“Think like a champion” – Tougher Minds features in Sunday Telegraph

Tougher Minds’ award-winning resilience and well-being programme at Colfe’s School is the subject of a major feature in The Sunday Telegraph.

Writer Simon Briggs visited the London school and interviewed parents and pupils, as well as Tougher Minds Founder Dr. Jon Finn.

Tougher Minds feature in Sunday Telegraph.

The Tougher Minds feature in the Sunday Telegraph.

The feature outlines how the Tougher Minds programme is delivering a wide-range of benefits, including enhanced well-being and improved exam results. The school gained its highest number of GCSE A or A* grades earlier this year.

Applications to the school are also up by 50 per cent and the Tougher Minds programme at Colfe’s won “Education Initiative of the Year” at the Independent Schools Awards.

Tougher Minds has also produced an exam revision guide for The Telegraph newspaper.

Tougher Minds’ Head of Education Andrew Foster alongside Tougher Minds Founder Dr. Jon Finn, with the Independent Schools Association’s “Education Initiative of the Year” award.

We have worked with writer Simon Briggs to develop the guide which benefits pupils and parents. It is based on successful Tougher Minds education programmes. The 12-point guide includes advice on areas such as sleep, diet and exercise, revision planning, goal setting and the 20:20 rule.

  • To receive a FREE download with all 12 tips we produced for the The Telegraph click here.

How performance secrets from Britain’s elite athletes can boost Easter holiday exam revision

Here we present five simple ideas, drawn from elite sport, and based on cutting-edge sports psychology. They have the power to supercharge learning and will help any child to revise effectively and efficiently during the Easter break.

Step 1: Maintain your Brain

Britain’s cycling trailblazers Team Sky, lead by performance guru Sir Dave Brailsford, value sleep so highly that they employ a doctor to make sure their riders are given the best chance of achieving maximum rest during gruelling competitions, like the Tour de France.  They also employ world-class nutritionists to help each athlete maximise their performance. Achieving the correct balance of sleep, diet and exercise will fuel your ability to maximise your revision performance. On average teenagers should get nine hours sleep every night. Sleep helps to consolidate what you have learnt during the day, and prepare your brain to learn again the following day.

To improve your sleep you first need to monitor it. For the next few nights, rank your sleep quality out of 10 each morning, as well as recording what time you went to bed, and got up.

Also, science is providing us with great insight into how we can get to sleep faster:

– The neurotransmitter melatonin helps us to fall asleep.  A common problem is looking at bright lights, like smartphone screens, tablets or TVs, which reduces melatonin production in your brain . So remove computers, TVs and phones from bedrooms, if you want to enhance sleep quality.

– Humans feel sleepy when their body temperature begins to drop. Having a bath before bed creates a natural reduction in body temperature. Also keep bedrooms cool if you want to sleep soundly.

– A small amount of carbohydrates generally make humans feel sleepy. Use them to help you nod off.  

Step 2: Space out or “periodise“ your revision to maximise learning

It is well understood in sport science that learning is increased when skills are practiced in a random order. In simple terms, a golfer will learn faster if she hits five shots with her driver, five shots with her seven iron, and five shots with her wedge, as oppose to just hitting 15 consecutive shots with the driver. In education, this understanding is known as spaced learning. So instead of revising English for one hour, the principle suggests that learning will be enhanced if you revise English for 20mins, maths for 20mins, and biology for 20mins, after that revise English again.

Step 3: Develop a learning routine to control your A.P.E. Brain

The best athletes in the world use routines to help them optimise performances. You can maximise your revision by using a learning routine to help you focus through your studying.  The limbic regions of the human brain – what we call the A.P.E. brain – are only designed to concentrate on one thing for a very short period of time. This is not helpful for effective revision. However, developing a learning routine will allow you to use your pre-frontal cortex which takes control of your distracted A.P.E. brain and boosts concentration. A good routine should start by helping you to achieve a state of alertness, followed by the setting of objectives for the study session.

Tougher Minds Founder Dr. Jon Finn (foreground) and Head of Education Andrew Foster with pupils from Colfe’s School.

Step 4: Practice how you need to perform: neuroplasticity

It is well known that England’s footballers have a long history of underperformance when they take penalties under pressure. This is because they do not practice taking penalties in the same way as when the pressure is on. You can learn from this by making sure that you revise in a way that helps you to perform in exams. For example, exams require written answers, structured in a specific way, and significantly, without notes.

Neuroscience tells us that our short-term memory only lasts around 30 seconds, and to get information into our long-term memory we must keep repeating it. A useful way to think about this is repeat-to-remember, and remember-to-repeat. Together these two ideas can be termed “R2R”. In scientific terms, you must turn the neurological cobwebs, which form in the first 30 seconds of learning, into thicker neurological cables that can be used to help you answer questions effectively in exams.

With this understanding self-testing is the most powerful way of preparing for exams. You must regularly test yourself in the same way that you will be tested in your exams if want to fulfill your potential.

You must practice transferring the knowledge stored in your brain – acquired from notes  – into written answers that help you to accumulate marks in your exams. The more marks you can gain in each exam, the better your grades will be in the summer.

Step 5: Use self-reflection to build your confidence and make learning easy

The advances in elite athletes’ ability to objectively analyse their performance have been remarkable. The growth in the use of powerful online performance management systems allows elite sports performers to have the ability to measure everything from sleep patterns, to how far they have run in a match, and how stressed they are on a given day. This level of monitoring allows detailed self-reflection and thus athletes can continually refine their performance, building on strengths, and improving weaknesses.

You can also use self-reflection to enhance your revision performance.

The human brain is designed for survival. This means it is very powerful at identifying threats, and negative thoughts. This can make it very difficult to revise your “worst” subjects.  That little voice in your head says, ‘you will never be able to do this; it is boring, and you are wasting your time’. To overcome this mental barrier you must first recognise when these thoughts occur. A good way to think about self-reflection is to imagine that you have mini-CCTV cameras in your head, watching your thoughts. This is a technique called metacognition, or thinking about what you’re thinking. 

Once you recognise that your thinking is not helpful to your revision efforts, you need to change it. To do this you can use a strategy that we call  ‘building your house of confidence’. We use this technique with professional athletes.

Ideally you will deploy this strategy at the end of  a bout of revision. The aim is to identify three things that have learnt and done well during that period. For example, you might have learnt a new theory, taken lots of good notes and concentrated really well. Once you identify three helpful thoughts, select one thing that you can improve during the next revision session. For example, you might need to practice using your new understanding of a theory by answering some exam questions.


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