This article was written by Tegan, one of our fabulous Expand Education Coaches
As an Expand Education coach, and soon to be Masters of Secondary Teaching graduate, it is vital that I understand how students learn.
Three things I have learned that are fundamental in facilitating learning are;
1. Empowering students by helping them understand how to learn can change the way they view learning. If they understand how to take control and responsibility of their learning, they will enjoy learning even more.
2. Helping my students embrace feedback and reflecting together on how they can improve based on feedback is no doubt one of the most powerful ways students can grow. This is easy to say, but challenging to do.
3. The power of positive relationships: I must develop trusting relationships with my students in order to understand their unique strengths and also encourage them to surround themselves with positive friends and role models that will help them learn.
After dabbling in various careers throughout undergraduate and postgraduate study, I found my place in teaching, driven by a passion to inspire not only knowledge acquisition, but also an ability of students to think for themselves and apply such thinking to areas beyond the classroom. Such abilities are vital in a world in which critical and creative thinking to solve multifaceted global problems are essential workplace skills, and life skills. Below are three ways I believe students can improve their learning, their first step to success in a constantly changing world.
Learning how to learn
Recent research has enlarged our understanding of how the brain learns, emphasising the importance of learners taking control of their own learning.
Learning how to learn is essential because, ultimately, no one else can learn for you. The process of such learning empowers students to take responsibility for their own learning by setting academic goals, selecting strategies to learn that work for them, changing them when they do not, and consistently monitoring their progress. Students who do this will be able to manage and bridge the gap between where they stand in relation to a goal, and what they need to do to attain it, and will continue learning long after they leave school. Socrates famously stated “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Equally so, examining and selecting learning strategies that work for you should be a natural process of learning. Find out how you learn and what works for you, then follow through with commitment. As some food for thought, the Ted Talk “What do top students do differently?”
focuses on the importance of application of knowledge in practice exams, rather than the wrote learning of information. Such a way of learning also facilitates thinking outside the four walls of the classroom, and prepares students for the reality of world beyond school in which they will be called to apply their knowledge more often than they will be called upon to recall it.
Accepting and learning from feedback
Feedback is perhaps one of the most powerful influences on student improvement and achievement is evident. “Provision of effective feedback assists students in making logical connections between where they are in relation to their goal and what they must do next to attain it” (SCASA, 2014). It must answer the three questions of “Where am I going?”, “How am I going?”, and “Where to next?” to close the gap between current performance and mastery (Hattie, 2012, p.116). Providing such feedback is a good teacher’s role, but what are students to do with it? Feedback is ineffective if one does not act on it! A concerning amount of students in secondary and tertiary education simply acknowledge their mark, perceiving any feedback received as an endpoint of their work, rather than “a stepping stone toward future learning.” Taking feedback on board is a life skill that will assist one to improve in school and life beyond school. The first step is to accept feedback. Next, act on feedback by noting the suggestions for future work, and then acting upon them to your best ability. If the feedback is not specific or clear, seek out opportunities to discuss with the teacher specific strategies to bridge the gap between the current and desired level of work.
Surrounding yourself with positive role models and friends
Positive relationships are vital for learning. Learning happens best when students are comfortable and able to take risks and ask questions in a non threatening environment.
These relationships must be nurtured and encouraged in a classroom environment, outside the classroom and in life beyond school.
Surrounding oneself with positive role models and peers at such a challenging and tumultuous time as secondary school is invaluable. Support networks include those you can turn to when feeling stressed and overwhelmed, or in need of advice, motivation or inspiration. Look to friends, parents, teachers and other role models that you know will give positive support and advice to support your learning, as well as other important facets of life. School is an important time for developing healthy relationships between peers, and any teacher and parent must be cognizant of this. Forming study groups with friends can be valuable, if you can keep on task! Set a time for study, and a time for socialising, and stick to this. Healthy downtime with friends and family is also important to combat the stress that can often be induced by study, particularly in the final years.