You Are What You Do – Nurturing Effective Study Habits.

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle, 384-322 BC)

Today we continue to focus on boosting learning development at home, and onto another area with which many people, not just children could benefit: effective study habits. But why? All that is need is to turn off the TV, place the book in front of them, and get them to focus!  The bad news is that effective learning is a little more complicated, the good news, effective study habits are less complicated. As the old maxim goes: It isn’t what you do, it the way that you do it. You can put hours and hours into something every day, but if your approach is ineffective, you will only see limited results.

The study habits that I recommend today, are simple to implement, will help learners get more out of their learning time, and will produce much better results for their efforts. Best of all, they can work for everyone, from primary school kids to university students and adult learners. The hardest part, as with many things, is getting started!

To get you started, I am going to recommend seven practical things you and your children can do to develop better study habits (I call them the “lucky seven”);

  1. Be supportive! They need regular support, patience and understanding, just because they have had a lesson on the topic doesn’t make them experts, let them know that it is OK to make mistakes (because they will happen, whether you want them to or not!). Mistakes are an essential part of learning, so encourage then to embrace making mistakes.
  2. Make space: Where possible, an allocated study space is needed that is free from distractions such as the TV or games consoles, it needs to be kept ordered and free from clutter. Learning materials only!
  3. Lay down the law: Discuss some ground rules regarding their study time and approach. Examples include: what time they will study each day and for how long, they must always keep their study space tidy, no distractions in their study space, or any playtime until study tasks are completed.
  4. Practice time management: Connects with habit number 3, create a study planner/schedule to better handle the study load, and stick with it. Also, arrange a time each day when studies are to begin. This is where you need to be strict, no slack-off or bargaining to do other things instead. Routine is essential to good learning habits.
  5. Give credit where credit is due: Remember to give praise for a job well done, explain what you like about the work and what was done well. This can be a great motivator, especially for children, as they can be very conscious of what their parents think of them.
  6. Go easy on the rewards: The occasional reward is fine, but be careful not to over-do it. The goal is to nurture a love of learning, or at least an understanding of its importance and as a regular habit. If you make learning all about rewards, the work will always contingent on the reward, once the rewards fail to please, performance will decline and interest in study will cease.
  7. Set regular learning goals: This will make sure that study stays on track and you are up to date on what needs to be learned. This is a good reason to be in regular contact with teachers and speak with them about homework tasks. The goals can be coupled with some rewards that can be given at, say when achieving the desired score on a test, or successfully completing a project. Remember, don’t give rewards too often (see habit number 5)!

Consistency is the key to holding all of these together, do these regularly and diligently and positive study habits will develop in no time. I have included some links below to help you look more into how you can help to develop good study habits.

Good luck, and if you have any ideas and suggestions for topics or issues you would like me to cover, or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me either on the online form or email at missinggrade@gmail.com

Links:

Featured Image: https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/good-study-habits

https://blog.edmentum.com/7-tips-parents-help-your-child-develop-effective-study-skills

https://www.parents.com/kids/education/homework/developing-good-homework-habits

How Was School Dear? – The Missing Link in Education – Part 2

“Asking Good Questions is Half of Learning” Elijah Muhammad

As an educator, I feel Mr. Muhammad hit the nail on the head and today we will continue to look at the power of parent questioning. In the current climate created by the coronavirus, with many schools opting for online learning until the crisis is over, and also the rise in home-schooling globally (I will be writing an article about this soon), parents are ever-more important in today’s education.  

As the face of education is changing rapidly in the 21st century, it is not just students and teachers that need to ask effective questions to encourage deep learning, but as we established in the previous post, parents also have the power to boost their child’s learning success, but are often over-looked in the learning process. Parents have a tremendous opportunity to enhance learning daily, if only they knew how ask the right questions.

Today we will continue to look at asking effective questions to help your child get the most out of their education and encourage deeper learning, which will help them to get the most out of their home study time. First, we will need look at the different levels of learning that students experience, but don’t worry, we aren’t going to get too technical!. To start, I need to introduce you to a gentleman by the name of Benjamin Bloom.

Mr. Bloom, along with a committee of educators in the 1940s and 50s, devised a “hierarchy” of six levels of knowledge that are used as educational objectives, each subsequent level ascends in importance, but all are needed to develop deep learning. Student learning begins at the bottom of the hierarchy and aims to reach the top. Please bear with me, the importance of this in how to ask your child effective questions will all become clear!. The featured image (https://www.niallmcnulty.com/2019/12/introduction-to-blooms-taxonomy/)  demonstrates the six levels.

In short, Level 1 indicates the “shallowest” level of learning, where a student knows that something is right, for example, The Earth is one of the “terrestrial” planets in the solar system, but they may or may not know why it is right as they may not know (or have been taught yet) exactly what “terrestrial” means in this context).

