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There is no teacher who can teach a student who does not want to learn

Dr Ragnar Purje

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William Glasser acknowledges that “there [are] no doubt…some teachers who are more skilful at motivating than [others; however,] there is no teacher, no matter how skilled, who can teach a student who does not want to learn.” Glasser adds to this by noting: “We can force…students to stay in school…but we can no more make those students work than we can make the proverbial horse drink even though we tether him to the water trough."

There is no point in trying for force students to learn
Glasser and Anita Woolfolk contend that there is no point in trying to force a student (or anyone else) to behave or learn. Instead, one has to accept the premise that it is the student who is accountable for his or her own actions, and, ultimately it is the student who decides how he or she chooses to behave. Ultimately, students are accountable for their own attitudes, actions, behaviour, choices and learning.

What students choose is significant
John Hattie reported on a meta-analysis study that was undertaken for 15 years, which incorporated more than 50,000 studies, which involved millions of students, the results of this are significant, placed under the heading of Variance of Student Achievement, it found that the student is the one that has the greatest influence in relation to their learning and choices.

In terms of influence, teachers have a 30% influence on the learning of the student; the school, 10% and peers 10%. Whereas the learning behaviour of the student, recorded at 50%, informs that the action of the student – at the 50-percentile level – has the greatest influence on all of the learning outcomes that follow. As Professor Ken Purnell, at CQUniversity, in the School of Education and the Arts points out: “What a teacher does matters, however, what the student chooses to do is even more significant."

Then there is the research undertaken by Anita Woolfolk, citing studies undertaken by M. Lee Manning and Beverly Payne; Philip Winne; Barry Zimmerman and Dale Schunk (1989), which concluded that the “responsibility and the ability to learn [remains] within the student.” No one can actually “learn for someone else”. The intention, the action and the engagement in learning is the responsibility of the self, by the self, for the self.

The others in the lives of students, such as their family, their significant others, their teachers, their mentors, their peers, and their friends can offer advice, provide information; they can all offer encouragement. However, as the research informs students are not only responsible for their own learning; students are also the masters of their own educational and personal destiny.

The student, the parent, the guardian, the significant other, society itself can shout and scream from the roof top and blame the teacher for student’s not progressing at school. The universal reality is this:

1 It is the student who must decide to walk through the gates of the school.
2 The parent/guardian/the significant other can support, advise and encourage.
3 However, it is the student who must:
   • walk through the gates
   • walk to their classroom
   • sit at their desk
   • pick up the pencil
   • do the writing
   • pick up the book and do the reading
4 No one, but no one! can ever “learn for someone else”.

Stop rewarding students for what is considered as being normal social behaviour
When was the last time you had a police officer run up to you and give you a bag full of money for stopping at a red light? The self-evident answer is never! Stopping at a red light is normal and safe social behaviour.

A bag full of money?
When was the last time the person with whom you were engaging in conversation presented you with another bag full of money because you were polite during the course of the conversation? That’s right, never! That is because being polite and having manners is considered as being normal and reasonable.

What is required is commitment
Alfie Kohn and Woolfolk point out “rewards are ineffective” when one is dealing with student behaviors and student academic engagement “because when the praise and prizes stop, the behaviors stop too.” “Rewards (like punishments) can get people to do what we want: ... share a toy, read a book … But they rarely produce effects that survive the rewards themselves…They do not create an enduring commitment to a set of values or to learning; they merely and temporarily, change what we do.”

Rewards create less interest
The big problem with extrinsic rewards (which schools and teachers need to appreciate) according to Kohn and Woolfolk is that “rewarding students for learning actually makes them less interested in the material.”

If children begin to think about learning as a way of getting a sticker, a stamp, a certificate a gold star, this will “turn learning from an end to a means”; this, in turn will lead children to think of learning as being “something that must be gotten through to receive [a] reward” rather than thinking of learning as being an end-in-itself.

Learning is its own reward
The thought and assertion that “learning is its exceeding great reward” was voiced centuries ago by English essayist, literary critic, grammarian and philosopher, William Hazlitt. Hazlitt was of the view that the education process should have, as one of its central aims, the goal of creating the next generation of well-educated and reasonable thinking adults who would be able to influence society in a positive and all-encompassing manner for the benefit of everyone.

Self-action achieves results
As Daniel Coyle points out in his book The talent code, greatness isn’t born its grown. Your brain does not care about who your friends are, what type of clothes you wear, what celebrities you follow, what you read on the internet, how many social media friends you have, how many different apps you have. All that matters is whether you go to school, and whether you pick up the pencil and do the writing, or pick up the book and do the reading. These activities, and all of the other learning activities, is what will influence and change and rewire your brain, advance your skills, and advance your thinking, your knowledge and your mind.

Where to from here?
For the parent: That is for you to decide. For the student: That is for you to decide. The school is there, the administrative staff are there, the teachers are there; all of the support staff are there; to help you, the student to realise your potential. Your potential can only, be achieved through your effort. Your learning is your responsibility. No one can learn for you.

Stop blaming teachers
If a student is not doing the work, stop blaming the teachers. Learning is the responsibility of the student. No one can learn for anyone else.

Students at risk
Of course, if a student is consistently acting out, irrespective ongoing support, encouragement or advice, then it is time to seek support from the school’s administration, and the school’s administration then needs to act in conjunction with the parents.

Image  Adikos flicr cc attribution license

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