Friday, December 2, 2011

5 Simple tips for better grades at high school

Even though your teen is out of diapers you still have a huge influence on them. They still look up to you and want to make you proud.
Your support throughout their high school years will have an enormously positive effect on their grades and attitude towards school and studying.
It can be difficult to know just exactly how you can help your teen with their studies. After all, it’s probably been a while since you’ve opened a math or chemistry book!
So here are 5 practical things you can do with your teen to help them reach their academic potential at high school.

1. Figure out their learning style

Despite what many people think, anyone can learn how to study effectively. To do so, your teen simply needs to figure out what study habits and techniques work for THEM.
Part of learning how to study as effectively as possible involves figuring what your predominant learning style is. Once your teen knows what theirs is, they can integrate study techniques associated with this style into the way they study.
Never again will they have to be frustrated by not knowing what to do when they sit down to study

2. Make a weekly timetable

The most common topics parents ask us about are motivation and time management.
How can I get my teen to do school work regularly? How can our family fit everything in during the school week?
Sound familiar?
There’s something wonderfully powerful about scheduling study time in advance. So our answer is to draw up a timetable of your teen’s normal school week and let them assign the times when they’re going to complete homework and/or study.

3. Figure out some ‘Reasons Why’

There’s one very consistent difference between motivated teens, and not so motivated teens…
Motivated students have personal reasons WHY it’s important to do well at school.
Motivated students all have some idea as to what they want to do when they leave school. Either they have a career in mind, or a college they want to go to, or they simply know it’s important to keep their options open by getting great grades.
Unmotivated students who aren’t feeling driven to do well should think about THEIR future.
What are they interested in? What can they see themselves doing in 5-10 years time? Do they want to work at the supermarket for the rest of their days or would they like to get a good education and have the world as their oyster?
Have a chat with your teen about what reasons will motivate them to get off the couch and over to their desk.

4. Goal Grades

Another great motivator for any student is for them to decide what grades they want to aim for this year. This will give your teen a target to work towards – something to keep focused on.
Secondly, when they achieve their goal grades they’ll be so chuffed with themselves it will spur them on massively to keep giving school their best shot. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment and reward that comes with achieving goals.

5. Study with them

Studying can be a chore. Especially when exams are looming!
But it doesn’t have to be a total slog 100% of the time. You can help your teen study effectively and make it more enjoyable by getting involved.
Flash cards are a fabulous tool you can use with your teen, and they’re incredible simple to make!
It is also helpful for parents to ask questions from their their kid's study notes when they study for exams. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the content of what your teen has been studying – just you asking questions from their notes will massively help their recall.
If you can talk about the real life relevance of what they’re learning it will show them WHY what they’re learning is important. This plays a huge part in keeping your teen interested in their school work. So sit down and have a chat about what they’re learning and why they’re learning it.
You know your teen better than anyone, so you may find that there are tons of other things you can do at home to help them enjoy what they’re leaning and improve their memory retention.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


