Teaching students the qualities of a good learner may be the thing that changes your students forever!
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as teachers is making assumptions about what our students know and/or don’t know.
Sometimes we dumb things down for a group of students who could complete the task at a higher level, or we assume that a text is too hard for a student only to hear from their parents that they are reading that same text aloud to their siblings every night.
We also often assume that students have certain soft skills. That they understand what ‘being good’ looks like or what being ‘respectful’ sounds like. Unfortunately, not all kids are aware of these qualities and skills we take for granted.
Often, our students are not trying to be bad students; they just have no idea what a good student is.
Teaching the qualities of a good learner
I realized that my students didn’t really know what a good learner looked like, so I finally decided to start explicitly teaching it. In fact, the 6 qualities of good learners took on a special role in my classroom.
The six key qualities I focused on in my lessons…
- Positive Attitude
- Work Ethic
Teaching kids about the qualities of good students and learners was at times like teaching a foreign language. Students were not familiar with the term perseverance, but they knew what ‘trying again’ was or they had heard people talk about ‘not giving up.’
The term citizenship often stumped them completely, and it was hard to get them to understand that cooperation was now about an end product, rather it was about the process a group worked through to arrive at a product/decision.
After teaching on these topics for a few years, I started to identify that good instruction on these qualities included a few key components.
First, explicit instruction.
Students needed explicit instruction on each quality. We didn’t just brainstorm a list of qualities and move on. I spent time really discussing each quality on the list with my students.
Reading about the qualities and diving into what it means to possess each quality was key for my students, and once they could ‘talk the talk,’ they were able to start ‘walking the walk.’
Second, we assessed.
I felt it was important for students to really consider where they stood on each quality. We know that it is great to be a ‘10’ in all of these qualities, but if you didn’t notice…perfection is not one of the qualities of a good learner. Having a good work ethic is.
Once we honestly assessed where we were on each quality, we knew which qualities were strengths and which needed more attention and growth.
Lastly, we spent time reflecting.
After explicitly teaching about each quality and asking students to honestly assess themselves on each quality, I gave them time to reflect. They spent time thinking deeply about which areas they needed to put more focus and created action steps to work on improving that quality. I’m sure it’s no surprise that every student had something they needed to work on.
Constructing a positive culture of learning
Explicitly teaching, assessing, and reflecting on the qualities of a good learner put the whole class on an even playing field. We knew what our goals were, and we were making plans to accomplish them. The common vocabulary that my class could now share and use to discuss our strengths and weaknesses helped us build a positive culture and community where we all knew what was expected of us.
The Tab Book
I have since developed an entire resource based around the qualities of a good learner. My Qualities of a Student Tab Book provides all three of the pieces of instruction that I believe to be most valuable for students as they learn about the qualities of a good learner: explicit instruction, assessment, and reflection.
Students are given reading passages focused on each quality, a scale to assess themselves, and space to reflect on their overall evaluation.
If you are looking for a way to help your students be more successful learners, the Qualities of a Student Tab Book may be just what you need to get the conversation started!
Thank you for this post. Just hearing the words “Students needed explicit instruction on each quality” is a game changer. We do tend to forget that teaching these concepts is important. I have copied this post (with your credits) so that I can keep this reminder close by.