In order for students to reach their potential, gain confidence and excel, several factors are involved. Innate ability or the inherited skills of reason, logic, memory, processing, speed and language are frameworks or foundations from which to acquire and build knowledge. Additional factors such as confidence, motivation, attention, curiosity, attitude and organisation can enhance the foundational skills or minimise a child’s learning potential. These are the factors that are most influenced by parents and teachers.
Children’s home environment shapes the initial attitudes toward learning. When parents nurture their children’s natural curiosity about the world by welcoming their questions, encouraging exploration, and familiarising them with resources that can expand their world, they are giving their children the message that learning is worthwhile and frequently fun and satisfying.
When children are raised in a home that nurtures a sense of self-worth, competence, autonomy, and self-efficacy, they will be more apt to accept the risks inherent in learning. When children do not view themselves as competent and able, their freedom to engage in academically challenging pursuits and capacity to tolerate and cope with failure are diminished.
Once children start school, they begin forming beliefs about themselves as learners through school-related successes and failures. The sources to which children attribute their successes (commonly effort, ability, luck, or level of task difficulty) and failures (often lack of ability or task difficulty) have important implications for how they approach and cope with learning situations.
Children whose parents acknowledge the efforts their children make see the motivation (‘I see you worked so hard on that!’ or ‘You didn’t give up! You tried and tried!’). Those who demand perfection, unrealistic expectations and more than the child is capable of, create discouraged and frustrated children who are hopelessly stuck between their daily classroom realities and disappointing their parents.
Children feel most confident and motivated in an area they feel successful in and can make a welcomed contribution. The more varied the range of experiences children encounter, the greater chance to find an area that inspires them and nurtures their own gifts and talents; therefore, increasing motivation and eagerness to learn. Not all children are academically inclined or naturally gifted in the skills required for core curriculum such as reasoning, language, memory, mathematics, writing or reading.
There are so many other facets to a well-balanced life that involve many of the other skills, talents and contributions of children. Kind and caring children are natural leaders and respected. They contribute to a safe learning environment in their classrooms. Confidence, joy and positive attitudes infect an entire school, families, friendships and futures.
Environmental factors that enhance the breadth of learning opportunities such as the choice of school, family wholesomeness, financial resources, travel opportunities, friends, and exposure to rich and varied experiences allow children even further opportunities to develop an area of interest.
We need an environment where all facets of the human spectrum have a chance to be developed not only through the core curriculum but through the after school activity programmes, theatre production, over night trips, field trips, athletics, music, art, exhibition, class presentations, committed teachers and contributions by parents and visiting shows, within a caring environment so that all children are inspired to learn.
Vivian Huizenga is an educational psychologist at International School Dhaka.
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