The behaviorist perspective
 The behaviorism is a psychological theory that studies the observable behavior by establishing the relationships between the stimuli and the responses. This theory emanates from the American psychologist John Broadus Watson who believes that psychology should study the external phenomena of behavior that is measurable to the opposite of what is internal not measurable. Watson contended that psychology should study measurable responses from stimuli of the environment. His model is the laboratory experiences of the biologist Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov found that dogs salivate to the ring of a bell if that bell was previously associated to food. Pavlov explained this phenomenon in terms of laboratory conditions rather than in terms of mental processes.
Pavlov believed that salivation is an observable event that can be measured by laboratory instruments. He considered absurd to try to determine what a dog or a person thinks. But here lies a question: Is human behavior identical to animal behavior because of the similarity of the biological structures? Is it true that the animal behavior is identical to the human behavior even though the same conditions produce the same effects. Besides the obvious similarities of the physical structures of man and animal are these two beings different philosophically if you consider man as a physical and intentional system at the same time. Another question here is : can you consider the animal as a physical system and an intentional system at the same time ? By intentional system we mean a system that has a mind or who can think. If this can be established man and animal would be identical. But it is not accepted that the animal has a mind but it is accepted for man. Therefore man and animal are not identical. The Watson theory cannot apply to man because of the differences between the two (man and animal), Then it is not true. But let's continue with the behaviorist theory. The psychologist B.F Skinner from Harvard university introduced the concept of reinforcing conditions. According to him organisms learn to behave in a certain manner because they are reinforced to do so. Skinner demonstrated that animals in laboratory could learn a variety of simple and complex behaviors because they have been reinforced. Many psychologists believe that it is possible to explain all behaviors in terms of the sum of events learned by reinforcement.
The cognitivist perspective
The cognitivist psychologists are interested in the study of mental processes..They attempt to explain our perceptions and our mental representations of the external world, our ways of solving problems, our dreams and reveries. They are concerned by the study of the spirit i.e the part of the consciousness concerning perception and the state of consciousness.
The structuralism.
Wilhem Wundt, the father of scientific psychology, pretended that spirit is a natural phenomenon and can be studied the same way as the heat, light, electricity, etc. Wundt introduced the concept of introspection to study the fundamental processes of thought. Wundt and his colleagues exposed themselves to a variety of sounds and images and attempt to describe the sensations and emotions expressed in regard to these stimuli.. Wundt and his students founded the school of psychology known as structuralism. The structuralism tries to define the content of the conscious experience by decomposing it in sensations, emotions and images.
The functionalism
By the end of the nineteenth century William James psychologist at Harvard university concentrated himself on the relationship between the conscious experience and behavior. According to James experience is fluid and continued and cannot be decomposed in elements as easily as proposed by the structuralists. James noticed the way that experience allowed ourselves to live in the most adapted way. James founded the school of functionalism that studies the relationship between the experience and its applications in the environment. He concentrated himself on the formation of habits or repeated experiences or responses to a stimuli became conscious The habits responses are also analyzed by the behaviorists but being tied to personal experience they belong to the cognitivist thought.
The gestaltism. 
The argument of gestalt psychologists is that the human perception cannot be explained in terms of single units. They claim that we tend to perceive elements of information as integrated sets or according to the context in which our perceptions take place. They studied the role of insight in the resolution of problems by animals and humans. Their findings suggest that, faced to a problem, we play with its mental representation until we regroup the elements that allows us to perceive the solution. These manipulations take time but once the appropriate regrouping is found we perceive the solution suddenly.
The cognitive development
The cognitive tradition includes several fields of study. The study of the swiss psychologist Jean Piaget on the the cognitive development of the child inspired thousands of research projects noticeably in genetic psychology and in psychopedagogy. Piaget research concentrates on how children and adults represent the world and how they reason.
The cognitive perspective and aggressiveness
The cognitive psychologists affirm that our behavior is influenced by our values, our perception of the situation and our choices. Those who believe that aggression is justified tend to act accordingly. Those who don't act differently. Piaget states that our moral judgment varies with maturity. A child tends to act aggressively according to his/her age.
The humanism. 
The humanist psychology is a recent tradition issued from the cognitivist tradition. Its elements of concentration are the human consciousness, the knowledge of self and the ability to make choices.
The Psychoanalytic perspective
The fact that people are motivated by deep impulsions and that dreams reflect unconscious desires are today deeply rooted in our culture. This influence comes chiefly from one man, Siegmund Freud (1856-1939). Freud, a Viennese physicist who came to the U.S to escape the Nazi tyranny founded the psychology school known as psychoanalysis.. For many people the psychoanalysis is considered as the true psychology but the experimental psychologists continue to question it. Freud disciples continue to refine and modify his theory.
To the opposite of psychologists who mostly worked in a laboratory setting, Freud acquired his understanding of thoughts, emotions and the human behavior thanks to
clinical interviews with his patients. He astonished of the little insight they manifested by about the motives of their behavior. Some of them justified the most awful behavior by absurd explanations. Others took the opportunity to blame themselves of all the evils that struck the human race.
Freud believed that hidden impulses mainly the primary sexual and aggressive impulses had a greater influence on the human behavior than the conscious thought. He also believed that the activity of the mind is unconscious and that this mind is a boiling tank of impulsions envies and desires. People tend to satisfy the impulses while avoiding to be condemned by others and themselves. They tend to deceive themselves about the the real motive of their behavior. The Freud's psychotherapy known as psychoanalysis helps people to be conscious of their deep conflicts and to find socially acceptable ways to express their desires and to satisfy their needs.
The psychoanalytic perspective and aggressiveness
Freud pretended that aggressive impulses were in part the consequence of the frustrations of the daily life. However children learned to repress their aggressive behavior to avoid parental punishment. Face to the slaughter of the first world war he came to talk about thanatos or instinct of death. Thanatos constitutes according to Freud the final expression of the human unconscious desire to return to the state of complete calm that prevailed before birth. Research didn't succeed to demonstrate the truth about the psychoanalytic method. Psychoanalysts pretend that the the demonstration methods used in laboratory were inappropriate.
The biological perspective
 Psychologists suppose that the nervous system particularly the brain is rsponsible of every thought, fantasy, dream or mental image that we produce. Psychologists arrived to demonstrate that some parts of the brain were responsible of a certain number of emotional responses and behavior.
Yves Simon, Educator

