Students and Success

By Michael Edmonds 04/06/2011 6


I’ve been thinking for a while now about students and why some achieve when others do not. This is becoming increasingly important for the education sector with the government now focused on the outputs of education (i.e. how many students pass courses and qualifications). There are many challenges involved in raising completion rates and this requires balancing a lot of different factors.

I have developed the following idea, in pictorial form, that student success depends on three main areas:

Student success

Natural Ability – We all have different natural abilities and aptitudes. Something that is easy for one student may be extremely difficult for another.

Motivation – Even the most naturally talented person in any field, will not succeed if they choose not to engage in learning.

Learning Resources – Quality learning resources (and I’m including educators in this category) help students learn effectively.

Good educators provide (and are) quality learning resources. And by understanding any gaps in a students natural abilities they may be able to compensate for them. For example, with students (like myself) who have difficulty remembering lots of information but are good at pattern recognition, showing them patterns and teaching them mnemonics can compensate for lack of brute memory power.

Great educators are also able to motivate students, to find ways to keep a student learning even when it is difficult for them. This could involve getting them to visualise what success will lead to, or to relate the learning to something the student enjoys.

I’d be interested in what other educators think about this three factor view of student success. It’s an idea I’d like to develop further if possible.


6 Responses to “Students and Success”

  • How about social milieu ? That is a broad label, but how about the example of an anti-intellectual younger brother who chooses to get married on the day before your final exam ?

  • alain

    You raise an interesting point. Social milieu may be part of a bigger picture but I was thinking more of the individual act of learning rather than completion of individual assessment.

  • Yep, it’s the old ‘means, motive and opportunity’ thing. Except that ‘opportunity’ isn’t quite covered. The student might be in the wrong place or at the wrong time to do the thing he or she would really excel at. This is particularly likely in a small place like NZ.

    ‘Social milieu’ would be a factor in ‘motivation’, n’est ce pas?

  • I’ve got a quote on my office door:
    The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.
    Not everyone who sees that, agrees with it…

  • Alison,

    And one of the most important things a teacher can do is work out what the learner already knows and what they don’t already know.

    Kemo sabe,
    Oui, social milieu would have some influence on motivation but it is likely to be dependent on the person. A negative opinion from ones social environment may drive some individuals to success while for others it might hold them back.

    In the natural ability/motivation/learning resources model I’m trying to tease out what I see in my students as helping them succeed or not.
    I’ve seen students with moderate ability succeed because their motivation is high and they’ve used learning resources that best suit them. On the other hand an very intelligent student can fail if they choose poor learning resources.
    I guess if I had to draw in social milieu to the diagram I might put it as an external link to the motivation circle

  • I know 🙂 But all too often I get the refrain that the students don’t actually know anything about [insert subject here], so it doesn’t matter & the lecturer ‘starts from scratch’. Only the first clause is wrong – students probably know quite a lot, albeit that ‘knowledge’ might be inaccurate/contain misconceptions, & if you don’t know about that then you’re not going to do a particularly good job of helping them acquire further knowledge/understanding in a meaningful way. And the second’s wrong, too, because they don’t start from scratch.
    I’m think one part of helping students to succeed is a) helping them recognise what they already know (cos sometimes they don’t) & b) helping them to incorporate new material into that existing knowledge scaffolding.