Classroom environments are comprised of more than seating arrangements and wall adornments. The overall tone, vibe, feel, etc. sets the stage for how learning unfolds. One of the key yet fluctuating components of the classroom environment is the students who enter it. Even more contributory to the overall environment are the attitudes students bring in with them. Teachers need to be purposeful in ensuring that said attitudes and their reactionary responses give students the ability to be independent thinkers and doers.
Everyone has heard of the expression helicopter parenting. It is typically easy to determine the kids that fall under this hovering model. What many educators don’t realize is that their teaching styles and/or classroom environments are firing up those same rotating blades in the classroom. The result is an environment filled with self-entitled learners with no understanding of the concept of hard work or how to make educational strides of their own accord.
How can the move from self-entitled to self-efficient occur? By making some changes to how information is presented and how students tackle it, a new generation of more independent thinkers and learners will emerge. These tips for moving students toward self-efficiency will allow confidence and self-reliance to take the place of the do this for me environment that may currently exist.
Give students ownership of the learning process from start to finish. Rather than making everyone’s life easier with a lot of pre-learning prep, make students a part of it. Let students gather the materials, do some background research, create a chart for recording information, etc. If they develop it, they will own it.
Focus on offering more formative feedback. Replace the generic nice work, good job, and well done with feedback that pinpoints learning goals achieved and areas that still need to be mastered. With a better understanding of the learning process, students are able to work toward cognitive goals rather than stickers, rewards, or canned praise phrases. Concise and constructive feedback allows students to understand the progression of their learning and intrinsically motivate themselves to reach the next level.
Facilitate the learning; don’t overtake it. When the answers are given by others every time a question arises, learning stops and dependence takes center stage. Instead of handing over the solutions to every query, pepper students with new questions to get their on their own. Encourage students to engage in some trial and error scenarios before seeking out the assistance of others.
Make the learning active. If the classroom model involves lecturing and/or doling out information to a supposedly attentive audience, change it! Students need to be the readers, the writers, the discussers, and the problem solvers. When learning is supposed to be garnered from a singular information supplying source, the audience becomes reliant on the source rather actively reliant on their own processing skills.
Challenge students’ ways of thinking and doing. The more opportunities students have to step out of their comfort zones, the more readily they will accept challenges that arise both inside and outside of the classroom. Create an environment that embraces struggle and failure because without understanding and accepting these two components, there will be no drive to continually better oneself through the trials and tribulations that develop a strong work ethic.
Lead by example. Students won’t become self-reliant if they find themselves completely lacking in any direction. Be purposeful in sharing strategies and modeling behaviors and techniques. When students’ learning toolkits are filled with a well-stocked variety of methods and strategies that they can easily recall and utilize due to a firm grasp of their inner workings and benefits, they are well on their way to self-sufficiency.
Ensure students can see the value in the learning. No one is going to find themselves self-motivated to do something if they see no purpose in it. Help students make connections and bridge those gaps. Be explicit in explaining how completing activity x will contribute to the understanding of step y which leads to the mastery of concept z. Detail the scaffolding of their learning goals to get them on a self-motivating path toward achieving them.
The move from self-entitlement to self-reliance can be a game changer for preparing students to be productive and successful in their educational endeavors and beyond. By employing methods that make students more independent, a learning environment really comes to life. When students are given the opportunity to see the value of standing on their own two feet, a firm foundation for growth has been laid.
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