Be a goal-getter!
Goal setting provides students with a greater sense of responsibility for their own learning, a useful motivational tool. Studies confirm that students who set goals are more motivated to learn than their peers who don’t. Importantly, this higher motivation leads to higher educational outcomes. Greater engagement and better grades? It’s win-win! Not to mention, this habit is one that can be taken well beyond our school years. When goal-setting, ensure they align with the SMART framework. SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Plan for success
Avoid the last-minute panic and get organized with a calendar or planner. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” This could not be more true in relation to education. Successful students always know when their tasks are due and have a study roadmap to help them reach their objectives. Color-coding your calendar can have the added benefit of visual cues. For example, each color may denote a different subject, or try a spectrum of colors to indicate priority.
Be active, not passive!
Nothing can make a students eyes glaze over quicker than reading and re-reading the same pile of notes for hours on end. In addition to building disengagement, this is also considered a relatively ineffective method of study. Rather than merely being passive recipients of knowledge, students should take charge of their learning and incorporate more active study techniques into their routine. Not quite sure what that looks like? Complete practice tests, craft your own practice questions, teach concepts to friends or family members, create mind maps, or join a study group!
Divide and conquer
School is a marathon, not a sprint. Students need to pace themselves appropriately to achieve the best results! Break down study sessions into bite-sized chunks, spaced out over the week. Students will benefit from taking a distributed practice approach over pushing through lengthy (and stressful) cram sessions. Not only does this strategy improve long-term retention, but it also offers a less intimidating target for students and is therefore less likely to fall victim to procrastination. What’s the big take away? Quality over quantity!
Make the most of feedback
When students receive an essay back, many simply check the grade and never look at it again. Why does this matter? Well, they’re ignoring the most important part — the feedback! Renowned educational researcher John Hattie (2012) contends that feedback is one of the top 10 influences on student achievement. According to Hattie, “It enables students to progress towards challenging learning intentions and goals”. Through reviewing feedback, students can celebrate their strengths and avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. Not sure what the feedback means? Just ask! Your teacher will be happy to help. Of course, the feedback cycle goes both ways, and providing feedback can also be an important learning tool.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Students with healthy habits will reap the rewards in their academic life. Research indicates there is a strong correlation between physical activity and academic performance, most notably in the areas of mathematics and reading. In essence, moving your body can provide a necessary mental boost! This might look like after-school sport followed by an algebra session or quite simply a handball game with friends during lunch time. Eating healthy snacks/meals and drinking plenty of water throughout the day can also assist with maintaining focus.
Consolidate learning through sleep
Up all night watching Squid Game before school? This might be hurting academic performance more than you think! Lawrence Epstein of Harvard Medical School proclaims the consequences of missing sleep are larger than whether or not students are able to stay awake in a class. According to Dr. Epstein (2017), “New research also highlights the importance of sleep in learning and memory. Students getting adequate amounts of sleep performed better on memory and motor tasks than did students deprived of sleep”. Further to this, sleep deprivation is not restricted to the ‘all-nighter’ here. Dr. Epstein (2017) notes,“After two weeks of sleeping six hours or less a night, students feel as bad and perform as poorly as someone who has gone without sleep for 48 hours”.
Create a learning space
A dedicated learning space has the potential to maximize productivity, particularly for students in the senior years. But what exactly makes an effective learning space? Consider what kind of space you would like to learn in. Is background noise helpful or distracting? What visuals motivate or inspire you? In part, this will be highly individual. However, there are also some common features. For example, a comfortable chair, appropriate space for equipment and textbooks, enough light to work in and an optimal temperature for learning. Studying in bed or while lounging on the couch might seem like a good idea at the time, but using these spaces for learning is an open invitation to distractions.
The digital age has brought with it an array of educational apps, platforms and tools for learning that were previously unimaginable. Unfortunately, in addition to the benefits, so too has it opened the floodgates to distraction. Switching off social media during blocks of study can remove the temptation to scroll through Instagram stories or check in on the latest TikTok trend. Don’t worry — this doesn’t mean physically locking your phone in a drawer or deactivating all of your accounts! A plethora of apps exist for the very purpose of providing you the necessary ‘break’ from the socials and maintain focus, including OFFTIME, Stay Focused, and Space.
Make it a habit to ask questions! This can be a challenge for many students, especially when entering a new grade level or school. To build confidence in this area, parents and teachers should model this behaviour. If you’re not sure how to start, consider what concept is proving difficult to grasp. You might ask, “I’m working hard, but I’m still not understanding the theme. Can you please explain it to me?”. When we’re overwhelmed, sometimes it can be difficult to articulate the specifics in our request. In this scenario, students may ask teachers, “I’m not sure what it is that I need. Can you please talk it through with me?”. Education is a journey, and not one we should have to tackle solo. Students should be encouraged to be curious when it comes to their learning and unafraid to ask for help when they need it.