Many people continue to believe that you are either a math person, destined to be able to do math easily, or you’re not. If you’re not, math classes will always be hard, and you’ll never be comfortable with numbers and calculations. This type of thinking is seriously misguided, and really sends the wrong message to any student that is exposed to this idea.Read More
Improving Academic Performance
There are a few things we know for sure about individuals who perform really well in school, get really good at a sport, or become highly skilled musicians or artists. And if you think one of those things involves having a special gift, an innate talent, or an especially high IQ, you’d be wrong. The latest science suggests that the following concepts and questions factor heavily into whether a student builds skill and ultimately performs well in any given academic, athletic, or artistic domain:Read More
If you’re applying to private high schools soon, you need to plan the months you’ve got ahead of you. The admissions process is very competitive, and you have to make sure you’re on top of your game every step of the way. While there are definite protocols to follow such as reading the application instructions carefully and going through multiple drafts of your essays, there are also some don’ts to keep in mind. Take a look at 5 mistakes to stray away from throughout your private high school application journey.Read More
No matter how confident you may feel, final exams can still cause a great deal of anxiety. For many students, the pressure builds even if the understanding of the material is thorough. In more extreme cases, you might begin to doubt yourself, lose sleep and fail to remember the information you studied so hard to learn.Read More
We are a tutoring company, and as such parents and students tend to seek us out when they realize some extra 1-1 help is needed to perform well in an academic class or on a standardized test. However, using a private tutor is just one way to improve your academic performance. In this article, we’ll explore other, perhaps sometimes obvious yet too often ignored or neglected, strategies to try before investing in private tutoring.Read More
In this series of blog posts, we’ll explore how podcasts can help students improve their academic performance and prepare for successful careers. We all know effectively managing your time is a key component of performing well at work and in school, and podcasts are an excellent way to learn new things while you are exercising, walking to class, or on the bus. Podcasts obviously cover a wide range of topics. Apple’s “categories” of podcasts include: arts, business, comedy, education, games, government, health, kids and family, music, news and politics, religion, science and medicine, society and culture, sports, technology, and TV/film.Read More
Students who partake in a college English course (most college freshmen) are under pressure to comprehend a reading, interpret a related inquiry to that reading, and produce an individually written response in return for a grade. This alone may not seem sufficient cause for a mental block, but when we consider that students often have math, science, and other course requirements to deal with simultaneously, taking the time to read critically and write a thorough essay seems difficult, if not impossible.
On top of finding time to complete assignments, the reading is often obscure in both content and author. Another complexity is getting used to an instructor's individual teaching style. It's much more likely that time constraints, content difficulty, and issues with class structure or instruction are the obstacles to performing well in English courses than any sort of personal inadequacy.
One particular technique that, in practice, may resolve all matters is to confront the assignment on a closer level.
First, closely examine the question in its entirety. Then begin to read (or re-read) the text, sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph until there is a mental connection between the question and reading material. Somewhere within the pages of text and the wording of the inquiry is one, if not more, corresponding themes upon which to form the basis of a thesis along with corresponding topics and subtopics. Then you can begin to write.
This phase of drafting is the necessary step in generating ideas and connections between the question and the reading that can be transferred directly into a standard outline. The outline serves as a mechanism for preserving the draft in all phases of composition and revision. The planning facilitated by an outline will save time, boost your grade/score, and will prove valuable in other disciplines. It is the instrument that propels the writing forward and keeps thoughts organized. In essence, the outline exists as a structure that lends itself to incorporating the writer's personal experience and understanding into a formal college essay. Here are a few good outline examples from Explorable.com.
After several iterations, the outline will stabilize to the point where external sources will be required in order to develop and expand the writing beyond the limitations of the course or the student. The first place to look for informational substance is in the course itself and the discussion that emanates from class. It is the main place where crucial judgments can be made regarding what to include and what not to include in the final draft. During this phase, make good use of your college library; it is replete with a variety of publications and librarians who can offer useful advice on how to navigate the seemingly endless supply of research articles, publications, and textbooks.
Reassessing the Writing
As a final step in the drafting process, it may be worthwhile to read the assigned text once again, followed by reading the written response to the text soon thereafter. Although tedious and time-consuming, it could serve a dual purpose. First, to realign the student’s work with the textual source, and, secondly, to initiate a proofreading phase which could provide further motivation to identify and eliminate any lingering syntactical, grammatical, or thematic inconsistencies. The greater the number of intermediary steps preceding the final draft, the stronger and more transparent the conveyance of argument will be.
