Get Better Grades, Quicker and Easier, by Practicing

Telling Your Teen to Do Homework Isn’t Enough

By the time teens get to high school, their eight years of school have convinced most of them that they are doing about as well in school as they can. As the parent of a teen, you have probably spent much time and effort telling your teen about the value of education and hard work. It probably hasn’t made much difference. Even the professionals at colleges who try to help struggling students graduate aren’t very successful. As you may know, California Community Colleges and State Universities are ending Student Success courses because they don’t work very well. One reason is that those courses talk about learning, studying, and motivation, rather than coaching students as learn by practicing. Here is why.

The minimum requirement for college success is learning one’s courses. In our recent survey of 219 student success faculty and counselors, 94% estimated that fewer than 10% of their students were aware of these truths about learning:

  • Most learning happens when the student practices whatever he or she is learning to do. Active practice—answering, analyzing, and applying—is more effective than passive studying—rereading and re-watching.
  • Mastering today’s lesson is generally a pre-requisite for subsequent lessons. So, practicing to mastery increases both learning rate and remembering. It is also satisfying and motivating.
  • The practice is not a test. If you get stuck, get help or feedback at that moment. Then continue practicing to mastery.

I was a junior in high school when I first started deliberately practicing to become faster and more accurate in math. Well, it worked. I was soon winning math contests. My top SAT scores got me a full scholarship to MIT, and I became a Ph.D. Rocket Scientist at 24. Later, while teaching Advanced Calculus at UC Berkeley, I realized that most of my students were passing without gaining any lasting competence in math. So, I started coaching my students to learn by practicing.

In the past 25 years, we have helped thousands of high school and college students in our programs on a dozen college campuses in California and at hundreds of high schools. Our experience proves that it is possible to train teens to become better learners. This training is a high-leverage complement to the instruction and mentoring provided by teachers in class and online. Our books and earlier videos were published by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Penguin Books, and Time/LIFE Video. For more information, have your teen join you in  viewing our 5-minute video introduction. Click Here

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