Sometimes I work with students who perform well during our lessons, but who struggle when it comes to actually taking the test. It turns out the reason for this might be genetic.
When we experience stress, our prefrontal cortex is flooded with dopamine. Some of us are coded with a gene that slowly removes the dopamine, while others have a variant that rapidly removes it. The prefrontal cortex is critical for planning and decision-making, and it performs best when an optimal level of dopamine is maintained. Normally, on many cognitive tests, people with the slow variant of the gene perform better. But in stressful, high-stakes situations the opposite happens: those with the fast variant do better. Thus people with the slow variant have been dubbed Worriers, and those with the fast variant, Warriors.
However, being a Worrier does not mean you will inevitably be a victim of chronic underperformance in stressful situations. In one of the studies...
The Economist recently published an
article with some surprising research findings about stress. Contrary to popular belief, stress is not always bad, nor is it the amount of stress that matters. Rather, the key determinant of its impact on performance and health is largely psychological.
In one study, researchers divided a set of GRE test takers into two groups. Saliva samples were taken to establish baseline stress levels for all participants. Then one group was told that stress during practice exams is natural and can improve performance, while the other group just took the test. Saliva samples were taken at the end of the exam, and the results from both groups indicated similar levels of stress. BUT, the group that had learned stress can be helpful scored higher on the practice test (and, several months later, on the actual GRE) than those who just took the test.
Even more impressively, in 2012 a group of researchers scoured through...
Over the years, I have noticed that many students do not like to take their practice test scores at face value. When students get scores below their goal, the temptation to rationalize is strong.
"On Test Day, I will take it much more seriously, so I'm sure my result will be higher."
"I was distracted during XYZ sections, so my score on those isn't as accurate as it could be."
"I only really focused on the Math sections, that's why I didn't do as well on the others."
"I made a lot of careless mistakes."
I'm not saying these are excuses - it's possible that they are accurate explanations - but even still, thinking this way will not serve you well.
For starters, if you're not taking your practice tests as seriously as you would the actual test, that's a problem. The whole point of practice tests is to prepare you for the real thing, so you should treat them as if they...
Students are often frustrated when trying to learn a foreign language because they can't organize the material like they are used to doing in other subjects. Language is fluid and we are able to finally understand foreign words when we let go and allow the right side of our brains to take over. Much of understanding is intuitive and contextual, so give yourself permission to guess what is being said or written. The key is to think through the words and let them come alive in your brain, so you can use them later. That's how you learned your native tongue. Grammar should be a supplement to your language acquisition, not the main player. I always recommend online courses with pictures, sound and familiar scenes between actors...like a play on stage, but in German.
You know the German word Kindergarten because you have heard it so many times in the context of your life. That is how you can learn new German words....find a program...
Our understanding of the relationship between memory and learning continues to improve. Why not benefit from the latest research by incorporating some of these findings into your own study habits? I help my students come up with creative ways to do this all the time, and wanted to share one of the more helpful summaries I've come across about what works and what doesn't.
Here are a few highlights:
Link new information to things you already know
Actively participate in your own learning
Create both a visual and a verbal memory for the same information
Whenever possible, study in an environment that is similar to the testing environment
Spread studying out over several days, rather than cramming
Avoid multitasking when learning difficult or dense material
Review information you're trying to memorize right before you go to sleep
Quiz yourself frequently to practice retrieving these memories, making them stronger in the process
Mr. Reed's fun, light-hearted video made me smile, and I hope it will make you smile too. It's a cliche, but positive, can-do attitudes go a long way. That's not just true for students, it's true for teachers too. Here's to wishing you a successful start to the coming academic year!
Hard work is a must, but learning should be fun.
I started my Physics course this Summer telling my students they are not allowed to say "I don't know," unless they can't read, listen to a recording, watch a video, or ask a question of someone more knowledgeable. When I was in school we did not have access to information like students do today.
In my humble opinion, students need to bulk up on two things like body builders do using supplements. What are those two things students need to bulk up with? Asking quality questions and learning how they learn.
Take for example, Google is an awesome resource, but if you ask the wrong question or use terms inappropriately, you will not get the answer you seek. Ask a bad question one gets a bad answer. Ask a wrong question one gets a wrong answer. Ask an incomplete question one may very well get an incomplete answer. Its that simple. Quality of questions is paramount and good questions come from meticulous vocabulary management. Therefore, students must become...
