School Performance is a complex phenomenon, shaped by a wide variety of factors intrinsic to students and in their eternal environment. In addition to content knowledge and academic skills, students must develop sets of behaviours, skills, attitudes and strategies that are crucial to academic performance in their classes, but that may not be reflected in their scores on cognitive tests” – UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review
In the simplest way, this tells us that more than just grades (which is the case now days) students need to focus on the sets of behaviours, Skills and attitudes which will eventually and effectively affect their academic performance.
So here is the deal, while you may not be focusing on Skills right now, think of these as a payback when the skills will eventually help you get better grades (it does seem like our one point focus). Skill Sets help you to develop attitudes which affect our academic performances and are not limited by content learning.
Let us see this more objectively or at least make an effort to do so!
We all understand the importance of grades (oh yes we do). We know that the monster of the grades decide the course of lives of our children. Good grades – good University – Good Job – Good life (in the order). We see evidence of this being true all around us and we believe in it as – truth and nothing but the truth, so help us god! But is it really??
Can grades really decide the course of our lives? Sadly it is true for the first part of the path – Good Grades – Good University. Unfortunately most universities judge the student on the GPA, Grades achieved, Standardised Tests etc. (we will debate these another time). Some universities do in-fact try to substantiate the overall development of the student through modes other than just the grades. But unfortunately, despite the effort in understanding the student and establishing the RIGHT FIT (as they claim), the importance given to grades and scores is very high. While consideration is given to other factors, the transition from moving away from grades is not yet complete.
So am I saying that lets forget the skills and focus on the grades since they are so important?
On the contrary, I am saying – Focus on your Skills because the grades are important!!
Developing a Growth mindset that believes that we can train our brain for better performance is attributed to Skill development. A skill set that develops perseverance and discipline which will automatically help us develop these attitudes towards academic performance as well.
I once saw a potter sitting by the potter’s wheel, spinning the wheel and trying to create something. He would put some clay on the wheel, spin it, mould it and then remove it. He did this over and over again, calmly and patiently. It seemed like the clay was not taking the shape that he intended. But every time he put the clay back on the wheel, he nurtured the clay with the softest touch. Did he make the pot he desired?
If a student, let us assume, is a photographer, dancer or even a painter, he/she will need to have the patience and the perseverance to revisit the same thing again and again till it is not perfected. They also attempt the same task with the softest touch. Do you not see how this patience and the perseverance, that they will develop that accompany these skills, will help them perform better at academics too? The attitude to perfect their art will create a habit to perfect and this will also apply to academic. Would this then not affect their grades?
They will apply these skills to their academics because eventually the attitudes required to master the skill or art will become a part of them. It will become a part of their nature and they will therefore apply them to every task that they will undertake, Academic is just one of them.
So did the potter make the pot he desired? I don’t really know, to me every pot that was being made looked beautiful, but then I don’t know what he wanted and what his idea of perfection was.
As students it is important that you understand the importance of grades and performance but it is equally important that you understand the importance of Attitude, Academic Behaviour , Strategy development, time management, problem solving – both social and academic. Each of these will have a measurable impact on your academic performance. It is therefore imperative that you develop these to have a positive impact and improve your academic performance.
In addition to these critical factors – there is one very important factor that you should consider –
Your attitude about learning and your belief about your intelligence.
What does this really mean? It means that if you do not believe in your own intelligence, then intelligence will not believe in you. It is a lot like friendship between two people. Intelligence is not limited to what books we have read and what we can remember from it. It is not an outcome of the Maths problems that we can solve and how fast. It is by no means a by-product of the chemical formulas that we can remember. It is connected to our attitude towards learning and belief. We must have an attitude to learn, which means that we have the ability to revisit something and learn it (not memorize it) despite failing, it is then that you will have the right attitude. Believing in intelligence has a huge impact on developing the correct attitude. If you believe yourself to be un-intelligent or incapable, your mind will play the games with you and will render you incapable. If, on the other hand, you believe that you are indeed intelligent and capable, you will see your mind doing wonders. My mind is what I want it to be, I am not what my mind wants me to be!! Believe in this, it is easy when you try!!