What makes the difference between a child who will experience success in school and one who will struggle? Given two different students bringing average ability to school, one could assume that both would perform similarly in terms of grades.
But this is often not the case because of two key factors. One is motivation. Motivation to persist and to succeed even when mastery of a task is difficult is a critical component in being a successful student. In fact, this component is so important that it is actually an essential characteristic of a student who is identified as gifted.
Without motivation and a focus on persistence, few products or processes would result because great inventions or innovations are usually not based on the result of a single effort. Clearly, a motivated average child who will persist even when the learning feels like an uphill battle is more likely to succeed academically.
A motivated child usually comes from having an encouraging environment. Parents and teachers who create these environments focus on effort and improvement rather than rewarding only for completed tasks that are well done.
In addition, the child needs to feel that it is more important to be able to appreciate and evaluate his own efforts rather than just please the adult.
Secondly, your child’s teacher will likely tell you that the students with the highest grades are strategic learners. The only way that I could remember that Eddie Rickenbacker was a famous World War I pilot, amongst what seemed like a thousand facts in one history course, was to associate his name with the word, ‘linebacker’, which sort of sounded similar, and to visualize the picture of a linebacker shooting down planes over a football field.
Strategic learners spend their time embellishing or attaching personal meanings to tasks and concepts that need to be learned, rather than just reading them over and over again. In fact, effective learning is the understanding of the material and developing strategies so that the learning can be remembered or applied. Without a strategy, a student may not be able to demonstrate understanding.
Teachers teach students a variety of learning strategies in addition to assisting them in discovering their own unique strategies. A very important strategy is to teach children to check their own work and, if an error is found, they should attempt to correct it independently.
This strategy, although not as exciting as visualizing linebackers shooting down airplanes, is one of the most critical strategies in becoming a successful learner because successful learning is the ability to self-monitor efforts.
Often the difference between students who appear to have similar abilities but have very different learning profiles is one of motivation and strategy.
Originally published in the ‘Tri-Cities News’ as a voluntary contribution to the community from Arthur Rathgeber.
The contents of this article are the property of Willow Grove Counselling, Inc. and further reproduction is given through written permission only. Copyright © 2012