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Does Practise really make Perfect?

When one thinks of the action of practise, it is often synonymous with discipline and order. The fundamental idea of repetitive work is one that is championed by scholars and leaders. Why do we say, ‘practise makes perfect’? Is this a phrase applicable only to one discipline of study, like maths tuition, or is it a more general theory? The scientific impact of practise on the human brain is that the neural pathways work better in unison, by myelination. When we practise a skill over a set period of time, our brain thus becomes conditioned to feel comfortable with the skill – E.g. practising a speech over and over again will make one more confident with the skill of public speaking. It is almost subconscious when we become more attuned to the object of practise.

 

In the life of a student, practise is a certainly an integral pillar of success. Therefore, reserving the period before key exams for revision seems realistic and practical. Private tuition, (such as GCSE levels tuition or 11 plus prep) is a great mode of practise for students to get comfortable with examination conditions. Practise not only allows one to aim for the highest grade, but it also inspires a sense of confidence. If practise encourages personal confidence, it must also have a place in our daily life, whether it be in the extracurricular or academic sphere. The iconic phrase – practise makes perfect – is originated from its Latin form ‘Uses promptos facit’ referenced in the ‘Diary and Autobiography of John Adams’. Clearly, the philosophical and practical message is far from antiquated, and still essential for one’s personal success.

 

However, it must be said that sometimes practise has an innate tendency to feel monotonous. We gain personal satisfaction from seeing immediate results, whereas the ‘art’ of practise can feel like a long-haul endeavour. To achieve the desired results, one must stay diligent over a specific time-frame – this is tough, for boredom can strike, but with perseverance, practise will always achieve results. Will it achieve perfection? The idea of perfection is in itself ambiguous, but what is clear is that practise will make you better at what you are practising. To quote the resounding words of essayist Audre Lorde, “Every day of your lives is practise in becoming the person you want to be”.

 

-Ketki Mahabaleshwarkar

Why is Exercise important in a busy Exam Period?

Exam time is pressurising. Late nights, last minute preparation, irregular sleeping patterns and eating times are characteristic of exam period. Exam stress can result in anxiety and increased chances of succumbing to illnesses. Getting unwell can undermine your efforts and so maintaining good health and a positive attitude to study is key. Physical activity (PA) is a fantastic adjunct to help relieve stress during exams, whether its KS2 SATs, 11+, GCSEs or A-levels! In addition, PA actually has multiple benefits on brain function, helping you to study efficiently.

Cognition is the process through which an individual acquires knowledge and develops understanding via thought processes, experiences and study. Research on the effects of physical activity (PA) on the cognitive function of children shows improvements in attention; thinking capability; articulation as well as learning and memory.

 

Attention

Kubesch et al. (1) have shown that regularity of PA in children is positively correlated with their ability to focus within the classroom. Interestingly, those children who exercised were able to maintain their attention even through the third hour of lessons, which is usually the time when attentional processes start to deteriorate.

 

Thinking Capability

‘Thinking’ is defined in this context as the cognitive functions involved in abstract thinking, planning, creative thinking and assessing cause and effect. PA helps to develop creativity in children. Research has demonstrated that unorganised PA, such as going to the park, improves thinking capability more than organised sports activities, such as drills and circuits (2). However, it is important to note, that any physical exercise is better than none at all.

 

Articulation and Language

Scudder et al. (3) showed that there was a positive relationship between PA and lexical networks in children, allowing them to comprehend text, spell and detect grammar and syntax errors with greater accuracy.

 

Learning and Memory

Working memory is the type of memory used for short-term to middle-term retention of information and is important in reasoning and decision making. PA has been shown to improve working memory in 8-12-year olds as well as 12-14-year olds (1,4). Learning and cognitive flexibility also increases with PA, enhancing visuospatial memory as well.

 

 

All in all, it is clear that exercise has a plethora of benefits in cognition. In addition to these advantages, dopamine (the ‘feel-good’ hormone) increases in the body during and after exercise, helping you to maintain a positive outlook despite exams! In fact, as a result of the extensive research in PA, the UK Government and the NHS has issued the following guidelines for Physical Activity in children (5):

  1. All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.
  2. Vigorous intensity activities, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, should be incorporated at least three days a week.
  3. All children and young people should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.

 

Incorporating PA is just one way in which you can uphold balance during exam time; getting enough sleep and nutrition are also key to the equilibrium.

Here are a few tips to help you obtain a healthy balance:

 

Good luck!

-Esha Dandekar

 

  1. Kubesch S., Walk L., Spitzer M., Kammer T., Lainburg A., Heim R., Hille K. A 30-min physical education program improves students’ executive attention. Mind Brain Educ. 2009;3:235–242
  2. Bowers M.T., Green B.C., Hemme F., Chalip L. Assessing the Relationship between Youth Sport Participation Settings and Creativity in Adulthood.  Res. J. 2014;26:314–327
  3. Scudder MR, Lambourne K, Drollette ES, Herrmann SD, Washburn RA, Donnelly JE, Hillman CH. Aerobic capacity and cognitive control in elementary school-age children. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014; 46(5):1025-35
  4. Verburgh L., Scherder E.J.A., van Lange P.A.M., Oosterlaan J. The key to success in elite athletes? Explicit and implicit motor learning in youth elite and non-elite soccer players.  Sports Sci. 2016;34:1782–1790
  5. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/832861/2-physical-activity-for-children-and-young-people-5-to-18-years.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Determination in the Classroom

Achievers’ Academy focusses on providing students with a structured form of education, creating an environment that allows them to flourish. Our student intake is non-selective, yet we achieve outstanding results due to our holistic approach towards education. We teach them ‘how to learn’ rather than spoon-feeding them with merely what is needed to pass exams. Our students become motivated, self-determined and confident young adults as they navigate through life, beyond their education.

 

The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) has been considered in an educational context in the past. It attempts to uncover the degree to which activities are self-determined versus controlled by external or internal influences.

 

 

The model theorises that 3 ‘needs’ should be fulfilled to ensure the longevity of self-determined human motivation.

 

Autonomy

Research by Kasser and Ryan (references below) has shown that performance is enhanced when someone engages in self-governed behaviours or actions. In the classroom, this means  encouraging independent thinking and taking accountability for one’s actions. In addition, autonomy involves allowing students to set their own goals based on their perceived strengths and weaknesses. It is a crucial intrinsic factor that allows students take the reins, instilling confidence.

 

Relatedness

This concept refers to the feeling of acceptance and belonging, especially in a new environment. Taking the time to learn students’ names and facilitating learning in a group setting such that all students feel comfortable. In an educational context, this means practicing active learning, with questions and mistakes being recognised as crucial to the educational journey.

 

Competence

Self-efficacy is essential in maintaining motivation during challenging tasks. In teaching,  this means empowering students by giving them access to an arsenal of resources, including videos, exam papers and handouts. Additionally, competence involves equipping students with long-term study skills, such as note-taking and goal setting. These are valuable tools not only for immediate examinations, but even beyond them.

 

At Achievers’ Academy, we recognise that education and study should not feel like an imposition or a chore. Our intention is to inspire  students and help them develop as independent learners as opposed to academic machines.

 

 

References

Kasser T, Ryan RM. Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personal Soc Psychol Bull. 1996.

 

Patrick H, Williams GC. Self-determination theory: Its application to health behavior and complementarity with motivational interviewing. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2012.

 

 

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