I have understood more about academic achievement in the last few years than in all the time I was teaching! Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have been a much better teacher and learning guide.
But – as the saying goes – It is what it is!
I think one of the most important things I now understand concerns learning – how children learn (and why they don’t!). And the biggest and most important things I have learned is that learning is a process.
Yes, you are saying, of course learning is a process. How come you didn’t know that?
I didn’t know, or fully appreciate, that learning was a process until I got into the nitty gritty of why some students learned more easily than others. Specifically, why some students, bright students, came across learning hurdles that often seemed too high to get over.
I had been teaching for many years. I thought that students either knew something or they didn’t and it was my job to help them learn what they didn’t know. I assumed they jumped from not knowing something to knowing it when they understood what they had to learn. It was my job to present information in ways that helped them understand it.
Sounds good, right?
Except that is not how learning works. Children don’t jump from not knowing to knowing in one step. Learning is a process and when children, or anyone, tries to ignore the process learning becomes very difficult if not impossible.
The reason bright kids can’t learn is because we – teachers and parents – are not respecting the process. We are not helping them go through the steps they need to go through.
Do you remember learning to drive? It is something you wanted to do. You got someone to help you learn how to start the car and guide it down a quiet road. Do you remember the fear the first time you put the care in motion, of wanting to drive but not being fully in control of the car? You didn’t yet have all the skills to feel confident to drive.
Maybe you were being taught by a parent or partner. Remember the stress and anxiety and arguments about who said what and why you didn’t understand what you had to do? there is a reason parents are not usually the best people to teach their kids to drive!
Then came the thrill of passing your driving test and the experience of driving by yourself, feeling fully in charge of your destiny!
The process of learning to drive is an example of the four stages of learning.
First, there has to be motivation. You had to want to learn to drive.
Then came skill learning – how to make the car move and go where you wanted it to
Problems came later. You had to adapt how you learned to how you were being taught.
And finally, when you had mastered the art of driving you got a certificate to prove it!
Learning is a process.
Do you think you would have learned to drive if you didn’t really want to?
– Children need to be motivated to learn
Do you think you would have been able to control the care without learning some basic skills?
- Children need to develop the skills they need to be able to learn
Do you think you would have learned quickly if your instructor taught you in a way you liked?
- Children need to make sense of school – of the ways they are being taught.
Do you think you would have passed your test without practice and knowing the rules?
- Children need to master any skill or subject and make it their own.
These learning stages build on each other.
But what about kids in the classroom?
They may not want to learn (Stage 1). Children who don’t want to learn won’t learn.
They may not have the skills they need (Stage 2). These children, no matter how bright, will struggle to learn.
They may not understand how they are being taught (Stage 3). Suddenly school becomes an unpleasant place to be.
They may not get the practice they need to master what they have to learn (Stage 4). Grades plummet and exams are a nightmare.
To make learning even more complicated a student can be at different stages in different subjects.
I am sure you know the angst of trying to get a child to practice something (piano?) when he or she is not motivated.
Or the stress of trying to get a child to learn something when he or she hasn’t got the skills to be able to learn.
And how about that teacher your child dislikes? Chances are the teacher teaches in ways your child can’t understand.
Prepping for a test? Your child needs to practice – but only if he or she is at that stage of learning, otherwise why bother? Nothing your child does will make a difference to the results.
Your child needs different support at each stage of the learning journey.
Please don’t try to make a child learn when he has no motivation to do so. You are wasting your time and energy. Find the key to helping your child want to learn. Then he can start on the process.
Please don’t try to help your child finish homework if she hasn’t got the skills she needs to understand what to do. It’s like driving a car without wheels. Make sure your child has the skills that lead to success.
Please don’t let your child think he is stupid because he doesn’t understand how a teacher is teaching. It’s like trying to learn from someone speaking French when you don’t know the language.
Please don’t make your child review work when he didn’t understand it in the first place. It’s like trying to pass your driving test without knowing the rules of the road.
PLEASE DON’T try to help your child until you know the stage of learning he needs help. You will become stressed and frustrated and your child will become anxious and depressed!
Lots of ‘please don’ts’
And one PLEASE DO
Please do discover the stage of learning in which your child needs support.
Do this so you can offer support that makes a difference, support that helps your bright child overcome learning hurdles and reach his or her full potential.
Find out what stage your child needs support here-
Use this simple free quiz to help you truly understand your child’s learning needs.
Don’t waste any more time, effort or money trying to help your child in ways that just don’t work.
Be kind to yourself, your school and most of all your child.
Take this quiz now. And start your child on their path to success.
When you have taken the quiz let others know what you discovered. Add your thoughts to the comments below.