Many students at second level in Ireland, and elsewhere, shall be facing 'Mock-Exams' in preparation for State Examinations quite soon. These often take place before Easter, and Easter is very early this year. Please run through your Work Plans to make sure you're both on schedule, and that nothing has been overlooked.
Each Student is Unique.
Spend plenty of time getting to know your Student's ways; how she reacts if unsure of an answer; or when she wants to say something but is still not confident enough to take the chance. Not only must a tutor listen very carefully, the Student must be confident she has your full attention.
Saying 'that's an interesting point' while checking one's watch, is very off-putting!
Learn what are the things that make your Student's face glow as she talks of them. The Student should know that you are interested in his or her life and what is important to her. One doesn't ask personal questions, one is finding out what music, films, books, poetry, have made her catch her breathe, and sigh. Apart from showing a true interest in your Student, these conversations will be the basis of how the two of you work together in designing the Student-led Work Plans.
Confidence, especially with teenagers, can be very fragile. One has to be careful and vigilant. One must learn the Student's parlance, as a word meaning something 'good' to you, may have a totally opposite meaning for your Student. Be open enough to say 'I don't understand what that means, could you give me an example to explain it?'
If a tutor hopes a Student will be open and trusting with her, then the very least a tutor should do is match that openness and trust. Even as confidence seems to be blossoming, it can wilt because of a sudden dip in self-belief, or a momentary embarrassment.
Do not quiz a Student, but try to find out where a misunderstanding, or a different meaning for a word or phrase, could have led to a loss of self-belief or embarrassment. One has to say straight out that there appears to have been a misunderstanding. Say something like:
"One or other of us seems to have the wrong end of the stick. Either or both of us could be mistaken so, let's go back and try to find how and when the misunderstanding arose".
The dual purpose of this is, firstly, to show your Student her feelings and ideas are both important and respected, and an effort will always be made to uncover how a misunderstanding may have happened.
Secondly, once the Student knows that every detail is thought to be important, and open to questioning, he or she will feel a license to take more chances with ideas and propositions, knowing everything will be considered and taken seriously. Also, she shall become more confident in questioning your ideas, and looking for supporting evidence from you for your own opinions.
The Student must know that there is no such thing as a silly question, and nothing is sacrosanct.
Every student needs support, encouragement, and the knowledge the tutor is present because she wants to be there, to help however she can, and do all that is reasonable to assist the Student acquire the skills she needs.
[GOOD QUALITY DICTIONARIES are frequently available now in charity and discount shops for a very reasonable price, as many people become more reliant on their 'spell check' and 'grammar check' facilities on computers and laptops. I believe an old-fashioned dictionary giving a broad range of uses for a word, its etymology, its first known use, and other nuggets of information, cannot be beaten as a source and resource. One can be led into reading further, and discovering gloriously odd words.
I believe strongly 'spell checks' only works properly if the user is an almost flawless speller, and very few of us is that!]
Metacognition is rising in importance as educators realise its significance and develop learning experiences to complement their existing assignments. “Exam Wrappers”, developed by Marsha C Lovett, ask students to reflect on the questions they got right and wrong, what was effective in their studying and what was not, and prompts them to use this reflection to improve their habits for the next exam.
[Metacognition – the process of thinking about thinking, and Growth Mindset – the inner belief that abilities can be developed through hard work.]
There is no reason that these reflections should be limited to exams, but could be used to help students reflect on homework, projects, collaborative work with classmates or extra mural interests, by highlighting the meaningful questions and scaffolding self-reflection. A Student can often start more easily reflecting on the contributions of fellow-students to a joint project. That can seem a more objective route to starting taking things apart and putting them back together, to work more smoothly, more immediately. As with re-using a Student's homework, originally prepared for the School teacher, in co-operation between the tutor and the Student, as discussed below, this helps the Student to see where she might have made an idea or opinion clearer and more forcefully.
Meta-learning activities involve reflecting on:
* What one already knows, what levels of skills one has, and what character qualities one has developed: prior knowledge, skills and character qualities
* What one needs to know, what levels of skills one needs, and what character qualities are required for the learning task at hand: required knowledge, skills and character qualities
* Which learning strategies are best for the task: learning strategy choices
* How the learning processes are going: on-going formative evaluations
* What learning achievements and outcomes have been reached from the learning experience: summative evaluations.
Above posted by C M Rubin, 12 Dec 2016, added to by I C O'Brien, 28 Dec 2016.