So, to help your child attain deeper levels of learning while completing their homework, there are a series of questions that parents can ask which will help them “climb up” to the higher levels of learning indicated in the hierarchy. An important point to appreciate is that the level of questions asked depends at what stage your child is studying a particular topic. There is nothing to be gained from asking a “Level 5” question when your child has just started learning a topic and is most likely at Levels 1 or 2, as being unable to answer the question may be demoralising for you child, and may cause them to become insecure in their ability to complete the task. If in doubt, start with “lower level” questions at the beginning and then build to higher level questions as they progress in the topic.

There are many useful resources to find such questions (links can be found at the end of this article), listed here are just a few of my favourite questions to use, which I have found to be effective when interacting with my students;

Level 1 (Remembering): What is…? Who was…? When did….. happen?

Level 2 (Understanding): How would you compare…? Which is the best answer…? What is meant by…?

Level 3 (Applying): How would you use…? How would you solve…? What would happen if…?

Level 4 (Analysing): How is …… related to …..? Why do you think…? What is the function of…?

Level 5 (Evaluating): How would you improve…? What way would you design…? What conclusions can you draw…?

Level 6 (Creating): What is your opinion of…? Would it be better if…? Based on what you know, how would you explain…?

Just type the phrase “bloom’s taxonomy questions” into a search engine and you will be able to find many good sources providing a whole array of questions, there are even question sets that are specific for science, social studies, math and virtually any school subject you can think of! To get you started I have included some links below where you can download PDF documents that provide lists of questions that you can ask your child, of course you are free to rephrase these questions to suit your child’s age group and ability, the ultimate goal is to help them understand and use effectively what they know to deepen their learning.

Links: https://www.bloomstaxonomy.org/Blooms%20Taxonomy%20questions.pdf http://www.asainstitute.org/conference2013/handouts/20-Bloom-Question-Cues-Chart.pdf https://www.harford.edu/~/media/PDF/Student-Services/Tutoring/Using%20Blooms%20Taxonomy%20to%20Promote%20Critical%20Reading%20and%20Thinking%20Skills.ashx

How Was School Dear? – The Missing Link in Education – Part 1

“How was school dear?”, a question asked by millions of parents to millions on children worldwide, a question that transcends all cultures and national identities. It is a question that is often the first, and also tragically, the only question many parents ask of their child’s school day.

At this point I am sure some of you reading this maybe thinking “oh great, another article knocking parents”, but actually I am on your side on this! On a daily basis parents and teachers encourage children to ask questions, and as an educator I have been trained to ask the right questions to encourage learning, but what of parents?

Parents are an essential part of a child’s education, and schools like parents to be more involved in the learning process, but how much information and support are given to parents to assist them in helping their children reach their fullest potential?

Well, starting today I am going to give you some help and insight into asking the right questions to boost your child’s learning when they are at home. This article will be the first in a series which will guide you in asking the right questions, don’t worry, it won’t get too technical and I’ll avoid the jargon as much as possible!

So today we will start with what I call “general inquiry questions”, these are questions that you can ask which will give you a clearer picture of what your child is learning at school, and will also help you gauge if they understand what they need to do, and what is required of them. OK, let’s get to it…

“Asking Good Questions is Half of Learning” Elijah Muhammad

No doubt you are very keen to help your child with their study and would like to know more about the task they’ve set and what it is they are meant to be learning. The following questions are simple examples that can help you assess if they know and understand what they are doing, and will help you get a better picture of their learning experience.

Some simple (but effective) questions you can use to get you started are;

  1. What information / resources do you need to do this task?
  2. Where are you going to look for the information?
  3. Where do you think you should begin? Why here?
  4. What do you need to do next?
  5. Can you describe how you’re going to complete this task?
  6. How did you solve this problem / complete this task?
  7. What did you try that didn’t work? Why didn’t it work?
  8. Why does this answer seem right to you? Do you know any alternative answers?
  9. Tell me more about this part?

If your child is unable to answer any of questions 1- 4 then you should contact the teacher / school for further clarification or assistance, questions 5 – 9 are to help you check your child’s understanding and will help to ensure that they are thinking deeply about what they are doing, which will help develop better understanding of the topic. 

What do you notice about these questions? Answer: your child has to explain in some detail, there is no room for yes / no responses. All of the above questions, and the ones I will share in subsequent posts encourage your child to think deeper about what they are doing and learning.

Extra tip! In addition to asking your child to explain any learning points, you can even ask them to teach you what they have learned, the ability to explain clearly and concisely is a clear indicator of understanding and “learning through teaching” can be a very effective way to consolidate knowledge.

As Albert Einstein famously said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Parents are and always will be, essential to the learning process of their children, and equipping parents with the right tools to help them can only improve education further and give parents a greater stake in their children’s future, this counts for all parents and not just those that homeschool.

In the next post we will look into other types of questions, ones that help probe their understanding and foster deeper learning. In the meantime, I would love to hear your ideas and feedback on today’s article, and by all means share your ideas for new article topics on the things that matter to you regarding your child’s education.

See you next time!

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