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Monday / October 25

Words of Wisdom: Student Academic Success

“Grades are not something you give… but something a student earns.”

We know the truth of the statement that grades are earned, rather than given, but it is not always something that students understand.  And it is our job to help them connect the study habits, behaviors, and habits of mind with the resulting academic success that follows when they engage these three.  We must help students see what and how they need to do to experience academic success.

Getting To Mark The Good Side  

A teacher friend of mine gave me permission to share this story:

Some years ago, she transferred from a suburban school to an urban one.  At the end of the first six weeks, over half of her students had D’s and F’s on their report cards.  As students received their cards, the teacher was bombarded with questions of “Why don’t you like me?” “How come you’re so mean?” “Why’d you give me a bad grade?”

As she listened, she realized her students truly had no idea why those grades were on their cards. They lacked understanding of the connection between the choices they made and their academic success.

That evening, she brainstormed the behaviors, study habits, and habits of mind that she believed led to academic success in her classroom.  Choosing a dozen from the generated list, she made copies of a student self-assessment checklist for her students. (Note that research indicates student self-assessment is a key to stronger student motivation and achievement [McMillan & Hearn, 2008]). The next day she presented students with the checklist, and she guided them to self-assess how often they did the things on the list—and to select one thing they would work to improve for the next six weeks.   At the end of 12 weeks, only about a third of the students earned D’s and F’s.  67% of the class had academic success.

Again she guided students to self-assess and target one area to improve.  At the end of 18 weeks, the D’s and F’s had fallen to only 10%. Over 90% of the students experienced academic success!

Task accomplished, she breathed a sigh of relief and didn’t print any more checklists.

The following day she was met with new student demands: “Where’s that checklist?”  “Where’s that thing we mark the columns?” ”Where’s that paper we mark how we did?”  These students were now earning A’s and B’s and C’s and still wanted the checklist.  She asked them why they would want the list when they were doing well.

Their reply?  “We want to mark it up on the good side!

Making Your Own Checklist

Consider the items you might put on a self-checklist for your students to help them understand how to earn a good grade.  What things would lead to academic success in your classroom?  What behaviors, study habits, and habits of mind could shape their academic success both this year and in years to come?

Even viewing WikiHow’s “How to Be One of the Best Students in Your School” may encourage them in habits that will lead to improved academic success.

May you experience success in all your academic endeavors!

– Alene


References

McMillan, J.H. & Hearn, J. (2008).  Student self-assessment: The key to stronger student motivation and higher achievement.  Educational Horizons 87 (1)  pp. 40-49

Written by

Alene Harris, PhD, is a retired professor from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University who for 50 years was a certified teacher in both elementary and secondary (English Language Arts and Life Sciences) levels. Her background includes 16 years of classroom teaching and 23 years of university teaching, including over 2,000 mostly middle school students, with a smattering of elementary and high school, in urban, suburban, and independent schools; and over 1,000 college students, mostly graduate students returning for a master’s plus teaching licensure, at Peabody College. She is the author of Reclaim Your Challenging Classroom: Relationship-Based Behavior Management.

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