In School Workshop

Understanding Learning for First Years: How to Become a Successful Student

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Many subjects are taught in first year, but learning about how our brain works isn’t usually one of them. We expect students to engage with class work, do homework and study for tests without ever discussing how that might happen.

Research tells us that when we know the how and why of something, we are far more likely to engage with it. This workshop provides first year students with this knowledge.


  • The Learning outcomes for this workshop are:
  • To provide an opportunity for first years to understand how learning happens. 
  • To enable first years to choose effective learning skills and strategies for class and at home.
  • To build capacity and confidence with first years in their ability to succeed.
  •  To provide first-year students with the foundations of good study habits. 

This workshop has been designed to support a range of Junior Cycle Key Skills in particular:

Managing Myself
  • Knowing myself
  • Making considered decisions
  • Setting and achieving personal goals
  • Being able to reflect on my own learning

Staying Well
  • Being confident
  • Being positive about learning

Managing Information and Thinking
  • Being Curious
  • Thinking creatively and critically
  • Reflecting on and evaluating my learning

Being Creative
  • Exploring options and alternatives
  • Implementing ideas and taking action
  • Learning creatively

Working with others
  • Co-operating
  • Learning with others

The programme sits within the wellbeing/guidance space, offering two hours of engagement and supports around learning.

Students develop an appreciation of their responsibilities in the learning process and are given the resources to make good choices. The programme also equips students with techniques that can help them to stay calm and cope with tests and exams.

The two-hour workshop involves direct instruction alongside carefully designed opportunities for student engagement. Individual and collaborative tasks develop the student’s understanding of how their brain likes to both take in information and hold on to it. A student workbook accompanying the programme helps students to choose and use effective learning strategies in the classroom and at home.

The facilitator model classroom strategies for learning such as:
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • 321
  • Diamond 9 Ranking Ladder

A summary is provided for both teachers and parents to support learning in the classroom following the workshop.


  • Audience: First year students 
  • Cost: Depends on number of students and location 
  • Venue: At your school (nationwide)
  • Duration: 2 hours

Author: Dr Gráinne Mulcahy

  • Dr Mulcahy is a full-time teacher of Maths, Science, Biology and Religion working in one of the largest schools in the country. She has worked on the in-service provision team with Junior Cycle for Teachers. A Master’s in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work has grounded her in a very student-centred approach to teaching, and student welfare and wellbeing are at the heart of her work with schools, teachers and parents. After 30 years of teaching, she took on a Doctorate in Education with TCD. Her research focused on Junior Cycle, with a particular interest in learning and assessment.

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