well they might perform on upcoming assessments. Revision sessions serve as an opportunity to reinforce key concepts, clarify doubts, enhance understanding and create a sense of safety for upcoming assessments. Here we cover key strategies for running revision sessions in your unit of study. 

Design check-in activities 

To help you plan what to cover in a revision session, it is helpful to understand your students’ current needs. Beforehand, ask students what they feel they might need to succeed (for example you could ask about their ‘muddiest point’ from the semester) or set a formative assessment to inform what you could cover during the session. To collect input from students before a revision session, try: 

Set clear objectives and advertise early 

An effective revision session starts with clearly defined goals. What are the key takeaways for the session and what will students gain from it? Outline the main concepts or skills that students need to grasp by the end of the session. These objectives should be communicated beforehand on Canvas and at the beginning of the session to provide students with a roadmap of what to expect and to keep sessions focused and on track. 

Advertise the revision session at least a few weeks before (in class, and/or via Canvas announcements), giving students a chance to complete any check-in activities you have designed to prepare both them and you for the session. 

The session itself should be one to two hours long and typically run during STUVAC. Consider repeating the session for students who may have clashes with other commitments. Student anxiety is higher at this point of semester, so create a supportive and reassuring environment before and during the session by: 

  • Emphasising the session is an opportunity for review and clarification, not evaluation
  • Normalising stress, pressure, and struggle, perhaps by sharing a story about a tricky assignment that you worked on as a student
  • Creating a non-judgemental atmosphere by accepting any and all questions as valid
  • Encouraging active participation and questions throughout the session 

Plan for active learning within the session 

Student engagement is the cornerstone of a successful revision session. By incorporating interactive elements such as quizzes (Mentimeter is free and effective), group discussions and problem-solving activities you can challenge students to put into action what they have learned. For example you could: 

  • Have small groups work through past exam questions before sharing answers and reasoning via Mentimeter 
  • Design questions that will surface key misconceptions to hook students in, completing these questions individually to pique interest before a whole group discussion 
  • Have students create visual representations (perhaps a concept map) of how key concepts relate to each other – done on paper and then shared via Padlet through image posts 

While students might find uncovering weaker areas frustrating, it helps them understand their progress and knowledge gaps in the unit. Try to make sure that the level of difficulty for in-session tasks matches the difficulty in the final assessments so that students gain an accurate picture of their readiness.

Use case studies and examples 

Connecting theory with practice enhances comprehension and retention. By presenting case studies or examples from authentic disciplinary practice you can demonstrate the practical application of concepts, enhancing relatability and making them easier to understand. 

Re-engage students with assessment feedback 

Feedback is a critical component of the learning process, though we know that students don’t always engage with comments they receive on assessments. A revision session focused on feedback given on previous work could be a good opportunity for students to reflect on their understanding and use it as a guide to direct their revision strategy. 

Provide avenues for follow-up 

Right at the end of the revision session, run a quick exit poll (e.g. using Mentimeter, Microsoft Forms, etc). Ask questions such as (i) what remains unclear, (ii) students’ biggest takeaway, and (iii) how students found the session. This will help you understand if there are any remaining gaps that could be filled through additional resources, and provides evidence for AP&D discussions and promotion applications as an example of student-centred teaching. 

Of course, learning and revision won’t end with the session. Providing students with additional resources, such as reading materials, practice questions or access to discussion forums will extend their learning. Remind students how they can ask for help if they continue to struggle with concepts or ideas. Are there opportunities for follow-up sessions, discussion boards, drop-in sessions, or one-on-one meetings to address individual concerns and monitor progress? 

Leverage generative AI to support student revision 

Depending on the topic, generative AI tools are increasingly good at helping students practice and consolidate. Consider providing students with prompts on how to use AI tools like Copilot to help them revise with an AI helper. The AI in Education Canvas site, put together by Sydney students, provides many examples of using AI tools to help with study including: 

  • Crafting analogies to explain abstract concepts 
  • Creating MCQs and SAQs for practice with subsequent conversational feedback 
  • Suggesting study plans 
  • Explaining and breaking down complex topics 
  • Connecting concepts to real world examples 
  • Providing simulated scenarios for practice 

Revision sessions present an opportunity to check in with students, take stock, and assure them that they are on the right track. For those who are struggling they could be a wake up call or an opportunity to connect with appropriate support. 

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