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How we help students fail in 4 easy steps

Of course I never want your students to fail, or your teaching to be anything less than exceptional. I put forward these observations so we can reflect on what sometimes can go wrong as a student or as a teacher so we can identify our contribution to it and bring the remedy.

Increase pressure: When emotions go up, intelligence goes down. Years ago I read a book called Super Learning. The main point it reiterated is that in order to learn you have to be relaxed. The following points are a few of the ways that we routinely increase pressure on students.

Restrict time: Given the above, if you would like to stress out your students give them a restricted amount of time to do their work. I'm by no means suggesting giving days upon days to do an assignment. However, the classic test - designed to fit into the standard class is a recipe for stress, which will increase pressure and lower the quality of results.

Constrain personal style: Some students speak well, some write well, others make compelling visual presentations with ease, creating engaging design in their own distinctive style. Each student has their own unique strengths. So, rather than limiting their style, suggest a general guiding checklist, and then have a conversation about how they would like to present, package, or inform you about their work. Yes, this takes a little more energy and individualization - but your students will appreciate it and thrive in the freedom. They will learn about how to tap into their communication strengths.

Be impersonal: We love it when we are recognized for who we are. We get frustrated when people talk at us and do not listen to us. When people do not speak from their own personal experience, and treat us like machines. Once I was a student on a canoe instructor course. The leader was attempting to show us how to teach future participants how to do the front stroke. This is a basic stroke for anyone who has canoed. Yet he treated us as if we didn't know how to paddle at all. Within a few minutes the group of us, being treated as if we did not know what we were doing, stopped listening and started behaving ''childishly' - splashing and bothering each other. I chalked it up to the instructor's manner that did not honour what we knew, or who we were, which led the group to less than ideal behaviour.

The point of these examples is to remember to be real with your students. Be honest with them. let them know that you see them, understand their different styles, needs, and let them know who you are too. This will result in mutual respect, lively discussions, and in the end, better results for everyone.

Let us know your thoughts on the topic, and these observations, it's an important conversation. One that brings both teachers and students to more mindful relationships that deliver better learning outcomes.


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