Dean of Learning
We are well into the first term of 2017 and our students are wrestling with the challenges that their learning presents. Many students are undoubtedly feeling worried and concerned about the learning tasks they need to complete and they may feel anxious about the marks they will receive for an assignment or an exam. This anxiety can present itself in a variety of ways.
Some students will avoid the work, they will find distractions and procrastinate about the work to be done. When an assessment is set by a teacher the deadline can appear far away and there may seem to be no urgent need to start work. In a busy term with sporting engagements, music festival rehearsals and other commitments time can get away from students and suddenly they may find themselves facing a deadline which can appear impossible to meet. Thus the very procrastination that reduced their stress can now be the reason that they are stressed and anxious about their ability to complete a task to the best of their ability.
Other students sit themselves down to write copious notes. In many cases this note writing involves moving chunks of information from one place to another and making it look beautiful. Many students then set about memorising the notes and get very anxious about their desire to memorise every detail they have included in their notes. This strategy can lead to stress when students enter a test or assessment and find that memorised the information doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand it or can use it to answer a question or convey an argument. This strategy is particularly frustrating because students perceive they have worked hard and parents remark that their daughter spent hours or even days making notes and memorising them, but then they are not rewarded for their work in the mark that they receive.
So what is the answer to this anxiety and stress about learning and the assessment that accompanies it? The key to avoiding these negative emotions is for our students to take control of their learning and the tasks they have been set. When your daughter is worried about a given task encourage her to carefully read the task requirements and the assessment criteria provided. Students should jot down questions about aspects of the task they are unsure of. These questions might be about the nature of the task or about the topic it tackles. It is essential that students seek answers to these questions from their teachers and fellow students. If they attempt to guess the answers to the areas they don’t understand, they will miss out on valuable marks.
Students should break down any assigned task to smaller chunks and work out how long each part of the assignment or revision will take. Each element of the task should then be allocated to a schedule of when it will be completed thus minimising time spent wondering what to do or how to start. This might take some time but it is a worthwhile investment. At times students get so stressed that they just want to start writing, but having a good plan will save time and anxiety later on.
These are two elements to successful learning: understanding the requirements of the work and organising time in order to meet the deadline. These are vital life skills that are not only essential to success in study, but are invaluable in any work place.
Mrs Carolina Murdoch
Dean of Learning