I published this article on my blog and I believe that it will help students, tutors and parents alike so I decided to re-blog here. Time management is such an important skill! The article published by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension entitled “Thirteen Timely Tips for More Effective Time Management” proved to be very beneficial as well as the Time Management Quiz. They highlight the importance of prioritizing, goal setting and eliminating distractions.
I found five time managements tools that can help us achieve our goals.
StayFocusd – This is a Google Chrome extension that blocks you from going to time-wasting sites. It works like a timer, and asks you to set the maximum time you want to waste on your customized time-killer sites before they’re blocked. This tool would be perfect for parents to use with students who go to school online. It would help them to keep their kids on track and not chatting on twitter or posting photos on Instagram. This tool...
I have been a tutor for many years.
I have been an advocate for bullied kids for several years as well.
But only recently did I begin to see that even tutors can offer relief to kids who are bullied, and point bystanders in a proper direction as well.
The tutor's secret is really simple: we don't even have to know whether or if the students we work with are having bullying problems. All we have to know is that they sometimes exhibit the same symptoms as a bullied kid, and those symptoms can be brought on by stress.
The student who needs a tutor is often dealing with stress already, because the homework isn't done, he doesn't know how to do it - not the first thing, time is running out and there's nobody to help.
When I was younger, you know how I handled that kind of stress? By hoping the problem would go away. I would go into class the next day, the teacher would relent and say "hey, this is too hard for you guys, so let's go over...
As a college student with a difficult major and two minors, my timetable is my best friend. It's not an exaggeration when I say that I live and breathe by it. I don't schedule anything without looking at it, and if anyone (friend, professor, boss, etc.) asks me, "Do you have free time at [X]?", I just email them a copy of it.
If you don't have a timetable, then that might be why you can't seem to manage your time properly. And I don't just have my classes scheduled. Every single thing I ever have to do is logged in it. This includes, but isn't limited to :
Work (outside of work study, like here!)
Homework times (further divided up by class)
Tutoring appointments (for me and my classes)
Extracurriculars (the number of which has shrunk as my college career has gone on)
Cleaning the apartment
Me time (because who can live without down time?)
When it comes to tutoring, more is not necessarily always better. Although you need a minimum amount of lessons and practice to really see remarkable improvement, you do not need that many lessons for improvement to happen.
1. With me the quality of instruction always trumps quantity. So I seek a transformation of your understanding.
2. I make use of manipulatives or other tools whenever appropriate. I want you to see it, hear it and write it.
3. I assess your learning style and consequently make use of techniques that work best for you.
4. I want to teach you what you need to know instead of what you already know.
5. I allow time for brainbreaks and attaboys so you can learn at your pace.
6. I make connections with your interests and teach at your level of understanding.
7. I encourage you while still pushing you to achieve more.
8. I may tell you a story that drives in the concept.
This is how I achieve the outside the box tutoring which inspires...
Okay, we have all made a math mistake, but for one reason or another we never took advantage of that opportunity to commit the correct step to memory. I have news for you. You can still remedy the situation. Here is how you achieve it. 1. For every time that you’ve made a wrong step in solving a problem, repeat the correct step three times. 2. If it is a multi-step problem, WRITE all the steps in the correct order at least three times. 3. READ out all the correct steps to yourself at least three times so that you HEAR the correct steps. Here is the rationale for this strategy. We have multiple ways of learning for a reason and we need to make use of multiple intelligences in order to maximize our ability to understand and memorize the correct steps. Once we commit the correct procedure into long-term memory, we are essentially freeing our short-term memory to work on other tasks. This way we won't get stumped months later when we come across the problem. So this strategy is a win!...
Everyone knows that in order to do well in school you have to study. No-brainer (all-brainer?). However, what a lot of people don’t know is that what you do while you study can make or break your GPA. I’m not talking about the material you’re studying, because professors usually make PowerPoints or study guides to help you narrow down the material. I’m talking about the little habits that you developed that you didn’t know even played a role. So, without further ado, here are the 5 habits you should try to break immediately when you study.
1. You aren’t taking breaks
Sometimes students think that if they’re going to study, they need to sit down and get it over with. Maybe they think they can power through and that if they take a break they’re wasting valuable time. This couldn’t be more wrong! If you’ve ever heard of HIIT (high intensity interval training) routines, you know that this type of training is used all of the time and is meant to give you “more...
Many of you that I work with soon realize that the flaw in your academic subjects is mostly because of bad study habits. I think it is important to stress as your courses get harder and grade levels progress, more active learning should be ocurring than passive learning. What is the difference between the two? Passive learning is reading a textbook, watching a movie/documentary, looking at pictures, or hearing a lecture while active learning is participating in discussion, teaching material, flashcards, testing yourself, simulating a similar experience and so forth. Really try to do active learning after you do some passive reading this way your material will sink into your head!
