I normally begin the new academic year with a piece on procrastination, and it was watching a group of new students today that really focussed my mind for this week’s article.
We offer A level students the opportunity to work with in conjunction with the MTA tutors and an online partner developing their skills around a blended learning platform and approach. It works really well but does take a different approach from traditional methods.
It is a fantastic stepping stone for independent learning and the development a student needs for future university life. However it does rely upon an individual being able to work somewhat autonomously in order to get the task done.
So, here I was observing my group of students; taking note as to how they were approaching their new syllabus and learning material. Some were definitely more interested in going for it than others. Whilst others were taking just far too much time with ‘pushing paper’ around the desk rather than getting stuck into the task in hand. Needing serious instructions and a big push for quite a simple task.
It is a well known fact that students are prone to procrastinate for many reasons, especially in the run up to exam periods or when receiving new workloads.
At this critical time of year even though our darling teenagers might feel they have lots of time before anything critical will happen, such as examinations, believe me educationally it definitely hots up very quickly.
This first term is critical to set the foundations of an excellent academic year.
The end of this term is a particularly challenging time for sbtudents; coming just before the Christmas holiday period but having the extra stress of mock examinations. Together with a reality check of what the end of term report really might say!
Mock examinations and personal statements together with UCAS entries and supporting English language certificates all need to be kept in mind. You need to have done your homework!
Now, I know for many of us a new term or a new year always starts with good intentions, resolutions and lots of ‘I am going to do’s…’ All good intentions of course, however, if I had made a survey sometime during January 2020 I might have found that much of what we said we were going to do hadn’t started, might have fallen a little by the wayside or had even been put off until February!! Does that ring any alarm bells?
We all know the feeling staring at the cursor blinking away on a blank Word document, desperately wishing you were somewhere else.
A wide array of studies link procrastination to a lack of motivation, deficiencies in self-regulation, too many external influences, feeling the task is mountainous or simply personality traits such as anxiety, fear of failure, low self- esteem and lack of confidence. Of course, it comes as a shock to no one that a link has been found between procrastination and Facebook use. It’s worth noting this study was released in 2008, before the likes of Twitter had joined the ever-expanding social media family.
At MTA we see students who are often talented but simply waste the precious time they have.
So short of therapeutic intervention, is there anything teachers or parents can do to help?
We have to acknowledge that beating procrastination takes a lot of commitment. Parents and tutors will need to act as strict personal trainers and mentors, tough love is the order of the day, do not let ‘Well it doesn’t matter today’ creep in!
Firstly, get rid of temptation. Define a space for “work” and don’t mix that with where you “play”. Ensure that the work space is efficient, clean and tidy. Encourage work only activities to take place there, no additional conversations or interruptions. The same principle applies to the laptop. Once concentration has been broken – by checking emails, for instance – it takes 15 minutes to get back into the “work” state of mind. Turn off all social media, email and any notifications that crop up to grab the attention of the worker.
Secondly, work with restrictions. Make a contract with the student to work for 45 minutes without interruption. You’ll be amazed at how efficient one can be, knowing that you only need to power through a short space of time before you can take a break. However, it is important to get started quickly, the hardest part of any piece of work is usually the start so if you get past this stage, things will only get easier.
Thirdly, most students think they have all the time in the world, sit down with them and map out how long they think it will take to revise all the content of an exam, or how long it will take to write up all the various sections of an assignment. Having a plan and appreciating how limited their time is will help spur them into action.
Even with a plan many students feel that the task is too big. Use the plan, breaking each exam / task into manageable chunks is the only way. A detailed study plan with times, dates and activities is a great base and the feeling of achievement when you tick off a daily task is amazing. Keep it in a prominent place and discuss it daily.
We promote working with a tangible study plan, using it daily and being accountable. When the evidence tells you that the task hasn’t been done there is no hiding place.
There is always good news as help is on hand. At MTA we can offer support from now with revision programmes, university support and homework programmes. So as a parent if you are worried that your child might be simply playing lip service to getting the job done, you can always call in the cavalry!
Finally of course, reflect upon yourself, what behaviours are you endorsing? Are you guilty of procrastination? What have you put off today?