Some say that the biggest factor in a student’s learning is the teacher. Every teacher would love to find the perfect rules to work by, for me, how a student responds to learning, their attitude and desire to learn play a huge role. I might be a romantic, but I believe that every student has an inherent potential to learn. This article presents some guidance for learners to engage that potential.
Success in many ways depends on an approach to learning. If the student can see how their behaviour impacts on their progress, they can make positive attempts to change and modify their behaviour.
There are students that can clearly see how their qualification will support progress to a desired career. This drives them and keeps them focused. They are passionate about what they do and set themselves high expectations. They prioritise learning and develop quickly.
However, there are many students, that for whatever reason, find this much harder. For some of these, a lot of disruption, frustration and obstruction can be changed simply by them becoming aware of how personal conduct affects performance on a qualification. Others need a lot of reminding, discussion, positive reinforcement and support.
One simple way to do this is to have clear visual guidelines that are always available. Posters are a great frame of reference for the teacher to point at and discuss. They are useful because students will always be looking around the classroom or studio and will have seen them on many occasions.
They can also be referred to in relation to a specific incidence, during a 1 to 1 discussion, when considering progress or in a tutorial. There is opportunity to introduce a poster with ideas for maximum success at the start of a course. Students could work with the lecturer or course leader to create these or the whole cohort could invent tips and tricks that would instil positive and creative behaviour.
Focusing on positive behaviour, might seem like a distraction from the core curriculum, but avoiding it completely in order to just develop practical skills would be a false economy. Repeatedly looking at conduct and attitude will develop students in ways that will help them for their whole life. In terms of student focused teaching, it also shifts the responsibility away from the lecturer and toward the student.
I first started creating these kinds of posters when I noticed a particular cohort in my department had a large group of students within it that we felt were at risk of not succeeding. The more I investigated what may have been the reasons for this, the more issues became apparent.
The attendance was below average, the punctuality was poor, the students weren’t doing homework or really participating with the lessons. It was very late in the year and making huge changes to the students’ behaviour and attitude to the course was going to be difficult. The team and I worked on resolving the scheme, trying to make the tasks clear and entertaining as much as possible.
What we also worked on, in a very focused way, was how to change the students’ attitudes toward creativity and learning. This was a huge task, but we wanted to do it in a very clear and transparent way that would be difficult for the students to avoid. We met them all as a team and discussed what their issues were, and took those on board when designing the lessons and curriculum. What we also did at every opportunity was to connect the learning to something in their future and to remind them of the reason they joined a creative course in the first place.
From this, I designed a poster which had clear and simple steps to success and we printed it on A1 and put it in every studio in which the students worked. Whenever there were issues, such as work being submitted late, no homework being done or students turning up with no equipment, we pointed at the poster and discussed the potential impact.
It was clear that having a consistent approach within the team with really clear expectations, we would maximise success. While the posters may not have been the only reason for increasing the success rate, they did play a big role in maintaining an awareness of why the students were there, how they could get the most out of the course and how they could take responsibility for learning.
The poster about success made me think about other ways of maintaining an awareness of critical and important points about the course. The team wondered what other factors really could make or break whether or not a student succeeded. So we made posters on being healthy, how to enjoy learning, how to get support, lateness, being safe and self-directed learning. Each has a few simple points that try to strike at the crux of the issues and would serve as prompts for discussions.
These posters are available for any lecturer to use, cannibalise, transform or appropriate to their circumstance, which is why I have included both the complete posters as well as the points for copying and pasting:
Steps to Success
1. Arrive on time
2. Attend all lessons
3. Bring art kit
4. Bring sketchbook
5. Complete homework
6. Use lesson time productively
7. Make sure you understand the tasks
8. Ask questions
9. Care about others
10. Get involved
11. Submit work on time
12. Take care of the studios & equipment
1. Take creative risks
2. Look around you and learn from others
3. Learn from mistakes
4. Share and get feedback
5. There are no stupid questions
6. Join in – this is your life!
7. Challenge yourself
9. Never give up
10. Reflect on your progress
11. Ask why you are learning
12. Remember creativity makes you happy
1. Additional support needs
3. Personal issues
4. Career guidance
5. UCAS applications
6. Financial advice
7. Personalised targets
8. Workload advice
9. Travel advice
10. Medical issues
11. Enrichment opportunities
12. Any issues that affect your study
1. Remember the goal
2. It is not punishment
3. Avoid distractions
4. Set targets
5. Find the right space
6. Work with others if it helps
7. Always keep a note book
8. Don’t avoid the bits you don’t like doing
9. Ask for guidance
10. Get feedback
11. Do it straight away
12. Make it fun
1. Follow instructions of how to use equipment
2. Never use aerosol sprays inside
3. Be careful with scalpels, scissors and other sharp tools
4. Always use a cutting mat
5. Be extra careful with hot tools like irons, glue gun or heat-press
6. Some materials have harmful chemicals, always be cautious
7. Wear appropriate clothing
8. Take extra care with electrical equipment, especially with liquids
9. Be safe online
10. If in doubt, ask