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Basics of learning

Life would be impossible for any animated living creature without learning. It would be interesting to know if any learning takes place for a fetus inside a mother's womb. But we can know for sure that learning exists immediately after the delivery of the baby from the womb. We are tempted to say that the baby's cry is a response to the environmental stimuli. Is this always true? Environmental stimuli include noise, light, etc. The fact is when the baby is fed with milk he stops crying. So is the baby cry a conditioned (CS) or unconditioned stimulus (IS)? But the most important thing to know before discussing whether the cry is a (CS) or an (IS) it is whether the response -feeding with milk- is a response to the cry. It simply is in the majority of cases. Discussing the nature of the stimulus is rather complex. Let's suppose it is a (CS) then we are in the classical conditioning case of Pavlov. The Pavlov's Classical conditioning occurs when a stimulus primarily unconditioned becomes conditioned when it is associated repeatedly with another unconditioned stimulus. Let me explain briefly the Pavlov's classical conditioning. Pavlov was a biologist who worked in the Russian military academy.. His interest in knowing how animals salivate to the presentation of food leads him to the theory of classical conditioning. Pavlov designed an experiment where food was presented to a dog while a bell was ringing simultaneously. The dog normally salivates to the presentation of food. But after different experiments where the food was presented jointly with the sound of a bell the dog learned to salivate to the sound of the bell alone. This is the Pavlov's classical conditioning. Another closed theory  is that of Thorndike called Instrumental Conditioning. I may devote a post where I can explain these theories in detail.

By the time a child is ready to go to school he/she has been exposed to these theories in everyday life. While these theories are widely used in formal and informal settings there is one missing component that wasn't taught to the child: it is how to learn. This is mainly how to master the learning of simple and complex academic subjects.

There are several factors that affect learning..Among many others we can consider the following: the environment, mental and physical health, methods of study, etc. If the room in which learning takes place is not properly lighted and aired learning can be impeded. Proper nutrition influences learning. Food with high levels of carbohydrates don't facilitate concentration. In particular it is recommended to consume food with levels of complex carbohydrates that can nourish the brain. Food with complex carbohydrate include lettuce, broccoli, carrots, onions and other leafy vegetables. Grains are also important. It is healthier to consume breads with fiber like wheat or grains instead of the white bread. Obviously learning cannot take place if one's mind is agitated.

There are some considerations to be taken when someone learns an academic subject. First the understanding of concepts is important. Sometimes they can be represented by pictures although it is not always possible in learning complex abstract subjects. Second a proper progression is important if one wants to master all the concepts of the subject. You can't solve a simple first degree equation like ax+b=0 if you don't know such concepts like inverse and opposite of a number, adding numbers, simplifying fractions among other basics. Third how can you pretend to solve an equation if you don't know what the words means in the first place. Ignoring the meaning of the concept can lead you to accept any solution. I was stunned to see the number of complex words in a kindergarten or first grade story book. At this stage the child not being able able to look up a word in a dictionary just misunderstands it and those misunderstandings carry out later in life in his study where he/she exhibits all kind of unpleasant behavior. 

Yves Simon, Educator and Civil Engineer.            .