Student success has been a top priority for most education providers when it comes to a student’s educational journey. Many factors affect performance and motivation levels and, quite often, non-academic aspects such as not having a support network like family and friends nearby, living overseas on their own for the first time or studying in a second language, to name a few, may have a significant impact. An aspect of the students’ learning experience that is not often openly addressed nor given the consideration that it deserves is students’ past or history.
Generally, at the initial stages of a student’s academic journey, eagerness and motivation are usually quite high, yet, these begin to dwindle as their course progresses which may result in a dip or a plummet that seems to level up by the end of their program. This trend is illustrated in the graph below:
As you consider the above trend, also keep in mind that like all human beings, students have had many learning experiences from a young age, positive and negative and these have shaped the way they see themselves as students and how they interact with learning environments in general. Additionally, this ‘history’ has somehow become a defining factor of who they are and permeates through their identity as people and in turn, as students. Throughout the years, learners have created and ‘perfected’ an image that defines them as learners, for example, “I am a bit slow when it comes to understanding concepts” or “I am really bad at…” or “I am terrible at…” Even though there might be some evidence that there is some truth in these self-beliefs, there is also an automatic mechanism that gets switched on and does not allow to challenge the label students have given themselves.
“These thoughts are projected out into the future–with students expecting them to be true tomorrow, the next day, next week, a month from now–you perpetuate yourself being that same person you believe yourself to be at all times, in all contexts including in students’ educational journal. Students recreate the same experiences over and over again, proving to themselves over and over again that they are, indeed, this person” (Amir, 2011).
As teachers, is there room in our practices to consider the above? How can we do so? How much engagement/dialogue would be enough to facilitate better learning and teaching practices for our students, and at the same time, creating clear boundaries around our role and responsibilities as teachers? If you start ‘digging’ you will realise that there are no ‘yes or no’ answers. However, what we do have access to is awareness that can maximise the learning experience for both your students and you as an educator.
There is no quick fix to students’ challenges as these are human difficulties experienced in a particular context which happens to be an educational setting. So, take this ‘conversation’ as an invitation to reflect on whether: A student behaves in a particular way because of their self-belief or whether there are external factors contributing to this behavior.
As the saying about children goes: ‘it takes a village to raise a child’… the same principle applies to our students. The moment you engage with a student one-on-one and establish that you want them to succeed as much as they do (or even more than they do!), there will be a glimpse of transformation that might eventually lead to students creating new/different habits that will hopefully in turn, help them re-invent themselves as learners and challenge the label that has limited them rather than freed them for so long. This is an opportunity for growth and transformation. Start the conversation.
Amir, N. (2011). How Does the Past Affect Your Future? Retrieved from Nina Amir Inspiration to Creation Coach: https://ninaamir.com/how-does-the-past-affect-your-future/
MSD Blog (2017). Become Consistent Learner with The Mike Boyd Effect: Procrastinator to Productive. Retrieved from https://microselfdevelopment.com/2017/12/18/become-consistent-learner-with-the-mike-boyd-effect-procrastinator-to-productive/