Sunday, May 1, 2011

Perceived progress vs Actual progress

During my time as a teacher, I have had some students say to me that they are not happy with their progress. Now I work in a learning system where you get out what you put in and usually that means that the student did not progress because they did not study.
My first response to this concern then is “how often do you study?” On occasion though, I have met students who say that they study regularly and still are not happy with their progress. These students I take a lot of interest in. I am very interested in how we can improve things so that the students get the maximum benefit from their time. Most of these cases though are just people with unrealistic expectations (I have been studying 3 weeks and I’m still not fluent!) and those with a perception gap.
I have had students say “I have been here 2 years and I have made no progress”. But when I ask them, “what level did you start?” They tell me that they started at “hello” and “how are you?” two years ago. After talking to them for a while, I realize that it is difficult to see changes in yourself, especially changes that occur over a two year period.
Sometimes we forget to reassure our students of the progress that they are making and show them what they can do now. We have to go beyond the simple positive reinforcements “good job!” which really only comment on the minor task at hand. Regularly, we need to show them the level they were at before and the level that they are at now and use this to motivate them to continue that development.
If the student above really had made no progress in 2 years, the conversation wouldn’t have gone much further than “Hello, how are you?” But sometimes people just need to be reminded.

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