So here’s the big question: Why are the majority of students these days—especially from high school through college—not learning what they should?
Picture this: A new coach is talking to his team. “Alright team, are you ready to go? We’ve got a lot of work to do. Remember: The name of this game is practice, getting better each day, listening to what I teach you, working as a team, setting goals, and being dedicated to becoming a winning basketball team.”
One of the team raises his hand: “Sounds great, coach, but what is basketball, anyway?”
Teaching based on assumptions
Picture this: At the beginning of the semester, the teacher says to her students: “Alright, listen up. This course is about American history. You’ve got a lot to learn, it’s going to take a lot of work on your part. You have to pay close attention to what I have to say. You have to study, study, study at home. I want you to participate in classroom discussions. I want you set goals each day to learn more and more about history. If you do all this, you’ll learn history. Okay, are you ready to start?”
A hand is raised: “Ms. Smith, what exactly is studying, and what does it have to do with learning?”
A fundamental micro-problem
Putting all the broad problems of education aside, I think the biggest problem is, ironically, a micro-problem. It’s the reason everything else, big and small, is out of whack. I believe that students don’t understand what studying is, what it means in terms of time—and its relationship to learning, for that matter. They’re clueless.
Researchers who examine the behavior of students tell us that students in high school and college are studying fewer hours per week than ever. Yet they are getting grades higher than ever. (It’s a complex and complicated situation, but it’s true.) Is it surprising that these students see no connection between studying and learning?
If there were a poster in every classroom proclaiming that Learning is the Result of Studying, and Studying Requires Time, I wonder what students’ reactions would be. I guess it would be like the reaction of the basketball players: What is basketball anyway?
Students are missing these simple, basic, yet crucial, maxims of studying and learning. You can’t have one without the other. Some schools teach this; some do not. How many hours of uninterrupted study do you think your student puts in during a week (away from the TV in the background, cell phone calls, and other distractions)? You might want to count the hours.
If your student has not yet developed mature learning techniques and created a learning routine in a place that contributes to study, you may have to step in at home, as hard as that may be. Make the connection between time spent studying, (in a quiet place), and learning — and remind your student of this relationship regularly.
If your student is one of the “clueless,” maybe you just have to say, “Get out there on the court and practice, practice, practice!” After all, they’re getting ready for college. That’s the BIG game.