PREFACE: Though, I don’t think I’m necessarily some outstanding “guru” on how to guarantee success for students in a classroom, I do think the fact that I’m a retired school teacher who has thought and taught a great deal regarding this subject, gives some validity to my “expertise.” Wow, what a long sentence! :-)
Recently, there has been a lot of media coverage about teachers, schools and/or education. Most of the coverage has been about financing education and changing the way teachers are valued. At least, that’s the way I view it. Jon Stewart, on the Daily Show, did a spoof on the subject. Stewart, in a sarcastic manner, demonstrated how those responsible for teaching young Americans are valued as compared to Wall Street.
So, America seems to be in a big debate about how to improve education by getting rid of bad teachers, decrease teachers’ benefits and cut-back on job security. I’m not going to enter the debate, but instead, provide some ideas on how to be successful in the classroom.
The following ideas directly address the student who is taking a class taught by a teacher. As schools cut teachers, cut pay for teachers and cut courses offered, the teachers will undoubtedly have less time and incentive to individually work with each student. Hopefully, The Dozen Ideas For Classroom Success that I have listed below will help the student to learn how to learn in a classroom. Feel free to share and please do care for those that help our children learn.
The Dozen Ideas For Classroom Success
1) Make sure you thoroughly understand the requirements of the course, how it will be taught, and what will be expected of you. After reading the syllabus, etc. and actively listening to the explanations your instructor gives regarding the course of study, ask questions about the grading policy and for advice on how best to prepare for the class.
2) Become an active learner. Be prepared to work ideas into your thinking by ACTIVE reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
3) As you study the subject taught in your course, think of it as a form of thinking. (For example, in a History class, one of your main goals should be to think historically.)
4) Become a questioner. Engage yourself in lectures, discussions, reading, listening, and all other mental activities of the class by asking questions. Questions reflect an active mind. Your questions do not need to be asked orally and do not need to be answered by anyone other than you. If you don’t ask questions, you will probably not discover what you do and do not know.
5) Look for interconnections. The content of any class is always a SYSTEM of interconnected ideas, never a random list of things to memorize. Don’t memorize like a parrot. Study like a detective, always relating new learning to previous learning.
6) Think of your instructor as your coach. Think of yourself as a team member trying to practice the thinking exemplified by your instructor. For example, in a mathematics class, think of yourself as going out for the math team and your teacher as demonstrating how to prepare for the games (tests, assignments and other “math performances”).
7) Think about the textbook as the thinking of the authors. Your job is to think the thinking of the authors. For example, role play the authors frequently. Explain the main points of the text to another student, as if you were the author.
8) Consider class time as a time in which you PRACTICE the content thinking being taught while using the fundamental concepts and principles of the course. Don’t sit back passively, waiting for knowledge to fall into your head like rain into a rain barrel. It won’t.
9) Figure out what study and learning skills you are NOT good at. Practice those skills whenever possible. Recognizing and correcting your weaknesses is a strength.
10) Frequently ask yourself: “Can I explain this to someone not in class?” (If not, then you haven’t learned it well enough.)
11) Routinely ask questions to fill in the missing pieces in your learning. Can you elaborate further on this? Can you give an example of that? If you don’t have examples, you are not connecting what you are learning to your life.
12) Learn to test your thinking using intellectual standards. “Am I being clear? Accurate? Precise? Relevant? Logical? Am I looking for what is most significant?”
These dozen ideas are worded in a way that directly applies to learning in an academic classroom. Having stated that, please consider using them for any mental endeavor that involves learning. For example, using the last idea of, “Learn to test your thinking using intellectual standards,” in everyday conversation can help make you a better communicator. Or, using idea 4), “Become a questioner,” will aid in keeping your mind active and engaged while solving everyday problems.
The dozen ideas are applicable, in general, to life-long learning. And, they are useful, whether you are learning for earning, OR yearning for learning! :-)