Almost every child has complained that they hate to study. But, what if we could switch things around and apply learning theory to studying?
Getting kids to study is frustrating, especially when they tell you that this subject is boring. So, it’s quite normal to hear parents lament: “My child doesn’t study!” How often do we hear parents say this? And the remedy to this is seen as tuition or acceptance that “this is all my child is capable of”. Instead, we should be looking at learning theory as a solution to make study time a positive experience.
Perhaps it is time for us to study the reasons why many high-schoolers lose focus. Our education system, much like many others around the world begins with theory and stays largely theoretical; Sometimes, there’s a bit of practical work fused in at the end for good measure.
Let us look at how usually cooking is imparted. Youngsters at a certain age watch adults cook, assist in small portions like chopping/ washing. They are shown how to cook simple things like rice, tea, and left to make it on their own. There is no explanation given as to why rice is boiled at a particular point. The what and how is introduced, with the why being discovered much later.
With this process they soon grow into confident chefs cooking with love and enjoying the process. These wonderful cooks may go forward and read recipe books or experiment once they know the basic practical aspects well.
Conversely, let us look at how we introduce the concept of say, a pendulum in Physics. Children are introduced to terms like “oscillation” “bob” “periodic motion” “maximum displacement”, pretty much all at the same time. Then they are given briefly the reasons, saying gravity controls it.
When we say “studying Pendulum”, children are expected to define each term and answer theoretically related questions. Both the “what” and the “why” have been introduced in small proportions. The following year the same will be revisited in greater depth and thereafter children learn more theory in depth year after year. They would eventually be taken to a lab to view/ test some of the theory they have learnt.
5 Steps to make study time fascinating
- Introduce a pendulum to the child at a relatively young age. Let the child fiddle around with a pendulum. With children’s sensory inputs being much higher than that of adults, they will discover a thousand different things about the movement of the pendulum.
- After a period of exploring with a pendulum, children may change the weights / bob. They may vary the length of the pendulum and see what happens.
- Now when they go back and read about it in their textbook, they have some observations/ contributions to make. They are now ready for definitions of what each part is because they have explored these thoroughly
- Once they have thoroughly explored the “what” of things, they will gravitate towards the “why”.
- Introduce cause and effect toys in early years, which would lead them to look for reasons why certain phenomena are observed, and take an interest to find out what happened instead of blindly accepting definitions.
Help make learning fun
This is not true only for Science. In history/ geography, children may make models of forts/ create landforms and more without questioning why a war was fought, or why a landform looks in a certain way. But if the practical is introduced early, they will drift towards the logical question of why naturally.
Mathematics, the one area which is thoroughly abstract, will be appreciated by children more if there has been concrete understanding early. If finding a square root can be demonstrated and explored long before doing sums from a textbook, children would enjoy Maths much more.
If schools do not take the trouble to make lessons thought provoking, learning can be made practical even at home with toys / tools that allow children to experiment and explore. When children are young, if they interact with toys that have specific learning objectives that will aid their concrete understanding, it sets a very strong foundation for future learning. It is important to allow them to make as many mistakes with toys as possible in order for them to arrive at answers on their own. This will significantly enhance interest in formal self-study as well. When children arrive at definitions on their own through practical understanding, there is higher understanding and consequently higher interest to learn.
So let us help children learn experientially before they learn theory in books. If children start with the concrete and then go to the abstract, it is guaranteed to have a positive impact on their studying habits!