Why are there students who study hard but do not crash?


“I have studied a lot and the test has gone fatal.”

“I know, but I do not know how to explain it.”

“I understand it, but when I have to apply it to a practical case I do not know how to do it.”

These and other similar situations indicate that, having made an effort to learn, many students fail to do so. And if this situation is repeated several times it can arrive (and indeed it arrives!) To generate frustration and demotivation towards the subject that is trying to learn . This unpleasant circumstance could have been avoided if the students were clear, from an early age, what it is to learn and what they have to do to make it more difficult for them than it really is.

One of the most frequent errors in the classroom is that the apprentices conceive the learning in a very restricted way: “Learning is literally memorizing”. In this way they face tasks in a very superficial and passive way, resorting to basic techniques such as the mere repetition of the contents that appear in the texts, without reflecting on the validity of this technique and without conscious intention to understand. They face, then, the task of learning mechanically, reproductively and ineffectively.

Learn strategies to avoid stumbling

Faced with this situation, educational research highlights the importance of helping students to make their theories explicit about what it means to learn and to modify them by teaching them to approach learning situations in a more reflective and effective way.

It is important that the apprentice understands that acquiring knowledge involves memorizing but, most of the time, in a comprehensive and functional way. It is about “learning to learn” in a non-thoughtless way, but deliberate and conscious, which requires the acquisition and use of learning strategies.

Learning strategies are sequences of activities aimed at achieving a goal. Its function is to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge in a meaningful way. These are actions that are set in motion by the learner in an intentional manner, which require making conscious decisions about how to face the task of learning. To do this, you must not only know what activities you can carry out (for example, underlining, schematizing, summarizing, paraphrasing …), but also how, when and why it is important to carry out each of them.

This “conditional knowledge” is key, since it allows the apprentice to use the different learning procedures he knows, not mechanically (underline is not to put lines under certain phrases!), But premeditated.

Strategic learning requires planning what I’m going to do, with what purpose and how I’m going to do it.

But, since the selected actions must be directed towards an objective (assimilating the information in a comprehensive manner), it is also necessary to control one’s own progress during the completion of the task and evaluate, once finished, whether the starting goal has been achieved or no and, in this case, review the actions carried out and modify those that are necessary.

Learning in a strategic way always involves “thinking before”, “thinking during” and “thinking after” acting .

Someone must act as a guide

A fundamental question that can not be ignored is that this type of learning is difficult and, of course, does not depend only on the apprentice, but requires that someone act as a guide: teachers and teachers. In fact, most of the things we learn together with others and, when the learning is complex (and learning to learn is, and a lot), thanks to others!

Therefore, teachers should not be satisfied with transmitting content, but should make a conscious effort to help students learn by understanding. But how to “teach to learn” in the classroom ?.

Two tools are fundamental: modeling and feedback .

  • Modeling. It consists of presenting the contents to be learned by offering a “model” of how and what is thought while reading (for example, what do I do before I start reading an academic text?), Why? How to know what is important for underlining it ?, how can I relate the selected information ?, what can I do to not get lost?).

    It is about thinking aloud to “lend” the students their own thought processes displayed during the reading comprehension, to “make visible” the mental activities that they set in motion to read meaningfully. Thus, learners can observe and develop a clear idea of ​​what they are expected to do when they have to assimilate the content and how to do it.

  • The feedback . The second tool is to offer the student clear and precise information about what he has done and what he should have done, what he does and what he should do so that he can correct and improve his learning process.

In short, as JI Pozo points out in his magnificent book Apprentices and Teachers , the way of learning can not be separated from the way of teaching. Therefore, to avoid situations such as those described at the beginning, it is necessary that both teachers and apprentices address the academic content in a reflective and always conscious manner.

Author Bio:Soledad González-Pumariega Solís is a Titular teacher. Evolutionary and Educational Psychology Area at the University of Oviedo