In conclusion, it's important to examine the question closely and establish connections between it and the required reading while you are reading (and re-reading) the text. Next, it's necessary to build an outline to organize your ideas and keep yourself focused on the prompt. This is an especially important skill that will carry over into other undergraduate and graduate courses.
Research is another essential aspect of your writing, in all collegiate courses. Make use of the resources available to you (online databases, librarians) to make this a much less daunting experience. Always leave time for editing and redrafting, to make sure that the final result is polished and cohesive.
About the Author
Luis Freire has been an English and writing tutor for the past 10 years. For more information on tutoring, click here.
The most typical way people study for a standardized test — be that the SAT in high school or the GMAT long after — consists of solving practice problems, solving more practice problems, and then taking a practice test.Read More
Gamification is one way teachers are getting students to pay attention. Because no one student is exactly the same, a number of different teaching styles and methods have been developed – this includes applying game dynamics, mechanics, and frameworks into the classroom.
Although there have been a number of studies on how gamifying non-game settings impacts students, one result is clear: gamification can make learning more fun and memorable. The three main points of gamification have been identified as motivational ‘affordances’ (the opportunities the actual activities give the subject or the mechanics of the game), the psychological outcome (the resultant change in feeling about an activity during and after the activity), and the behavioral outcome (the change in behavior following the gamified activity). Lee Sheldon, an Assistant Professor at Indiana University at Bloomington reported that his application of gamification in the classroom was a success. He renamed student presentations “quests,” taking tests were “fighting monsters,” writing papers were “crafting,” and letter grades were “experience points.” As a result, Sheldon found that his students’ average grade improved one full letter grade.
One analysis on gamification found that the four dynamics and concepts found in game design that were most successful in motivating students to learn were -
- Freedom to Fail: Rather than focusing on an irreversible final grade, students are encouraged to experiment and take academic risks through the concept of having multiple “lives” or allowing them to start over from their most recent “checkpoint.” This gives students to opportunity to take chances with decision-making and be exposed to consequences. Students can then focus on the process of learning, instead of just their final grade.
- Rapid Feedback: Similarly to a game, continual feedback to learners can also motivate students. Battling a boss in a game using the many skills acquired provides immediate feedback to the player on whether or not they qualify for the next level. This can be achieved in the classroom through self-paced exercises, visual cues, frequent question-and-answer activities, a progress bar, or carefully placed comments by non-player characters.
- Progression: Categorizing information to improve student focus mirrors the ‘levels’ found in game design. Additionally, creating high low points to grab attention also mimics the interest curve students may experience when playing a game. Progression also includes requiring students to incorporate lower order thinking skills into the first stages of a class and then progressing to require higher order thinking skills as they ‘level’ up. This helps students realize they need the knowledge acquired from past stages in order to arrive at the highest order thinking skills.
- Storytelling: There have been numerous studies on how using storytelling elements can increase student attention and retention of information. Storytelling elements include the use of characters, emotion, and other descriptors to help students visualize a lesson. By creating moments of surprise or humor, for example, students are more likely to be captivated and remember the lecture.
Several successful cases of gamifying the classroom have been reported in recent years.
One case is of Clifford Lampe, an Assistant Professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He applies gamification to his 200-student lecture class by providing students with choices, rapid feedback, collaborative processes, and competition. Students also have the option to “choose their own adventure” by selecting assignments, although higher level assignments are not available until they have been ‘unlocked’ by completing lower level assignments. Lampe has concluded that gamification has improved his student’s motivation and retention. Another Assistant Professor, Dr. Carman Neustaedter from the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University found that creating a scoreboard with students’ class ranking in real-time provided the rapid feedback he needed. Each student also earned a rank title, such as “Artistic Intern” or “Grand Master Speculative Designer.” Neustaedter found that the scoreboard has increased students’ motivation and sparks healthy competition.
Beyond the classroom, gamification has also been incorporated in other non-game settings.
Road contractors in 2014 implemented musical grooves on Route 66 to encourage drivers to obey the speed limit. The language-learning app DuoLingo also uses gaming techniques to make what could be a mundane lesson fun.
Despite the many case studies that demonstrate gamification in the classroom can be successful, it must be noted that not all elements of a game are equally motivating to each student. Providing differentiated instruction for students not only means gamification, but also includes other methods of teaching.
About the Author
Rachael Tom is the Marketing Communications Manager at ThinkFun, an award-winning global company and the leading developer of logic and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) games that make learning fun!