10 Study Tips For Students

In order to be successful, students need to be engaged in the learning process at the personal or individual level.  Each student must take responsibility for his or her own academic progress.  Teachers can only teach; students have to learn.  Students are required to develop good study habits and use their spare time wisely.  Time management is an important skill for all students.  Many educational experts and practitioners agree that the 10 study tips listed below provide a framework for improved student performance.  What other tips would you recommend to students?

1.  Choose suitable places and times for studying.  The environment must be conducive to serious work.  It should be quiet, well lit, comfortable and free from noise and other distractions.  Libraries and quiet rooms or spaces at home would be ideal and  studying must become an accepted routine.

2.  Create a personal study timetable to ensure that you cover every subject each week.  No subject should be neglected.

3.  As individual students you should discover and use your preferred learning styles and study methods as much as possible.  For further information on the 7 learning styles, see my blog post “Individualized Instruction” dated September 2, 2013.

4.  Review and revise important subject content and classwork at regular intervals.  This reduces the need for cramming before important tests.  Vital information should be repeated to aid retention and recall.

5.  Focus on important topics and your weak areas.  It helps to tackle difficult questions first in each study session, when your mind is fresh and you are not tired.  Listen to teachers carefully to find out which topics are the most important.

6.  Test your knowledge from time to time.  Ask yourself questions on the content to be learned or get another person to question you.  Explaining the work to others helps you to understand it better.

7.  Link your studies to real-world goals.  This way you are studying for a purpose and you will be more motivated.

8.  Seek help when you do not understand the material.  Go to teachers or more advanced students for assistance.  Take notes.

9.  Organize or join serious study groups in addition to studying alone.  Different members bring different strengths and perspectives to the group and everyone benefits.

10.  Look after your health.  Eat a healthy diet, drink enough water, get adequate amounts of sleep, exercise, and relaxation, and think positively.  Take breaks during long study sessions.  You do not want to become ill or too tired to function properly at school or during examinations.

This is not a comprehensive list of study tips for students but if these 10 recommendations are followed consistently, they will enable any student to improve significantly his or her grades and examination performance.

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10 Traits of a Great Teacher

Teaching is one of the most important professions in every country in the world.  It determines personal and national development in every sphere of activity.  There are good and bad teachers who inspire or demotivate students.  One has to be careful in selecting teachers since they can either improve or hinder the instructional process.  Fortunately, most teachers show commitment to the task.  After considering various literature reviews and my own experience as a former principal, I have chosen the following 10 traits which are shared by  most great teachers.  Of course any serious teacher can develop these traits.  This is not an exhaustive list of the traits or characteristics of a great teacher, by any means.

1.  Great teachers know their subject(s) and the curriculum very well.  They plan and prepare their lessons thoroughly and set very clear learning goals and objectives for each lesson.

2.  They are highly committed to the education of their students.  Their work ethic is impeccable and they are punctual and regular in terms of their own attendance.

3.  Great teachers demonstrate a genuine love for children and young people.  They still see teaching as a vocation and they provide excellent pastoral care for their charges.  They serve as role models for them and develop productive relationships of trust with them.

4.  Great teachers are patient.  They take the time to understand and remediate students’ learning problems.  They respect their students and they know that students learn by doing.  They engage students and vary their teaching methods according to differing student needs.  They teach critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision making.

5.  They have high expectations for their students.  This belief in the ability of their students motivates the students and pushes them to higher academic and extracurricular performance levels.

6.  Great teachers are calm, firm, fair and consistent in dealing with students.  They maintain discipline and manage their classrooms well.

7.  They have a sense of humour.  Judiciously used humour can defuse boredom and tension in the classroom.  It also helps in dealing with difficult students.  However, they never insult or humiliate any student.

8.  Great teachers seek professional development at every opportunity.  This is how they improve their instructional skills.

9.  They constantly reflect on their own teaching and student learning problems.  They often make pedagogical changes in order to cater to student needs and they give prompt feedback to students.

10.  Great teachers are good communicators.  They build mutually beneficial relationships with students, colleagues and parents.  This tends to enhance student performance.

Great teachers are hard to replace.  They also possess leadership skills and are often engaged in activities in the wider school arena.  Students never forget them or the nuggets of wisdom they pass on.  Many successful adults today say that they owe this success to a great teacher who took a personal interest in them or inspired them, and helped them to achieve their potential.  Great teachers link learning to real life.

10 Features of a Great School

Great schools have many distinguishing features in common.  Some exhibit a number of uncommon features as well.  This post is not intended to be an exhaustive report on all the characteristics of great schools.  It lists, however, 10 features that most educational experts and practitioners consider to be necessary in the anatomy of any great school.  I present them here in no particular order.

