We all know, or have known fellow students who don't seem to be that much smarter, or even work that much harder, and somehow consistently excel.
Sally and I met during university and I am happy to say we are still good friends today. Sally would ask for my advice about coursework and educational topics, for which I was always happy to help. Since I was providing all the answers it is natural to think I earned the highest grades. When we collected our coursework and test marks hers were always considerably higher than mine. This happened for two years and I could not work out what she was doing differently. Sally is very much a 'Smart Student'.
After my second year of university I worked full time as part of a sandwich year. During this year I made it my absolute goal to discover the secrets and behaviour of Smart Students.
I trawled through books on problem solving, memorisation techniques, exam techniques and how to write the perfect assignment. I attended every extracurricular activity that the university held about study skills and how to write reports. One book I stumbled across changed my attitude completely. It was called 'What Smart Students Know' written by Adam Robinson.
What I found was that Smart Students generally stumble onto the secrets of doing well accidently. Some resourceful students discover these secrets for themselves through trial and error while others are taught by parents, siblings or by a great teacher. These students wrongly assume that every person approaches academia in the same way, and to them there is nothing special about what they do.
To document everything I have collected about learning would require the production of a book, so I will summarise some key points, but this is far from being comprehensive.
Lesson One - Education is a Game
Education is one big game, whether you are in school, college or university the game remains the same. Those who know how to play the game usually end up on top. This is a philosophy many people find difficult to grasp. Let's take the following scenario:
Mary is a pleasant student. she is always willing to help her teacher, pays attention and tries her best. She is not the most intellectual student but her ambition is transparent. Steven is equally or more intelligent than Mary. However, Steven is disruptive in class and he lacks attitude. If both students submit pieces of work of equal level, for example a grade 'B'. While they may have submitted a piece of work of equal grade their actual grades will in most cases be different. Mary will probably receive an 'A' while Steven will receive a 'B'.
This is the part that seems to baffle most people and the psychology of such behaviour is out of the scope of this blog. The teacher subconsciously or consciously will mark Mary's work higher as they will be in a positive frame of mind. In some cases teachers know by increasing her grade it will help to improve the student. I will emphasise again that this is a practice that most people find hard to grasp, but teachers and tutors are human and they are guided by emotions just as much as anyone else.
Next Month - "Lesson Two - How to Play the Game"