Guest Post: Mastering Content

A guest post by Alwyn Poole:

The in-School Education Fixes are so easy …

… but as a nation we clearly prefer the PROBLEM … above solutions.

This week Richard Prebble wrote:

“We are stuffed if we do not fix this. In the 2019 international maths and science test 81 per cent of New Zealand year 9 pupils got a simple math question wrong. 73 per cent of Singaporean answered correctly.

There are already commentators saying “no need to panic”, we have just slipped a few places. In 1970 when New Zealand first participated in an international education comparison, for reading, we came top. If you slip 2 to 3 places every three years then in 50 years you are where we are, 40th position. We have gone from top to being bottom in reading and maths in the English-speaking world.

Being innumerate is a personal tragedy. For the country these results are a disaster.”

Over the last three guest posts have done on Kiwiblog I outlined the meta-problems in the NZ system and looked at how high performing people become good at what they do in sport and the arts.

As Mr Prebble (and some of the Kiwiblog comments) point out – teachers, coaches, mentors have a HUGE part to play – and without guidance even 10,000 hours can be misdirected and wasted.

“And it turns out this study shows that there's another important variable that Gladwell doesn't focus on: how good a student's teacher is.

Practice is important, and it's surprising how much it takes to master something complicated. But Ericsson's research suggests that someone could practice for thousands of hours and still not be a master performer. They could be outplayed by someone who practiced less but had a teacher who showed them just what to focus on at a key moment in their practice regimen.”'ve%20probably%20heard%20of,as%20good%20as%20Bill%20Gates

The very good thing about excellence in Academics is that – unlike sports and the Arts – it is a lot further from a zero-sum game. All students can excel. In NZ we are desperate for great teachers and those that actually do the job the children need. All subjects need to be taught with skill passion and primary teachers should not avoid teaching Math (as Prebble suggests many do) simply because they struggle with it themselves.

While in a very mixed-quality NZ teaching environment what can students do to learn well and master content? This is the advice we give (and we can show that it is working).

How to get 100% in Year 11 – 13 Assessments … and beyond

The two key things are – understanding and locking concepts/information into long-term memory. How to do that is below.

1. Be well organized for every school day. Sleep well. Eat breakfast. Have all books and equipment you need for school. Dress well. Start the day with a great attitude. Hug your parent(s) on the way out the door.

2. Look forward to classes. Be positive towards all subjects and all teachers – even when others are complaining. When others are negative – that is a great opportunity. Be the counter-culture. Love the teacher that everyone else thinks is horrible and useless.

3. Pay MASSIVE attention in every class. Make good notes. When you don't understand – ask questions. This could be during or after class. Understanding in class is so important. FOCUS is everything!

4. Take all of your subject books home each night and;

– with pencil in hand – review the lesson for the day in each subject. For Math – practice the hardest problems until the lights go on and you go – “uh ha!”

– each night – for one of your subjects – write summary/study notes for the past week.

– then do your set homework.

If you do this process every-day then what you are learning will be in your long term memory and when you get towards exams/assessments you will know things very well already. You will be able to do practice exams/assessments and perfect things. You may not think you are a genius but genius is about effort! You can do it. When exams come up create a great study time-table and stick to it. DO NOT waste study leave.

5. Always aim for excellence/100%! If you aim for the stars and land on the moon it is a great achievement. As you leave at Year 10 there is no career that you cannot work towards. Aim to master every concept in every subject – from Math and English to all of your options.

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