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The Problem of Poor School Performance
The problem of poor academic performance at school is one of the most common. Underachievement is seen as a mismatch of students’ preparation to mandatory requirements of the school in the assimilation of knowledge, development of skills, formation of creative activity experience and breeding in cognitive relations. The students, facing the problem of poor academic performance, tend to have gaps in actual knowledge and special skills that make it impossible to define the essential elements of the studied concepts, laws and theories, as well as perform the necessary actions. The presence of gaps in the skills of learning activities has a very negative connotation reducing the pace of work. It leads to the fact that a student cannot master the necessary knowledge and skills. Such students do not have enough level of development and breeding of personal qualities. It does not allow them showing independence, perseverance, self-discipline and other qualities necessary for successful study. “Poor school performance not only results in the child having a low self-esteem, but also causes significant stress for the parents” (Karande & Kulkarni, 2005).
Overcoming of school failure is based on the study of students, analysis of their activities and development a typology of underachieving students. The main place in psychological and pedagogical literature devoted to overcoming underachievement is taken by an analysis and classification of the causes of poor academic performance at school. In order to overcome underachievement, a counselor might apply individual tasks, the division of learning tasks into separate stages (steps), special conditions of a survey, as well as additional classes. For my case study, I have chosen a second grade student from an elementary school named Mark Smith. Mark Smith has some serious problems with academic performance at school, and my task as a school counselor is to help him cope with the problem and improve his performance.
In general, the solution to this problem might have the following three steps:
1. Diagnostics of Mark’s school achievement and identification of its causes;
2. Developmental work on elimination of Mark’s school failure;
3. Development of guidelines for teachers and parents of Mark.
Methods for Diagnosing. In the selection of methods for diagnosing of the school failure causes, the emphasis can be made on intelligence tests, tasks for attention, memory and perception of information, as well as methods of thinking and other mental processes. Then it will be easy to choose the ways and means of subsequent correction. In my opinion, I can use the following methods: a conversation with Mark’s teachers to clarify the difficulties in the boy’s educational activity and the reasons for their cause; analysis of Mark’s written work and the log of Mark’s performance. Moreover, the use of different techniques, such as the test of school anxiety by Phillips makes sense. The list of challenges offered to talk to Mark’s teachers includes the following: omission of letters in written work; inattention and distraction; difficulties in solving mathematical problems; restlessness; constant mud in notebooks; poor knowledge of the tables of addition; difficulties in performing tasks in class; lateness for lessons; constant distraction in the classroom; fear of oral responses.
In addition, it makes sense to observe Mark’s educational activity due to the following features: the way Mark is included in the work in the classroom; level of manifestation of Mark’s activity; questions that his teachers ask; Mark’s performing of additional tasks (willingly or reluctantly) and expressing value judgments about lessons (positive or negative). The analysis may show that Mark is characterized by a low motivational sphere and unwillingness to contact with his teachers. The most effective methods of educational underachievement diagnosis can be seen in testing, questioning, analysis of school documentation and observation. The testing should be conducted systematically. Having determined the cause of Mark’s underperformance, I realize that I need to use both educational and developmental psychological effects. My aim is not only to fill in Mark’s gaps in his training, but also to contribute to the development of Mark’s cognitive independence. It is rather important, since having improved his learning skills Mark should not feel himself behind his comrades.
The Process of Intervention. During the formative stage of the experiment, one can try to use the neutralization of causes of underachievement (the elimination of negative circumstances and the intensification of positive moments). For the purpose, it is possible to conduct a forming experiment. It consists of a series of specially designed classes (particularly in mathematics) in order to overcome difficulties in learning activities. These lessons show the need to use such methods as individual work on cards and a personal survey (by the board). In order to overcome the difficulties one can use various techniques facilitating the development of concentration, stability and span of attention, comprehension based on auditory perception, logical and rote learning, long-term memory and self-esteem. Given the fact that Mark is characterized by the simultaneous manifestation of symptoms of low intensity and efficiency of educational activities, his poor academic performance may be caused by such reasons as gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities in the previous material, as well as reduced interest in studying. Therefore, the basis of the developmental work with Mark can be viewed in using a correctional complex. It includes a number of educational activities aimed at creating a psychological atmosphere conducive to the emergence of the child’s interest to the study. The complex provides the students with low levels of cognitive abilities with the formation of analysis and synthesis techniques for solving mathematical problems. Together with the student, the counselor creates an algorithm representing a system of operations used while working on the task. It includes the following successive regulations:
1. Carefully read the task;
2. Analyze the task and determine what it asks to do;
3. Define the quantities that are needed to solve the task;
4. Divide the task into a series of simple ones;
5. Write the task in the form of a scheme;
6. Make mathematical formula;
7. Solve it;
8. Check the solution.
Thus, the task of the psychologist at this stage is to take part in the development of educational abilities of Mark. In addition, one needs to appeal to the psychotherapeutic effects on the student. It is necessary to conduct a number of short talks with Mark about his success in learning, relationships with classmates and peers. As it is known, students willingly tell about the reason that prevents them to study. The result of corrective work with Mark should lead to the fact that Mark starts being more attentive to all kinds of tasks, writing with almost no errors, receiving good grades for homework and showing more openness in communication with both his teachers and peers.
