Although being a master of your subject area is crucial for effective teaching, knowing how your students learn is equally important. The belief that any student can be taught any subject is a meritorious one, but if you want students to truly retain and absorb knowledge, you must teach in a way that they can learn. In this post, you will discover what you need to know about student learning. This is part one of a three-part blog series. We will focus on your students as individuals. What do you need to know about them? Why is this helpful in your teaching practices?

1. Personality

First, let’s look at personalities. Obviously, your classroom is made up of many different personalities. Trying to teach a lesson in twenty different ways to honor each unique personality would be difficult, to say the least. However, certain personalities can be grouped together, and you can create several options to best address those groups of similar students.

There are various personality tests that you can have your students complete to get an idea of whether they are more emotional or objective, more intuitive or more reliant on hard evidence. However, one easier way to group students is by identifying students who are more introverted and those who are more extroverted.

2. Extrovert vs. Introvert

Extroverts draw energy from the external world and crave interaction with others. They are your social butterflies and chatterboxes in the room. They prefer to learn through actions and hands-on means. While you might imagine that putting all of the extroverts together would lead to a gabfest with little work being accomplished, placing a few extroverts together to complete a project might work well. They will feed off of each other’s energy and stimulate each other through discussion.

Students who seem more introverted feel overstimulated by too many people. They draw energy from within and become drained when they must compete with others or spend extensive time working with others. They work well alone and prefer to learn through observations. Allowing introverts to quietly observe and then work independently to further their knowledge might give them the best opportunity to absorb the material.  Throwing one introvert into a group of extroverts will cause the student to shut down. You might think you’re getting a calming influence, but it is likely that you will get work completed mainly by the extroverts in that group, having overwhelmed the introvert.

Of course, the classroom is practice for real life, and in real life we don’t get to pick our co-workers and neighbors. When you want to give students practice coping with personalities that are different than their own, make sure you keep groups balanced and provide a variety of roles that will appeal to both extroverts and introverts.

3. Motivation

Every student can be motivated, even if they hide it well! All students have an idea of something they’d like to achieve, whether it be traditional academic success or saving up class coupons for a free prize. Approaching students as if they are universally motivated by the same things will not work. Tapping into that idea may evoke self-motivation, but the key is to have students set their own goals and see how the tasks they’re completing help them reach their unique goals. Once they connect the dots to foster their own self-motivation, success is possible. Make sure you take the time to find out about your students’ interests, dreams and goals. Simple interest inventories or brainstorming can help identify these. Take time to make a personal roadmap with students, preparing them to set their own goals and utilize self-motivation for completing the tasks needed in order to achieve them. One of the key aspects of tapping into self-motivation is the ability to stay positive. Reluctant students usually express negativity about schoolwork. Help your students remain positive and motivated. Start with a small attainable goal. It will have a long-lasting impact on your students as well as your classroom.

Relevant Posts:

Developing SMART goals:  CLICK HERE

Writing goals: CLICK HERE

Tips for Motivation:  CLICK HERE

4. Emotional Understanding

Teachers are called upon to play the role of educator, parental-stand-in, nurse, mentor, and sometimes therapist to name a few. Most of these roles are unofficial, simply a byproduct of being a caring teacher. When students carry emotional baggage, they cannot focus or learn. They need to deal with worries, stress, and sadness in some way, even if only temporarily, in order to do to their best in school.

Encourage students to have a safe spot to journal or a jar where students can confidentially put down what’s on their mind. A five-minute morning break to get fears, anxieties, and sadness out of their system may help students concentrate for the rest of the day.

It is also important to understand the emotional profile of your students in order to gauge how students will react to your teaching. For example, students who are more serious and solemn may appreciate if you present information in a serious manner. Students who are often in a silly and jubilant mood will appreciate if you make your lesson delivery more upbeat and humorous. When preparing student groups for small instruction, you may want to pair students who learn from the same style of delivery that appeals to their natural emotional temperature.

5. Background

If you have twenty students in your classroom, you have twenty unique backgrounds. It is important to be aware of those backgrounds. Different cultural and socioeconomic expectations and realities affect the way your students see the world, including school. Awareness of students’ backgrounds helps you understand if there are barriers to engaging in the classroom, such as a limited grasp of the language if it is not spoken at home or if they are coming through a messy divorce, which is making school the last thing on their minds. Knowing where a student is coming from can help them reach their destination. You can assist by finding the right tools and support to help your students become successful in the classroom. One way to achieve this is to have open communication with your parents. Send out a parent survey asking parents or guardians to share information on their child. It will provide you with each child’s unique background.

In conclusion, teaching not only requires expertise in a content area, but also extensive knowledge of your students as individuals. What will you find in the rest of this blog series?

Continue to Part Two and Three:

What You NEED to Know About Student Learning (Part Two) explores different learning styles along with tips and strategies for you and your students.

What You NEED to Know About Student Learning (Part Three) focuses on independent versus collaborative learners.