Parents as Study Partners: 4 Steps to Helping Students become Independent Learners

This guest post is by Alexandra Mayzler is the founder and director of Thinking Caps Tutoring a comprehensive tutoring company dedicated to developing innovative and individualized approaches to teaching. In addition to Thinking Caps Tutoring, she frequently writes and speaks on topics in education and consults with New York schools regarding curriculum. Alexandra is the author of Tutor in a Book, a hands-on study manual for students, parents, and teachers. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Parenting, Forbes, and CBS News. Alexandra lives in New York and spends her free time thinking about how to make studying easier, more interesting, and above all, enjoyable for her students.

High school can be a stressful time for students.  Despite the intensity, it is also an exciting period of learning and the launching pad to college.  While many students are prepared because they have mastered the fundamental content, many students are unprepared in terms of the process: the how, when, and where to complete work and the understanding of the foundation skills of organization, time management, and study skills.  In order to help students become independent and confident learners, here are some strategies parents can put into practice:

  1. Communication and goal-setting.  Often times, students wait until the beginning of the school year to create personal and academic goals. However, after a summer of camp or internships it is sometimes difficult to set appropriate goals. Instead of waiting until the start of a new year, consider sitting down at the end of this school year. After the report card has arrived and the student had the necessary tools to evaluate his or her progress, have a conversation about what went well and where there is room for improvement for the next school year based on the data from the most recent performance.
  2. Making a plan. With the goals in mind, your child will be ready to start off the new school year.  However, many students don’t know what they must change and how to go about making changes in order to achieve goals.  For many students, there is little understanding of what to do beyond “doing better.” Help your child break up his or her goals into attainable pieces and discuss specific steps that will be taken to reach the goal. For example: “better in math” means meet with a teacher to go over the more difficult concepts.
  3. Time management. The area where many students struggle is managing their time and prioritizing. As students move up in grades, more responsibilities are expected to be performed independently. Help your child learn to manage time and to prioritize. Starting to think about time, extra curricular activities, and work will help your child learn to manage time. Implement paper calendars or computer calendars where your child can practice.  Encourage your child to budget time for various activities. Rather than creating scheduled, have your child plan and keep track of schedules and appointments.
  4. Understand when to get help.  In the process of learning to be an independent student, it is important to identify when and how to get help.  Students should be encouraged to set up personal check points: how things are going should be evaluated periodically. Before possible problems develop, areas where help can be attained should be identified. Students should learn where they can get help. For example, seek out a peer for review or a teacher. Students can then easily access the help for the problem areas.  As soon as an issue crops up, put the plan of action into practice.

 

By starting these conversations early, teens will be empowered to have ownership in the learning process. This creates a positive attitude early on so that students won’t have to learn motivational skills later in their academic careers.

 

Alexandra Mayzler is the founder and director of Thinking Caps Tutoring a comprehensive tutoring company dedicated to developing innovative and individualized approaches to teaching. In addition to Thinking Caps Tutoring, she frequently writes and speaks on topics in education and consults with New York schools regarding curriculum. Alexandra is the author of Tutor in a Book, a hands-on study manual for students, parents, and teachers. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Parenting, Forbes, and CBS News. Alexandra lives in New York and spends her free time thinking about how to make studying easier, more interesting, and above all, enjoyable for her students.