Class Notes: Independent Learning



FOR many of us January starts with good intentions, resolutions and a lot of “I’ll do.” All good intentions of course, however, if I were to investigate today I might find that much of what we said we were going to do has not started yet, fell a bit out of the way already or was even postponed to February !! Does that sound the alarm?

January is a particularly difficult period for students; coming after the Christmas vacation period, many enjoyed relaxing for at least three weeks and did little or nothing over the Christmas vacation. Of course, this particular year has the added challenge of new restrictions and more uncertainty about what will happen to exams again this summer.

On top of that, they got back into their studies with mock exams from day one. With a reality check of what the end of quarter report really meant!
A lot of students may well already feel overwhelmed.

In general, students suffer from two main problems; procrastination and motivation to get the job done. They tend to want to be given the answer rather than taking the responsibility of learning on their own. This is quite apparent throughout the academic year, but even more so when things get tough this time of year.

We find that in general students are polite, attentive, take notes and tell us that they understand the principles of learning. We always review study skills, show students how to study, and give strict time-related guidelines for the study regimen.

However, very often when a student sees a question relating to a recent topic a few weeks after the topic has been covered here or at school, they have no memory of the process or application to solve it. The classic answer when told again, the answer is usually “Oh yes, I remember now”. My answer of course is that it’s not good, I’m not going to be with them during the exam, sitting on their shoulder whispering the answer. How I wish I could be that genius like I would definitely make a fortune !!

In general, success is not about talent but about practice and hard work. Many high school students at A level are not ready to make the sacrifice to spend time practicing or taking responsibility for their own learning. As adults, we should seek to give them a hand in discovering for themselves the the importance of independent learning.

First, we must recognize that often, as parents or guardians, we want success more than the student himself, but we cannot do it for him.

At MTA we really want all students to do well and we try hard to help them as much as possible, showing them all the ways to answer the question, but we know, in many cases, that students put away their books when they leave here and don’t open them until we see them again the following week. We must encourage more independent effort in order to see a significant increase in skills.

It is a dilemma faced by guardians, schools and parents from all walks of life.
Understand if the underperformance is an attitude, the question of knowledge or skills is the first vital step. When there is a knowledge or skill problem, it is quite easily resolved. Additional tutoring in the right environment with the right advice and practice will transform this skill. At the Mallorca Tutoring Academy we see it regularly; with students who have developed enough over a period of time to graduate with us, no longer need our expertise and their grades remain strong.

When the problem is an attitude problem it’s more delicate and involves other tactics. Raising the student’s self-motivation is the only way forward, but it can be quite difficult.
My top five steps to success would be:

1. Have you asked your child what motivates them? It might not be something big but as simple as not getting down on yourself.

2. Help they set short-term goals. Make them very specific and achievable. For example “Increase the pass percentage by 10% for the next exam scheduled for June 2015.

3. Define specific actions to achieve the goal. Again, making them very specific and achievable. For example “To practice math questions for 30 minutes every day for a week.

4. Monitor progress. The most important part is to make sure that the agreed actions are carried out without fail. This can be the most controversial part as it often receives resistance.

5. Promote even minimal success. Positive energy stimulates more motivation.

As parents you usually know your own children very well and will be able to identify attitude knowledge or skills quite easily. However, if you’re struggling to truly understand an underachievement issue, don’t be afraid to seek help from the school or outside tutors.
Remember that there are great benefits to taking responsibility for learning for your child, including:

  • Improved academic performance.
  • Increased motivation and confidence
  • Greater awareness by students of their limits and their ability to cope with them
  • Give the tutor the ability to provide differentiated tasks for students to meet their own personal learning needs.

We owe it to these students to become mentors as well as teachers and parents.

Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I remember
Involve me and I learn.

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