Did you enjoy school? Do your children enjoy school?
I mean, not just going to school, but actually learning.
I had thought that most people would answer yes. When I asked my friends, family members, and co-workers, however, a surprising number answered in the negative.
Children and adults alike seem to enjoy learning new skills and have a fascination with facts. Our flexibility when it comes to learning, after all, is what separates humans from most other lifeforms.
Why is it that schools, supposed places of learning, sometimes fail to capture our imagination?
Does that also mean that we no longer ‘learn’ once we leave school?
The value of acquiring new skills and knowledge over a lifetime cannot be underestimated.
Why is lifelong learning important?
As an adult, have you ever found it difficult to learn anything that you did not need to?
For example, could you teach yourself Calculus or Ancient Greek, or to play or read music, or a new sport?
Students go into schools every day and take part in lessons. Their main reason for learning is to achieve high exam results.
The promise of high exam results may incentivise some students; however, for most, it does not make them happy to learn. School life can feel like a monotonous treadmill. Most are content to “get by”, rather than to cultivate a complete and deep understanding.
Education is fundamentally important to your chances of a successful and fulfilling life.. The more you know, the more you will be able to leverage that knowledge to earn more, give more, live longer, and ultimately grow as a person.
In this world, it has never been more important to keep upskilling, re-evaluating your understanding, and building your knowledge. This world is becoming more complex at a rapid rate with the digital revolution, and the job economy of the future will judge those who are unable to bring value to the market more ruthlessly than ever. This is because the traditional lines and structures are changing ever more rapidly. A good example of this is the current digital currency revolution (cryptocurrency).
What has tuition got to do with it?
The continuous strain put on school resources means that very often, where parents are not actively involved in their child’s education, it is pretty much a matter of failing to achieve their potential or falling through the net.
If grades are not attained, a child will often leave school feeling disengaged and disillusioned.
Tuition Centres and bespoke tuition can have a positive impact on student’s perception of learning, as students no longer feel they are simply making up the numbers. In the past, tuition used to be only available to the upper-classes: no more. Now, tuition is more accessible than ever, and it is possible to learn in group classes, one-to-one, and online.
It starts now
We believe there are five main reasons why educators fail to engage students:
1. Students do not understand the concepts or explanations
Imagine you are a student sitting in a large class of thirty students. Your teacher is going through a topic that you barely understand.
As a fifteen-year-old, would you put up your hand to ask the teacher to explain the topic again, especially when it looks like most of your friends have understood the topic?
Most teachers want their students to understand a topic, so the motivation of the teacher is not in question. Whilst it is not difficult to test whether all twenty-five of your students understand a topic, it is quite another thing to manage and help every child who falls behind.
In a smaller and more private setting, it is far easier to gauge students' understanding. Think about how much people are willing to pay to give their children an education at a top independent school, most of which have much smaller class sizes.
Smaller group tuition classes allow tutors to more easily grasp their students' levels of understanding. This allows action to take place quickly in response to concerns.
2. Students require more foundational support or a greater depth of understanding
The reason why tuition works is that we can more easily acknowledge the slight and extreme differences between each student. It is easier to target specific learning styles that appeal to certain students as well as address any gaps in learning..
I have worked with both students who cannot read by year 6 and students who are working at close to GCSE level at primary school. It is thus essential that an educator discovers the difference between each student.
If a tutor acknowledges these differences, and a child's educational needs are directly targeted, progress can be made quickly and efficiently.
3. Students do not find lessons enjoyable
Making lessons enjoyable can be the most challenging part of tutoring. I think one of the main reasons why some students do not enjoy school as much as tuition is because the first two reasons are not being addressed. Most of us do not enjoy what we do not understand and we desire material to be pitched at our level.
There are, however, additional ways to make a lesson interesting. One way is to play games that give the students a mental workout at the start and end of class.
Another is to allow the students to develop their understanding of a topic more independently so that they feel empowered in their learning.. Allowing students to take centre-stage in the classroom is an art form in itself.