1.  A very clear and shared mission and vision for the school.  A contextual philosophy of education for the school is also paramount.  Staff, students, parents and the community need to know the purpose and operational parameters of the school.  Nothing is left to chance.

2.  Very clear goals and objectives which are communicated to the staff, students, parents and wider community.  Everyone in the school knows exactly what he or she is required to do on a daily basis in order to meet the institutional goals and objectives.  This speaks to performance on every level.

3.  Great leadership from the principal.  The principal is both instructional leader and manager of the school.  While both these roles are important, he or she must pay particular attention to instructional leadership.  This is what drives continual improvement in teaching and  learning throughout the school.

4.  A relentless focus on teaching and learning.  This is informed by the belief that all students can learn.  Teachers must find ways to motivate and engage them.  The curriculum is rigorous and teacher performance is regularly monitored by the principal and executive staff.  Teachers and students strive for excellence in academic and extracurricular activities.  Good performance is always publicly recognized and rewarded in various ways.

5.  Parental involvement in the school.  Many studies have shown that students learn better when their parents take a close interest in their schooling and form partnerships with teachers.  Parents can also help in various school activities.  Alumni and the wider community can also offer assistance in many ways.

6.  High expectations for students and staff.  It is common knowledge that students will generally live up to your expectations.  When they know that teachers genuinely care about them and believe in their ability, they work harder and perform better.

7.  A culture and climate which are conducive to learning.  This is reinforced by praise and rewards for good performance and a student-centred approach to teaching.

8.  A safe environment.  Zero tolerance for violence, bullying, drugs, alcohol, offensive weapons, stealing, sexual misconduct, and gangs.  Heavy emphasis on positive values such as respect, honesty, hard work, self-discipline, fairness and caring.

9.  A focus on professional development for teachers.  This includes mentoring, delegation of tasks and additional responsibilities and formal in-house or external professional development courses.  Teachers are accountable for their performance.

10.  Teamwork.  Identification and collaborative solving of teaching and learning problems at the school.  Staff members are empowered to take the initiative and make decisions.  The principal facilitates and monitors this process. ,

One constant among the features of a great school is that good ideas and best practices are shared among the staff.  When decisions have to be made, the first considerations revolve around what is best for the students and the school.

Education vs Job Training

As economic problems beset more and more countries there seems to be a growing global conviction that education should prepare students for the world of work.  We constantly hear employers complain that students are leaving secondary schools with very few work skills, and schools are taking a lot of the blame for this.  Leaders in business and industry are calling loudly for schools and universities to prepare students for the workforce and many educational policy makers are heeding this call.

Many governments all over the world are giving employers a lot of say in school and university curriculum design and are allowing these employers to fund more and more educational programmes, so that students will become more productive when they enter the workforce.  Of course, this also helps governments that are strapped for money to effect some savings.  Developed countries derive much of their economic and military power from improving the skills of their workforce through education.  School-to-work programmes are becoming more prevalent all over the world.  They link schools with workplaces so that students can learn work skills.  They are given job attachments to get work experience and develop a positive work ethic.  Partnerships between schools and the workplace are becoming more and more common.

In 1994 President Clinton signed the “School to Work Initiatives Act,” designed to help students to make a smoother transition into the workforce.  In the Caribbean we are developing our Caribbean Vocational Qualifications with input from employers.

Employers also reap many benefits from arrangements like this.  When employers become more directly involved in education there are inevitable changes in educational policy, leading to a direct connection between education and  workforce requirements.  This is fine once it is kept within certain boundaries.

In today’s rapidly changing world  economy and society I have no problem with a greater integration of academic and vocational education.  This is necessary because of constant changes in the job market.  However, I strongly believe that schools and education should not prepare students for specific jobs or careers.  This would be job training and not education.  Schools are in the business of education, not narrow training for particular jobs.  Job training is primarily the business of employers.  Some may be seeking to save money on training by letting the schools do some of it for them.

I share the view that schools should give students a well-rounded education which would enable them to fit smoothly  into any job or career or move from one job to another with relative ease.  The global marketplace requires that students have an education that gives them good literacy and numeracy skills, soft skills, communication skills, teamwork, critical and creative thinking, good problem-solving and decision-making skills, positive attitudes, self-discipline, punctuality, a good work ethic and good computer skills.  Schools need to provide this kind of education for their students.  A student with the skills above can fit into any work environment and excel.  The employer will find that he needs less job training.

One cannot just train students for specific jobs or careers which may change or become obsolete in a few years.  A few years from now there will be jobs which do not exist at this moment.  Students need to be educated in a broad sense, not trained for specific and narrow jobs.  They must be adaptable to whatever jobs or careers emerge in the changing economy and society.  They may even choose to create their own jobs.  Schools and universities should focus on education, not on job training for employers.