By now, you’ve probably heard someone talk about the good that will come from our current situation; whether it be stronger family bonds, an appreciation for what is really important in life, or pollutant relief for the environment.  When looking back on bad situations, humans are often left with two questions to answer: How prepared were we to handle the situation and how can we be better prepared for the future?  The current health crisis caused schools to close their doors, which inadvertently, allowed us to gauge whether or not middle and high school students are well-equipped for independent learning.  In talking to various school teachers and administrators, it is apparent that many students were not prepared and lack the study skills necessary to learn independently during this time of distance learning.

Tough Times

Students are definitely up against it right now.  They are facing an academic challenge like they’ve never seen before.  The most difficult aspect of distance learning for students is that they are forced to control their own learning.  They have been forced to be more independent than ever before.  They are not in a classroom with a teacher directing them, they are in the comfortable confines of their own home.  Now more than ever, students have to rely on self-regulation.  I talked to a high school administrator and asked him about issues that his school is experiencing during distance learning.  His answer was not surprising and it seems to be a common theme among most schools right now.

the biggest issue we are seeing is that most students lack self-management, time management, and goal directed behavior.

Study Skills Training

Time management, organization, working memory, planning, self-monitoring, goal setting, and emotion control.  These are executive functioning skills, also known as study skills.  Executive functioning skills are paramount to the overall success of a student, especially while distance learning.  It’s impossible to be an effective independent learner if there is an inherent lack of study skills.  Unfortunately, these skills are not innate, these skills must be learned.  Students must go through training to learn and practice these skills on the journey to becoming a self-directed learner.  Study skills have always been important, but the responsibility has always been on families to provide training to the students outside of school.  Most families don’t expend the time or the resources to provide their children with study skills enrichment; therefore, we are finding out that most students lack these fundamental skills.  This discovery is important because it opens the eyes to the fact that academic failure is mostly likely a product of lack of skills and strategies, and not lack of intellectual ability.

Distance Learning and Beyond

This period of distance learning could be very helpful for students in the long run.  If deficiencies are identified now, the proper steps can be followed to fix the problems, which will lead to brighter futures for many students.  Think about college; college is basically distance learning.  Not in the sense that students learn from home, but in the sense that all of the responsibility falls on the student.  In most cases, parents aren’t around to make sure that their child does their homework or studies for their tests.  Teachers will not exhaust tons of extra energy in an effort to aid the success of individual students.  That’s just not the way it is.  Most colleges and universities are too big to be concerned with individual success.  Students receive the grades they earn on their own.  Independent learning should always be the goal to achieve in order to succeed in middle school, high school, college, and beyond.  The most common feedback we hear from parents is that our courses taught their children to be more independent.  We love hearing that because that is our goal.  Students who can identify the learning style most effective for them will be successful.  Students who set goals and know the steps it takes to achieve them will be successful.  Students who know how to manage their time by creating daily, weekly, and monthly calendars will be successful.  Students who have organizational skills and keep their binder, backpack, and locker clean will be successful.  Students who are equipped with strategies for test-taking and memorization will be successful.  The list goes on and on, but the goal is always to teach students the skills and strategies necessary for them to become effective independent learners.