Independent learning. | Julie Holdsworth


Last week I focussed upon making the most of the summer period for younger students by continuing reading for pleasure, attending camps where you can and capitalising on reducing the brain drain effect.

For my final article for this academic year I will continue with that theme but for those older students who have still some worries ahead waiting for the grading of the end of school examinations.

This term has been traumatic in many cases and one where the norm has been challenged greatly, however we still need to ensure that we keep in mind that time moves on and very soon the new academic year will be knocking on our doors again.

No one is totally sure about the future still but never the less there have to be some choices made. Use the summer to prepare properly and make good and significant plans.

I’m not saying we cannot enjoy this glorious island or the weather but don’t let the summer downtime take over and stop you making inroads into preparing for the next year. It is likely to be a challenging year for students who are entering the Bachillerato, IGCSE and A level period from September.

Yesterday, I met with concerned parents who have twin boys waiting for the predicted grading which will be awarded in August. Worried that as typical young teenage boys they had not put in enough effort in the earlier part of the year and were relying on the final surge, which we see so often at MTA, to give a big enough boost to see them through on the exam day. Now worried about how this will impact upon the next year and how they cope with A levels.

My advice is that they need to reflect on the last 3 months and take some of the positive learning experience that has come from it. There was a responsibility for independent learning; not everyone was up to it but all students were exposed to it.

In general students suffer from two main issues: procrastination and motivation to get the job done. They tend to want to be just ‘done to’ and told the answer rather than taking the responsibility of learning for themselves. This is quite apparent throughout the academic year but is even more so when the going gets tougher, like this year.

Success is not about being talented but about practise and hard work. Many students from secondary through to A level are not prepared to make the sacrifice of spending time practising or taking the responsibility for their own learning. As adults we should look to give them a hand to self-discover the importance of independent learning.

This is exactly what good tutors do; at MTA we are continuing to support this throughout the summer period too, as we know that developing these skills will definitely make a difference to the coming academic year. We now have the pleasure of being able to do it face to face, which is a relief and a fantastic opportunity.

Please don’t think we are draconian and do not believe in holiday time, however the team of tutors here believe that learning to learn independently is a skill that needs honing and takes time. What better time for this to be done when the pressure is off, a time to reflect and make the most of this preparation time. Even 2 to 4 hours weekly will make a difference.

In the first instance as parents or tutors we sometimes want success more than the student themselves but we cannot do it for them. It is a dilemma faced by tutors, schools and parents from all walks of life.

Understanding whether any underperformance is an attitude, knowledge or skill issue is the vital first stage. Where there is a knowledge or skill issue this is fairly easily solved. Additional tutoring in the right environment with the right guidance and practise will turn this skill around. At Mallorca Tutoring Academy we see this regularly; with students who have developed sufficiently over a period of time graduating from us, no longer needing our expertise with their marks remaining strong.

Where the issue is an attitude problem this is trickier and involves other tactics. Raising self-motivation of the student is the only way forward but can be quite challenging.
My top five steps to success would be as follows:

1. Have you asked your child what motivates them? This may not be something grand but as simple as not letting themselves down.
2. Help them set short term goals. Make them very specific and achievable. For instance ‘To increase the percent achievement by 10% for the next examination due.
3. Set specific actions in order to achieve the goal. Again making them very specific and achievable. For instance ‘To practise maths questions for 30 minutes each day for one week.
4. Monitor progress. The most important part is to make sure that the actions agreed are done without fail. This can be the most controversial part as it often receives resistance.
5. Promote success, however small. Positive energy stimulates more motivation.

As parents you generally know your own children very well and will be able to pinpoint attitude knowledge or skills quite easily. However if you are having trouble really getting to the bottom of an underperformance issue or concern don’t be afraid to seek help from school or external tutors.

Remember there are great benefits from taking responsibility of learning for yourself including:
· Improved academic performance.
· A greater ability to learn through distance learning and thus opening up other opportunities for new and exciting programmes at IGCSE and beyond. Particularly at A level.
· Increased motivation and confidence
· Greater student awareness of their limitations and their ability to manage them
· Giving the tutor the ability to provide differentiated tasks for students to meet their own personal learning needs.
· A better stepping stone for students to prepare themselves for university, where the ability to learn through independent study is critical.

We owe it to these students to become mentors as well as teachers and parents. So, during this summer period encourage your children to make the most of their time and if all else fails call in the experts to support you.

Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I remember
Involve me and I learn