Promoting Learning That Lasts

By Dr Raymond Huntington

Some children understand the purpose of homework, studying, school and learning. They realize that school is a worthwhile endeavor that will help them achieve their life goals, and they consider the acquisition of new knowledge important and often, enjoyable.

Unfortunately, other children—particularly those who are struggling—think that going to school is a waste of time. They do not understand or appreciate why they should learn algebra or history or how to write papers. It is helpful to guide students like this toward the meaning of learning, since the task itself is not compelling enough.

How can parents help their child—whether he or she is a smart, but uninspired student, or one who struggles with school work—become more excited about and engaged in learning? Here are a few tips on how to promote learning that stays with a child for his or her entire education:

Develop the critical thinker –In today’s educational environment, students are expected to be able to apply the knowledge they learn in school to a range of real-world settings. So, to help your child succeed in school – and help him or her overall - you should draw out the inner thinker whenever possible. Ask him or her questions about passages and books he or she reads. Encourage your child to think about where certain skills and knowledge might be useful in real life.

Encourage your child to express his or her opinion – Passion fuels learning, so encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings and ideas and why he or she sees the world or a topic a certain way. Often, students who form strong opinions about various topics are more motivated to express those feelings through speech and in writing. Nurture this skill-building at home by working with your child to make arguments, express those arguments logically and reason with others with different opinions. These skills become more critical as your student progresses through school and eventually goes to on to college and the workforce.

Embrace challenges – From the time your child is young, encourage him or her to dream big. Let your child know that you genuinely believe that people can accomplish anything with hard work and perseverance, and that he or she is no different. Often, students find school uninteresting because they feel forced to do it. However, having a small or big goal in mind can make school feel more worthwhile because your child will start to realize that most endeavors in life require skills gained in the classroom. As your child progresses toward his or her goals, he or she will gain confidence, vision and drive.

Build up the confidence – If your child comes across as apathetic or negative about school (even if he or she seems confident as a person), he or she may lack self-efficacy, the belief that he or she can achieve or learn. Students who have little or no self-efficacy often lack motivation, too. Without motivation, students don’t learn easily—or at least, they don’t take ownership or interest in their own learning. As your child masters new skills and experiences success, his or her confidence will rise. Always let your child know that you believe in his or her abilities.

If your child is one who struggles to find the meaning in school and views learning as a “have to,” it can be challenging to engage him or her. Share with your child that the goal of school is to learn, not to earn straight As on every test or report card. Explain that you are less interested in that sort of evidence of his or her knowledge and more concerned with his or her effort, persistence and curiosity. Above all, your objective should be to help your child acquire and retain knowledge so that he or she can apply that knowledge throughout his or her life. As you strive to achieve that goal, your child will increasingly come to value and appreciate learning.


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