Good Luck and Study On!
Through our tendencies of human nature, we don't like to ask for help. We want the recognition, the glory and the credit to be given to only ourselves. Unfortunately, the thought that we can single-handedly do everything on our own is a huge misconception. The world has been built on a foundation of people working together to towards a common goal. The world needs individuals to work together to brainstorm and execute plans for the future.
School and college provide opportunities to work together. Through group projects, presentations, senior design projects, etc. students are asked to work with one another. It is, rather unfortunate, that sometimes we are paired with people who we do not work well with, but that is life. School and college provide students with opportunities to work with people and adapt to others ways--whether we like them or not.
Now, when one must adapt to another's ways (for example a teacher's or professor's) it can sometimes be...
With the school year just starting, it's important to build study skills that will last through the year. Here are some tips to help create good habits now—TEN not-so-easy steps to develop self-discipline as well as become a strong student and an independent person. When December rolls around, you and your child will want to have great study skills to call upon to identify problems, plan projects, and meet deadlines.
STEP ONE: Identify your strengths
What is your favorite subject? Where do you excel? What makes that subject fun for you? What skills do you have that make you good at it?
STEP TWO: Write them down
Sing your own praises. Make a list. Why? First, just to make yourself feel good. Second, to build some confidence. Third, and perhaps most importantly, to see how you can apply your strengths in subjects that do not come as easily.
STEP THREE: Identify your challenges
What is your least favorite...
Every student can benefit from understanding how to get the best out of their brain. This basic information can improve academic performance by a significant percent with out any other intervention.
• Two basic things happen when you sleep—1) body repair
• 2) memory reorganization and long term storage.
• Babies need 14 hours, school age kids need 10-11, teens need 9+.
• Not enough sleep? You get sick and you can’t remember what you learn.
• The brain needs 80 oz of water every day to replace what you lose through sweating, exhaling and peeing.
• As little as 2% dehydration causes poor short-term memory, trouble focusing, and difficulties with math computation.
• Some water is absorbed from food. But you do really need 8 glasses of liquid every day.
• Movement gets your blood flowing,...
As a student, many lessons were deeply instilled in me that have carried far beyond the classroom. I have come up with five tips to help you succeed inside the classroom and in the outside world.
1. Get Organized
This is crucial. Number one has to be the first step for a reason. Without organization and planning, it is very difficult to stay on track and accomplish your goals. Begin at home. Keep a clean room, clean desk, and start a planner of any sort. Even if your planner is just a cheap dollar store calendar hanging on the wall, it will allow you to keep track of important dates and let you know where you stand along the way. Extend this to "your area" at school, work or wherever you may go. By keeping things in order you are making sure nothing menial is standing in your way.
2. Create Checkpoints
Think of this as picking off a huge iceberg piece by piece. It can be intimidating seeing the big picture, but by taking it one...
We all have one: that one subject that our brains just refuse to understand, and no matter how much we study or how hard we work, we never feel like we really truly GET what is going on.
For me, that subject was always Physics. No junior high or high school teacher could ever answer the unending string of "...but WHY?" questions that I needed answered before I could understand even the most basic concepts of our Introductory course. It wasn't that I couldn't understand, but rather that I wasn't being taught these ideas in a way that made sense to me.
As an adult, Physics is now actually one of my favorite subjects to read about because I have found some books written for people just like me, people who need explanations fulls of examples and explanations and lots of pictures! I may never discover black holes or split an atom, but I now know enough that I can understand the people who do those things. :-)
IT REQUIRES MORE THAN ACADEMICS TO CREATE SUCCESSFUL LIFE-LONG LEARNERS
My tutoring philosophy is about balance.
My obligation to my students - which may include roles as teacher, counselor, mentor, and/or role model - is to foster various traits which increase my students' likelihood of success - in school, professionally, and as human beings.
According to the Johnson O'Connor Foundation, and various other longitudinal studies, the single best predictor of success both in school and occupation is a large vocabulary. A large vocabulary has been shown to enhance reading comprehension and fluency, improve critical thinking, and make communication in all fields more effective. But, it is also crucial to understand that, as absolutely critical as text based literacy skills are, it is easily possible to have a large vocabulary and still struggle with reading. I know this well from my own daughter’s experience and many of the students I have worked with.