Work with Mark’s Parents. Separate work should be conducted with both Mark’s parents and teachers. Parents need to understand that the reason for the problems in their son’s learning may be caused by the fact that they have a constant pressure on him, waiting for the best ratings. The child should not suffer from the fact that his parents want to see him an excellent student. It often has quite opposite consequences. Successful study is primarily the understanding of the subject. When it comes to mathematics, the basic meaning is to understand mathematical principles and apply them in practice. Through advisory work with Mark’s parents, I will pay attention primarily to the fact that they should be involved in Mark’s studying, trying to make it as more interesting and diverse as possible. Their task is to make their son perceive homework exclusively from a positive point of view. Researches confirm the idea. (Barnard, 2004; Jeynes, 2003; McBride, Schoppe-Sullivan, & Ho, 2005). For this reason, the emotional and psychological atmosphere in the family should contribute to the child's wishes to study well. Mark’s parents should pay attention not to penalties for not performed homework, but to praise and encouragement. In particular, operant conditioning represented by Skinner argues that the promotion and praise can be considered as significant factors that influence the behavior and attitude of a person towards certain situations, circumstances and other problems. Operant conditioning needs "the learner to actively participate and perform some type of action in order to be rewarded or punished" (Cherry, n.d.). Given the young age of Mark, it is important that he felt the support of his parents and knew they would love him, regardless of the level of his educational achievement. However, Mark should also realize that if he would try to learn well, it could make his parents very happy.
Work with Mark’s Teachers. Consultation of Mark’s teachers is no less important. They need to understand that they are responsible not only for their child's academic skills, but also for his psychological state. Attention should also be paid primarily on praise and encouragement for various educational successes. Mark should accept some of the problems in education as quite normal and common. It must not cause Mark’s psychological discomfort and desire to close within himself. Given the peculiarities of the psyche of Mark, the task of the teachers is to unleash the potential of Mark, since each child has his/her own potential and features, which, in particular, determine the study. Mark should take lessons as fun and interesting to do and not be afraid of the misconceptions and erroneous responses that he might express at lessons. I think that relationships between teachers and students should be based on an optimistic teacher’s attitude to every student: the teacher must believe in the capability and strength of his/her students. He/she should identify the strengths of each student and, based on them, fight with the student’s weak qualities. In order to deal with deficiencies of a student, the teacher should look for his/her dignity and create conditions so that every student could succeed in any field.
The Role of My Own Characteristics. In my opinion, the success of the solution to this problem will also depend on my own characteristics. I see my mission as both a mentor and a partner. Mark must feel that next to him there is a man who supports him and is willing to admit his success. In this regard, my qualities such as openness, friendliness, kindness, as well as skills and an ability to praise for the successes, are particularly important. My qualities should pursue the main objective, namely to promote the development of a greater degree of openness and desire to study well. Mark’s low motivation towards study is connected with the fact that he does not feel the support of those who are close to him during study. For this reason, my role is to help Mark see the meaning of a good study. The idea, which Mark needs to understand, is that learning is good, since learning can bring a lot of positive emotions, praise and encouragement. From my point of view, at this stage, such type of motivation makes sense to be used, since the previous analysis has shown that the child lacks moral support, praise and encouragement.
Results. In general, in order to overcome the causes of underachievement a counselor needs to understand the following principles:
1. There might be a need to change the character of students’ attitude towards studying. The attitude largely depends on whether students are aware of the personal and social significance of academic work, understand the urgent need for it and the importance of active, creative, systematic and persistent work. Therefore, the organization of the educational process should contribute to the fact that each student sees personal and social significance of his/her active, creative and hard work training. In turn, the main indicator of it should be seen in a proper evaluation of the students’ work.
2. In order to intensify training activities of each student, it is not enough to use a direct impact on students’ parents. The impact is more effective if it also applies to the student’s team consisting of teachers and peers. It requires of a student's group to be a true team. Thus, the learning process should be performed in an organic unity of the collective, individual and frontal forms of training sessions within certain of general collective activity of students.
3. In order to timely detect any delay in the study of each student and then fill it, the current control should be all-encompassing. It means that the control should be carried out for each element of the content of a study program and, at the same time, it should cover all students without exception. Doing this makes it obvious that there is a need to attract the students to the monitoring and evaluating the form of self-control and self-evaluation under the guidance of the teachers.
4. The most important factor for the effectiveness of the study is subjective and deliberate nature of the activity of a student in the learning process. A student should be not only the object of pedagogical influences of his/her teachers, but also an active participant in the educational process. An important tool for this is a role-based participation of students in organizing and conducting the entire educational process.
5. Effectiveness of students’ academic work depends on the development of their ability to learn properly. In order to do this, they should master academic skills and abilities. Therefore, mastering of academic skills and abilities should be included in the program of teachers in each school subject.
6. Effectiveness of academic work of students is ultimately determined by the nature of their personal education, their moral and social qualities. Therefore, training should be conducted so that it contributed to the maximum development of each student as an ethical and creatively and socially active mature personality.
The case of Mark Smith is an example of the idea that psychological problems of students in particular related to their academic performance require an integrated approach. The complex approach consists of active participation of all three parties: a counselor, parents and teachers. Task of a counselor is to guide all three parties. Mark has learning difficulties because he is afraid of his teachers and parents. His fear is connected with a fear to say something wrong or offer an improper solution to the problem. Mark has found his way out: he stopped talking and closed in himself. The counselor, the boy’s parents and teachers should take him out of this state. It is possible, in particular, by using the practice of operant conditioning that reinforces the desired behavior and actions by applying praise and approval.
This text is written by Ian Myles who is a writing editor at elite writing services /writer-elite.com/