4. Educators do not give their students confidence
Confidence is one of the keys to learning. I remember, I once taught a student who was in year 10. When we first sat down together, she would avoid even attempting questions that involved any problem-solving and thus would gain mediocre scores in her exams. She seemed on course to achieving B grades. She was, nonetheless, a bright girl, capable of excellence. I knew at once that I needed to teach her about the joy of problem-solving and the value of failure.
From our classes, I witnessed her confidence grow and blossom. She ended up gaining top grades at both GCSE and A-Level, and she is now studying Architecture at University College London. In my time at Redbridge Tuition, I have seen so many similar cases.
Mentoring students and developing their confidence is much easier to achieve in smaller group classes than in a packed school classroom. Teaching students how to believe in themselves, utilise resources effectively, and understand how they learn are the duties of a tutor.
5. Students do not understand how a topic or subject relates to them
I had an amazing history teacher at secondary school. He made sure that students understood how History was important for understanding current events. He wove together fantastic stories as if he were a walking documentary. He also talked to us as if we were grown-ups and believed in our abilities to engage in a dialogue on the subject.
How many mathematics teachers approach teaching quadratics equations in this way? Are they able to build a dialogue between students? In my experience, rarely. This is one of the reasons why Eddie Woo is such a brilliant mathematics teacher and why Walter Lewin mesmerised his audiences in Physics lectures at MIT.
Mindset and Motivation
Having the right mindset can change everything.
How do we attain the mindset to learn? Some students seem innately self-motivated and seem to love learning. Others, some even with extraordinary ability, find learning a chore.
The attitude developed towards learning is important. If a child (or indeed an adult) fails at something, then the take away from that should be, “what do I need to do to understand this”, not “I am a failure. I just can’t do it”.
There is a famous story about George Danzig, a famous mathematical scientist, who walked in late into a university lecture and copied down two problems from the board for homework. After several days, he was still struggling with them and eventually solved them. He later realised that these two problems were not homework at all, but two maths problems that had never been solved.
I teach a year 6 class, and it is fascinating how even at a relatively young age, students' ideas about certain subjects become fixed. Children become convinced that they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at subjects. This is why we need to be careful with the language we use when working with children, as their mindsets are shaped by the adults in their lives.
Compare the following:
- “It’s okay. You’re just not a mathematics person”.
- “Don’t worry. Girls aren’t good at mathematics”.
- “Well. You struggled on question 3, 4, and 6. Let’s go through those questions and practise some more”.
Which response is the best?
Language is codified. Students read into it all the time. I am always careful about the feedback I give each student.
There is a famous saying:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
We can interpret this quotation a few different ways, as I think that this quotation works on many levels. Perhaps the most relevant way I can understand this quotation is the way it reminds me of the sadness and insecurity students sometimes feel when they achieve a poor test score. This poor test score can destroy a child, because it places them in a cage.
Students start to believe that there is no way out of this cage; that their destiny is to remain mediocre. Furthermore, to not dream about what it is possible to achieve with some application.
Teaching students to work through their failures may not lead to them becoming experts in a subject, as there are many different intelligences, but they can show them that they are capable of a great deal more than they had anticipated: an altogether more important lesson. In order for our students and children to change, we also need to change. In order for them to have a mindset for success and to stay motivated in learning, we have a responsibility to demonstrate this through our actions and words.
Educators have to protect their students from their own self-judgment by acting as a source of belief, but they equally need to be models to aspire to. They have to help the student translate that into a more open mindset that takes on challenges and problems rather than shy away from them.
Tutor to the future
At Redbridge Tuition centres, we address these issues directly. Through our carefully constructed programs, our students cultivate a love of learning and quickly gain confidence through close interaction with our dedicated tutors.
Invest in your child's future today and give them a brighter tomorrow. After all, learning is a lifelong journey!
If you want to find out more about the way the exam system functions as well as understanding more about the advantages and disadvantages of an exam-based assessment regime, check out our blog titled: 'The Grading System During Lockdown: GCSEs and A-Levels'.