Douglas Barton: What Do Top Students Do Differently? at TEDxYouth@Tallinn (Transcript)

Now on this slide, I’ve got a group of year 11 students and we’re having a look at what students put into their timetable first. So what we find the vast majority of students will do is they’ll go out, they’ll get a piece of paper and they’ll roll this thing out: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, all the way through to Sunday .And then the very first thing they put into their study timetable is when they’re going to study, which again is fairly intuitive, right? It’s called a study timetable, so you think you put the study in first.

So we’ve got — it’s about 22% of students who will put in their homework or when they’re going to do ‘study’. In other words, they’re putting in their workload for that week. But we’ve got again now overwhelming majority, 63% of students in this case who are putting in specific subjects. So the very first thing they might do is on a Monday afternoon they’ll put in an hour of French homework and presumably that’s because I had French that day and they’re going to do homework and study for it.

So again we’ve got about 85% of students who put study in as the very first thing into their timetable. Now the problem with that is that these guys have the highest likelihood of throwing out the timetable as we’ve already seen within a matter of days or within a week. And the reason for it is, is because they go absolutely gung ho. They just put in study all over the place and they forget about the things they love doing. So 3 days into it or three weeks into it, or however long these guys are sitting down going, I’m not doing anything I love doing, I am bored, I hate this and as a result they throw the timetable out.

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Now again our top students are in the minority on this graph as well. These are the guys who when they sit down to create a timetable, they do what every other student does in terms of they get their piece of paper and they roll it up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all the way through to Sunday. But instead of putting in study first, these guys do something very different: they put it as you can see there, they put in when they’re not going to study. So the first thing to go into these timetables are things like socializing, hobbies, sports, if someone’s got a job they might put in the job as well, and it’s only once they’ve got these activities in, they then come back and they begin to feel the study around it.

The big thing for the top students though is all of a sudden because they’ve got all of these activities in their timetables, it means every day they’re doing something that they love to do. As a result, they’re happy and because they’re happy they’re balanced. And it’s that sense of being balanced, that then lays the foundation to be productive for the rest of the year.

So for any student in the room right now who is looking to move up their marks, there’s three things you all need to consider.

Number one, as we’ve already said, don’t overestimate the importance of IQ or just don’t worry about it, it’s out of your control.

Number two: don’t aim to just work hard but instead work hard doing the right things.

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Aim to model what the top students are doing because the thing is if you get the process right, then the marks or the grades or the results in school are going to take care of themselves.

Thanks a lot.