The list of Meta-learning activities above, is really what the Student and tutor work out for themselves together, developing skills, and practising them. They discover together the Student's best learning style, and how she develops with a good deal of practise, plus support, a process to evaluate her own work, which are parts of the basis of how their partnership works.
A tutor does NO favours to her Student by NOT pointing out errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax etc. One has to have the courage to tell the truth. It is part of the job ~ a Student needs to know you are watching out for the errors she does not yet recognise.
Equally, a Student should be encouraged only to ask someone willing to make a in-depth, critical, evaluation of her work ~ the good and the bad ~ to read and respond to her compositions. Asking someone who likes to be thought of as a 'nice' person, to give a true evaluation of composition, is of no use to a student who requires honesty and clarity!
Students need to learn critical self-examination, using an open mind, to assist them in evaluating their own work. This is not just a skill necessary for secondary school, from first year onward, but it should be developed as a life-long skill, for further education, for work life, and for general living.
Students do not always get sufficient, insightful, feedback on their homework and projects. Teachers are frequently under time pressure, and may not be able to give the level of response to students' work that they would wish to.
Tutors can have the opportunity to watch a Student use a complete session, to take apart a piece of her own work in a forensic way, to rearrange sections to provide a more enticing introduction, a better arrangement of the known facts or ideas (whichever is appropriate to the exercise) ensuring that full value is drawn from each, and concluding with a punchy winding up of all the data detailed previously. This degree of objectivity of one's own work is the result of writing, writing, writing. Nothing else sharpens the style like constant, and constantly edited, writing.
Every Student, and anyone who wishes to become educated, needs a broad vocabulary, which is best gained from constant reading from a wide spectrum of material, not just that on the syllabus or curriculum.
Working with the syllabus and for pleasure, we all have to be able to enter into worlds unlike our own ~ in era, in location, in social stratum, in accepted mores, in ideas of equality or inequality, and the consequences for those who transgress the rules, written and unwritten. To understand as well as possible the subtleties and meanings of these works from societies different to our own, we need to have developed a broad-ranging vocabulary, and to check in a good quality dictionary every word we are not certain we understand fully, as we read through the various texts. At Honours Level in the Leaving Certificate, it is presumed a Student will read works around the syllabus, and not just stick to the listed text books.
If a Student declares she cannot bear "Hamlet" or The Industrial Revolution, your relationship should be sturdy enough that a request for a reasoned argument from the Student to be made for dislike of the poet, wholesale, and a specific period or aspect of History; both of which are frequently on the Irish Curriculum for Honours Leaving Certificate English and History.
"I just don't like it" is clearly not a reasoned argument, and if the Student says she needs to come back the following week with her prepared answers, that should be encouraged, and suggested if not forthcoming. The tutor should also ask for a use of quotes from the texts to support the Student's answers. This exercise will apply to this specific piece of work, but is also a continuation of on-going honing of skills for use in answering exam questions, and developing a critical facility.
The habit of quoting from texts, or using examples of the behaviour of characters in dramas, short stories, novels or films, should become second nature. A student should get into the habit of reading, listening, or watching with a pen in hand, ready to make note of an observation which she believes shall prove useful in future written work.
RESILIENCE IN STUDENTS
Just as no-one really knows what goes on in another couple's marriage, no tutor truly knows the influences, obstacles, and adversities a Student may face in everyday life. Resilient students and young people are those who are able to adapt positively to a situation, despite past or present negative experiences. This is not learnt on one's own, one needs help, support, and constant affirmation.
If young people receive support and encouragement to keep trying until they master a task, from family, their peer group, and people they admire, they are much more likely to stick to a task and see it to conclusion. Not everyone has that level of support.
If everyone around her, in the family, and in her social groups, are all aiming to produce the best work they can, the Student is in an atmosphere where she breathes in aspiration.
As a tutor, one can and should encourage a Student to have higher than previously imagined expectations for herself, presuming the tutor truly believes such encouragement is reasonable. Perhaps a tutor is the first person to tell a Student that she is bright, clever, with interesting ideas, and that with application and commitment to consistent work, can make a success of education opportunities. On a one-to-one basis, a tutor has an excellent opportunity to learn the strengths of her Student, which a teacher with a class of perhaps 28+ pupils, may not achieve.
