Approaches to Support Learners to Create Personal Learning Targets

Last Updated on 19/06/2022 by James Barron

When a student is struggling and behind with their work it is common for them to block out all correspondence from the teaching establishment and ignore any messages from tutors and lecturers. This is a theme that in my experience is consistent with all learners, no matter their age, level of study, gender, etc. This is why continuously nagging with pestering phone calls is likely to be very ineffective, in spite of having the best interests of the student at heart. A method that can be very effective if contact can be made is getting the student to create SMART targets for themselves, this shows the student that the teaching establishment wants to work with them and shows them they are still in control of their study. Unfortunately, this can be challenging, depending upon the awarding body involved, due to deadline requirements. A key element when attempting communication with a student who has fallen behind is to remain positive, avoiding passive aggressive comments regarding lateness, the student will be feeling particularly negative towards the work, teaching establishment and all the lecturers. By showing that you care about their achievement so far and demonstrate time you have invested in assisting them they will start to work together to complete the work, keeping the communication open is essential. There will be times that students lose all motivation to complete work, particularly at the end of the year, in my experience it is one of the most common causes for students not completing the course. Attempt to reignite their motivation by discussing their original motivation for starting the course, if time allows include a break within their SMART targets, burn out is a very common cause for losing motivation. Another similar method is to send the student images of work they completed earlier in the course before they lost their motivation, particularly if they found the work interesting. If possible, integrate these work / scenarios into the work they are struggling with currently. Arranging for the student to discuss how they are feeling with former students to act as role models, most groups will have students that have a crisis during the course and didn’t feel they would finish, only to achieve a high grade and continue on to a higher-level course. A Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique is to get the student to visualise how it will feel to accept their qualification while wearing their graduation gown, once they can do this get them to work backwards, explaining how they will complete each section to meet the requirements. Towards the end of the year many students that have fallen behind will be presented with a substantial list of assessment they need to complete in order to complete the course, this will be extremely overwhelming and is likely to demotivate the student, to avoid this slowly drip feed the assessment to the student so that they focus entirely on the smart target assigned, along with the associated assessment. The downside of this technique is, while it is very effective, the more students that require this, the more challenging it is to implement and manage. An interesting technique that can be very effective, depending upon the group, the student and how well you know the student, is to use the Polarity responder, this is often known as ‘negging’, which is a form of emotional manipulation. By suggesting negative outcomes for the student or challenging them with comments like, I bet you can’t do this, or even simply explaining that another graduation ceremony is available a year later with the year below, you motivate the student to complete the required assessment in order to avoid the negative consequence and prove you wrong. People are typically more motivated to avoid pain than achieve pleasure.

Author Profile

James Barron
My first experience of teaching was in 2016, when I was asked to
deliver a talk to a group of 16-year-olds on what it was like to start
your own business. I immediately knew I wanted to become more
involved in teaching but I didn’t know where to start as I had not
previously considered a career in education. A few weeks later I
agreed to teach a class of Chinese students from the Shanghai
Technical Institute of Electronics and Information, who had travelled
to the UK to learn English and Software Engineering, after that I was
hooked. Within the next few years, I taught hundreds of students of
many different nationalities, aged from 16 to 60, and from
levels 2 to 6. I focused my time teaching with Bath University and
Bath College for several more years until I felt a change was in order.
For the last few years, I have taught remotely with several private
training organisations, provided dedicated one to one coaching
sessions, provided consultancy on teaching and assessment practices
and written about my experiences as a teacher. I plan to continue
with my current activities for the foreseeable future but I’m always
open to new teaching experiences.

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