How students learn: the most proven methods

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How students learn

When planning a lesson, it is absolutely vital to consider how each of your pupils learns. Due to the individuality of all your students, this can seem a daunting task. Fortunately, it’s not hard to find all the information you need in order to create an effective and engaging lesson plan that will appeal to each one of your pupils.

Factors that affect the learning process

Factors that affect how well your students will learn and retain key information include:

  • The desire of the individual student to learn. If they are in a receptive mood, they are much easier to teach than if they are disinterested in the subject you are teaching
  • The extent to which the process of learning is enjoyable, satisfying or rewarding
  • How stressed pupils are. The brain learns far better when relaxed and retains information for longer
  • Whether the information can be associated with existing knowledge; if not, it is more difficult to retain
  • The degree to which the students take an active role in what they are learning – participation cements knowledge
  • Whether the information is repeated. Repetition is essential if knowledge is going to be readily accessible in a pupil’s mind
  • The relevance of the information to the pupil’s life
  • The intensity or vividness of the learning experience
  • Whether the learning experience is challenging and varied
  • The student’s own attitude to the subject or topic and how they will perform academically

If your lesson plan fulfils several of these factors, there’s a good chance that many of your pupils will find the information memorable.

Bear in mind that every child learns in a slightly different way and there is no one size fits all approach. Experimenting with different techniques with different classes will give you an idea as to what suits both your teaching style and your class.

Students’ behavioural learning

Many studies show that positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to help young students learn how to behave well. When you praise a pupil, this is positive reinforcement in action. The child learns to behave well because they want the reward of their teacher’s praise.

You can make use of this on a larger scale to help students learn by employing techniques such as behaviour charts where your pupils can actually visualise their achievements and those of each other. However, there are problems associated with making behaviour charts available for all to see.

Many teachers believe that reprimanding their students in front of the class or inflicting collective punishments can shame them into behaving. While this may be an efficient means of controlling a class in the short term, it could also have negative repercussions on the disobedient children’s behaviour in the long run.

This is due to the fact that children learn to associate good behaviour with a performance they put on for you, rather than internalising the morals of behaving well and developing the ability to regulate their own actions even when an authority figure is not present.

Collective punishments in the classroom are intrinsically unfair and will often cause resentment between pupils. Children may turn against those who are frequently rewarded for their positive behaviour, or those who frequently misbehave and incur whole class penalties. They also learn to see you as an unreasonable authority figure.

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