Successful learning inspires teaching. So let us analyze successful learning process and look at what our learners KNOW, FEEL and DO to be successful.
What are our top students like?
Top learners are good at following their study plan
Regular attendance, always completed homework and self-study plan are the key factors to become a successful learner. An average learner, who wants to perform better, creates their weekly study plan or timetable, filling in time slots with activities like homework preparation, reading, grammar exercising, extra classes, and so on. There is no free time, just impressively busy schedule like an enormous challenge on the way to become a successful learner. Whereas successful learners while creating their timetable, first, fill in time slots with their favourite activities, hobbies, sports, socializing, extra jobs and so on. Once they got these activities planned they fill in free time slots with studying activities around what they love doing. As a result, we have happy, balanced students ready for high performance.
Just being hard-working does not mean being successful
Some students work hard on doing something wrong, as a result, they become really good at doing the wrong stuff. Whereas successful learners are distinguished by their ability to analyze, evaluate and get some help in order to start doing the right things. As we can observe successful learners know how to take control of their learning, identify current learning problem and look for its solution.
Successful learners are naturally curious
They are wondering what is beyond the area of expertise. They are eager to practice and take experiments. Therefore they tend to ask more questions and acquire information by practising. They are often a bit ahead of the classroom as their curiosity pushes them to explore, try and learn from the surrounding environment. Curiosity is closely connected with the ability to tolerate ambiguity and take risks. You can read about using teenagers’ willingness to take risks here.
Tolerant of ambiguity
Successful learners can tolerate ambiguity. They perceive and acquire new structures and meanings easily. They take risks to experiment and communicate the new language. They accept the uncertainty of language phenomena. While the learners who are easily overwhelmed by new information that don’t fit a known rule or accepted standards of understanding considered to be learners with a low tolerance of ambiguity. Generally, these learners are less likely to be successful. People with little tolerance of ambiguity are believed to experience more discomfort while acquiring unknown. They tend to avoid ambiguous situations, or even drop the subject. Whereas successful learners are flexible and adaptable to new learning demands and stressful situations.
Effective users of prior knowledge
Successful learners use their knowledge effectively. Effective use of precedent knowledge keeps them motivated to continue learning. They bring their knowledge to real situations. They apply what is presented and monitor their successes and failures. While acquiring new information, they ALWAYS use their prior knowledge. Successful learners build new ways of communication based on what they have already learnt. They hardly ever say I do not understand what you are talking about. They would rather find connections, associations and whatever comes to their minds while perceiving information. Effective use of prior knowledge is the biggest secret of a smart study.
Good news is that these skills and traits can be taught, used and developed. How do we, language teachers, can help our students to use successful learners «strategies» for improving results?
Identify learners differences
By doing so you will define learning strategies needed to build rapport and lower the affective filter to facilitate learning. Specific learning strategies will help you to design effective course materials and class activities that enhance students’ learning advantages or compensate for their learning disadvantages.
Guide students in use of their prior knowledge
On a day-to-day basis, we should help our students to use the knowledge they already have in their learning process. Eliciting and highlighting, noticing and pointing out their vast prior knowledge will boost its effective use and promote further learning.
We should adjust materials to make them more and more relevant to our students’ prior knowledge or simply select materials which are cognitively supportive and serve as a scaffold to further learning. Doing so will promote these happy remarks in our classroom: “ I like this exercise!” or “ It makes me feel smart”.
Encourage students to make mistakes
Help your students to remove the notion that making mistakes is bad. Make your students realize that they should be willing to make mistakes because these mistakes are called developmental errors. Try to create an atmosphere where your students will be completely comfortable to say what they are willing to say.
Recognize learners` need to be self-reliant once the class ends
We should re-evaluate our teaching so that developing learners` self-management skills started to be one of our priorities. Promoting an ability to self-manage and take control of own learning gives an opportunity for more independent study what makes us more effective coaches and counselors for our teenage learners.
How do you help your learners to become more successful in acquiring new knowledge and skills?