Each Student should be shown respect by a keen and interested tutor. No responsible tutor would dream of suggesting a Student will get A*s across the curriculum in examinations, knowing this to be beyond the capabilities of a Student. It would be stupid and cruel. However, every Student is capable of more than she is currently attaining, using carefully tailored Work Plans, designed by the Student and tutor in co-operation.
As a tutor who is outside the Student's School structure, it is more difficult to assist a Student develop resilience in the School setting. However, a tutor can encourage her Student to join sports, debating, or community work clubs, associated with the School. These would foster a sense of belonging in the School, and representing it, which should help build SELF-RELIANCE. Once a Student learns he or she is quite capable of working out a problem, SELF-CONFIDENCE blossoms.
All of this will lead to the Student gaining the confidence to develop critical thinking, and learning how to mount an argument in defence of a stated position. Original ideas and viewpoints start coming to the Student as text is examined in-depth with this new confidence ~ sometimes coming as a pleasant surprise to the Student!
A young person with hope and constant encouragement, is much more likely to stick with study, and to withstand negative pressures from friends or others. She has a goal of better than previously imagined results, opening exciting new prospects, and as the work output improves, this goal becomes self-fulfilling.
A tutor needs to help steer her Student gently through the Work Plans as designed together. A Student has a great deal going on in her life, and helping her focus on her work with the tutor, will ensure she fulfils her Plans, and the tutor ensures the job is being done for her Student.
A regular assessment of how the work is progressing, within the always limited timescale available, and being of the highest standard the student can produce, re-energises both Student and tutor, and helps keep Work Plans on schedule. Encourage your Student to makes notes of ideas as they come to her, as she notices things that could be improved upon, or changed in the Work Plans, and in how the two of you work together.
There is a glorious balancing act going on when a student is stretching her ideas, vocabulary, and use of imagery, to burst out with new ideas. Ideas new to her, even if thought of by others previously, are what set a session alight. This is one of the great reasons for tutoring, and one hopes the Student gets the same blast of headiness!
CO-OPERATION AND GROUP WORK
RESILIENCE is nurtured in class situations where students work in various groups on specific projects, each group working out for itself who will do which part of the project, through negotiation. There will be an appraisal within the group as to the strengths of the various members.
Learning how to promote oneself for a particular role in this work is a tricky lesson to learn, but very well worth doing, as it shall be of great use to the Student for the rest of her academic, working, and social life. Equally, learning to acknowledge gracefully that one member is outstanding at a certain task, and is the obvious candidate for the work, is a worthwhile social skill to acquire.
TUTORS CAN HELP A STUDENT RECOGNISE HER STRENGTHS
Frequently, a person is quite unaware of their greatest strength(s) because it / they has / have never been apparent to her. As a Student begins getting involved in Class Projects, she shall need to know where her strengths lie. If, while a Student is talking about, or reading a piece she has prepared on a syllabus item, and giving her view as to the nature of the main protagonist / or historical event and how it impinges on the lives of everyone around him / or the society of the time, a tutor should be taking note of her insights, her views on portrayal of character and incident, the language she uses, and how well it suits the topic. If a tutor can tell the Student she showed a deep understanding of the way the author portrayed characters in the work or has grasped the author's implied and overt ideas, and delineated it in clear language ~ the Student has been handed an insight into the quality of her own work. There shall always be elements each of us needs to improve upon.
However, specific achievements as they appear, should always be acknowledged in the moment, as well as noted in the Student's on-going Evaluation. We all need a confidence boost, and a Student should always be told when she does particularly good work, and why you think it is worth mentioning. A compliment is of little use unless the reasoning behind it is given at the same time. You should then ask the student if she sees the point you are making, and ask her for another example. This request has a twofold aim; it reinforces the gain, and clarifies that the Student does, in fact, know which piece of her work is being lauded and why.
RESILIENCE is also nurtured in sport, art, drama or music groups, who meet outside school hours, frequently a mix of classmates, fellow school pupils, and young people from the neighbourhood. These are particularly useful situations for building resilience, as there will be varying degrees of acquaintance between the members of the groups, and young people will have to learn to balance friendships with working towards the best outcome for the group, which can sometimes be a problem, as young people find themselves in situations where they have to make choices they may prefer to avoid.
However, learning to voice one's view in a firm and friendly way, and managing to underscore one's stance with reasonable and politely phrased arguments, is a significant experience and opportunity for a young person in which to flex her resilience muscles in a low risk situation, where most people in the group are known to each other, to a greater or lesser extent.