Education isn't just about learning, it's about learning with maximum efficiency. For many students, however, classrooms are full of distraction and few are optimized for learning. As teachers, it's your responsibility to help minimize those challenges to learning and implement the strategies and techniques that will allow students of every level to thrive in school.
Of course, helping to maximize learning efficiency isn't just about classroom environment and lesson planning. Part of it is teaching students the right skills they will need to self-assess and motivate themselves to make the necessary changes to their own way of doing things that will help them maximize their learning potential and break down barriers to success that are currently in their way. From improving focus to gaining the accountability needed to take ownership of their work, students that learn these skills will be more successful now and in the future as they move forward in life and their education.
Part of why many students drop out before completing high school – 7 percent of all students in 2013, according to ChildTrends – is because they don't think they can succeed. Often, this is due to being slower learners than their peers. However, learning is a skill that can be developed, not a talent one is born with.
There are a few ways teachers can further these efforts, however, such as:
Connect on a personal level – Students, especially those struggling to succeed, will often benefit from a personal touch. Relate an appropriate way that you have struggled in the past, be it in school or in your career, to show them that even you had difficulty with learning. This shows them that problems can be overcome and that there is hope. This is of particular value with students that feel hopeless about their efforts and feel as if they are failing no matter what they do.
Engage them in learning – Learning shouldn't just be from a book. Even English classes can be made more engaging with activities and projects that bring the lessons to life. Students often benefit from things being shaken up once in a while – even teaching a class outdoors or having them engage in conversation rather than be lectured can engage their minds in a new way and provide new focus for students who are struggling.
Entertain as well as teach – School should be fun, and students who enjoy their classes walk away with much more than basic knowledge. By entertaining through teaching, you can help students learn some of the important skills that will help them become self-motivators and better learners, while ensuring that the lessons imparted stick in their minds. These efforts focus on promoting fun classroom activities and teaching through unique lessons, rather than standard lectures and reading.
Make learning collaborative – Students who help determine their own assignments are more engaged in both the processes and end results. By making learning a more collaborative activity – allowing them to determine their midterm projects or what assignments are group or solo work – can force them to think outside the box and become much more engaged in the activities. This helps them become more interested in what they are doing and efficient in their efforts to learn and achieve success.
Pre- and post-test – Pre- and post-testing is a method that grades students on how they prepare for group projects and assignments, and what they take away from them, in addition to the work itself. This style of teaching promotes stronger critical thinking and collaboration among students, as well as helps them understand that working efficiently is just as important as doing a good job. The better students do in their work coming into and out of a project, the higher their grades will be. You can use surveys and observation to assess group and solo work in these ways.
Teachers play a vital role in the ability of students to learn, and need to provide all of the necessary tools that students will need to help themselves become more successful in their path through education. By learning to own their education opportunities, students will make smarter choices for their futures and focus more on what is important.