Improving Academic Performance

Five Powerful, Free Resources for Improving Performance in School

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Wed, Dec 28, 2016 @ 10:00 AM


3-reasons-private-tutor.pngIn the past few years, I’ve read a lot of articles and visited many web-sites to learn more about what drives academic performance and to identify mutually beneficial partnerships. I have chosen one web-site, one “app,” one blog, one online course, and one podcast. I believe any given student should at least be familiar with many of the ideas covered by each of these resources. As such, parents, high school, college, and graduate students, as professionals of any age, could benefit from spending time exploring each resource below.


#1. Web-site: www.mindsetworks.coma web-site about a powerful but simple idea; your intelligence is like a muscle that grows with use. It’s not a fixed trait that you inherit.

I list this resource first because if your goal is to improve performance at school or on standardized tests, becoming familiar with the “growth vs. fixed” mindset concept is critical. Many people assume that IQ = Intelligence and that you are given a certain amount of each when you are born. By working hard, you can reach your “potential,” but can’t go any farther than that. The implication of this line of thinking is that, if you are finding a class extremely difficult, it may just be that you “aren’t wired” to be able to excel in that particular subject area. For example, you just “aren’t a math person.”

However, there is another mindset called “growth.” In this mindset, you naturally assume, or train yourself to believe, that intelligence is something you build, not a trait you inherit. When you challenge yourself and struggle to understand something new, you’ll slowly become smarter or more intelligent over time as you build new connections in your brain.

Now, the extent to which measured IQ can change significantly over time is debatable. But, a Stanford Psychologist named Carl Dweck developed, tested, and has designed practical applications around the insight that people who believe in the growth mindset are, basically, correct, and those with the “fixed” mindset are wrong. So much of what we accomplish in school, at work, in athletics, and in life is based on skills that we build with practice, and a growth mindset encourages us to keep trying, practicing, and building these skills. Dweck also wrote a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

By visiting www.mindsetworks.com you’ll be able to explore the fixed vs. growth mindset science and read case studies that show students who simply adopt the growth mindset perform far better in school without additional training or instruction, and much more.

#2. Blog: http://danielcoyle.coma blog built around the idea that deliberate practice is the key to getting really, really good at anything

If you adopt a growth mindset, you believe that you can build your intelligence and your skills over time. By simply making it more likely that you’ll work hard and try to improve, you are far more likely to improve and perform better. But, Daniel Coyle’s blog and his book, the Talent Code, reveal the science behind specific strategies for practicing and studying more effectively that lead to more rapid improvement. It reveals how to build skills. The book and his blog cover many different topics and domains, but academics is certainly one of them.

#3. Online course - Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjectsan online course that teaches you how to become a more effective learner through a mixture of neuroscience, psychology, and education theory, as well as practical advice about how to apply the theory.

If you are already in high school or college and taking a full course load, it might seem crazy for me to suggest that you take an additional course in your spare time. However, having taken the course myself, I can tell you that if you did invest the time in the course, you’d likely pick up a few study techniques that will improve your ability to master tough material so much that ultimately, the time you’d save in the rest of your education would far outweigh the time you spend taking the course now.

What types of things are covered in the course? Here are some examples: the two fundamental “modes” of learning your brain uses, how to “chunk” information to better understand it, creating frequent “mini tests” to improve your ability to learn new material, how to deal with procrastination, memorization tips, counterintuitive test taking strategies, and more. The author of the course, Dr. Barbara Oakley, also wrote a book about learning strategies if you prefer that to taking the course.

#4. Podcast: http://thepsychologypodcast.coma podcast by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman where he will “give you insights into the mind, brain, behavior and creativity.”

I think it’s rare to find a podcast that finds a way to cover highly academic and intellectual material in accessible, entertaining way. As the description suggests, Dr. Kaufman covers a variety of topics that are relevant to learning how to enjoy your academic life and perform better in school.

#5. Smarphone app: https://evernote.com/ - a note-taking app that lets you “capture, nurture, and share your ideas across any device.”

One of the keys to a successful academic and professional life is organization and prioritization. For example, in my view, the key to being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to manage your time and effectively prioritize across competing obligations and activities. Effectively capturing your thoughts and designing a system of notes on key projects and key “to-dos” is critical for me, and indeed for any student as well. Having my information and ideas captured and organized electronically is made possible through the system I have designed in Evernote. I can create notes, put them in folders, and organize by topic according to due dates and importance. Designing your own organization system for getting things done is very important. I designed my system after reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Interestingly, science suggests that when it comes to taking notes on academic material, you’ll typically retain more by using pen and paper. Evernote allows you to type notes directly via computer or smartphone application, but also to upload images or videos and categories them as notes. These uploaded files can be tagged and are often searchable. So, sometimes I’ll take handwritten notes, snap a picture, and upload to Evernote to incorporate into my overall system.


I hope you find some time to explore these resources. You won’t be disappointed.