Creating a Revision Space In Your Home
The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated many of our education system's most striking qualities, with both its greatest strengths and weaknesses being brought fully into view. But one thing that stood out above the rest to students across the world is the need for a secondary, suitable learning environment within the home for times where classrooms aren’t available.
What common mistakes do students make with their revision spaces?
Unfortunately, not everybody has the luxury of a home office to study in. Most students wind up doing their homework in one of three places: the kitchen, the sitting room, or their bedroom. None of these are ideal places to work.
The distractions posed by other family members, technology (phones, televisions, game consoles) and the comfort of the environment mean that most students' concentration isn't at its best when they're at home. It makes sense why that's the case - how can anyone study well when they're sitting on their comfortable bed, in the same room they're used to sleeping in every night?
What are the qualities of a good revision space?
Good revision spaces generally have the following characteristics:
It should be a quiet, peaceful place for study.
It should be well-lit, either by natural or electric light.
It should be comfortable to be in for long periods of time, but not so comfortable that the student loses concentration.
It should be a space separate to the student's leisure area.
If this doesn't sound anything like the revision spaces available to you, don't worry. There are ways to modify even the least suitable location into a proper revision area. Let's discuss those next.
Tip #1: Rearrange furniture in an unsuitable room to make it less distracting for the student.
The easiest way to transform a bedroom or sitting room into a revision area is to rearrange the furniture. The reason for this is simple: since most sitting room furnishings are oriented around a TV and you don't want a TV to be visible from your revision area, changing the position of tables and chairs to reflect this will have a profound impact on the energy of the space.
If you're struggling to imagine how this would work, try to create a space where a person can sit with nothing interesting in front of them. A window overlooking a garden or street is fine, but being able to see a television or a comfortable bed isn't. While it might sound bleak, study materials should be the most interesting thing in a revision area. A little boring goes a long way.
Tip #2: Recreate the classroom environment as closely as possible.
Following on from the last point, it's a good idea for a revision area to recreate the classroom environment as closely as possible within the home. If you can set it up with a small desk and hard-backed chair like students use at exam time, that's great! But if you can't do that, aim instead to make the revision space as visually and physically unremarkable as possible for the student.
This is an important step because human memory is largely contextual. As we get used to studying and answering questions in a specific environment, we begin to associate the act of learning with that environment. This makes it harder to recall information in environments unlike what we're used to. So try to recreate the classroom setup as much as possible. If all you can do is set up your books and pencil case the same way you do at school, that's better than nothing.
Tip #3: Make the space as quiet and peaceful as possible for the student.
The last tip is common sense, but might be the most important of them all. Relative silence is the most important element of a revision space - while they might seem minor, interruptions like car horns and barking dogs are terrible for a student's concentration. They can even ruin the momentum gained from long periods of work (called the flow state) if they're distracting enough. But fortunately, there's an easy way to solve this.
If you've got the money for it, soundproofing a room is the most effective way to create a quiet environment. But because of the costs associated with even cheap acoustic foam, it's not a practical option for most. The best alternative to this is a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earphones. They'll still cost a bit, but you can get a good sound-dampening pair for under 50 euro if you're willing to lose a little audio quality... and in fact, it might be for the best if they’re bad for listening to music.
Research on how listening to music affects concentration is mixed, and the waters are muddied further when taking the contextual nature of memory into account. It would be easy for the brain to make an association between music and learning that can't be replicated in an exam. Because of this, it's a safer bet to study without music if you can... but it's still a good idea to use the headphones/earphones to block out noise.
By following these tips, you should be able to create a more effective revision space in the home. Remember, it's not about aiming for perfection: even the smallest steps listed above will make a big difference to the quality of your study. Best of luck!