Thursday, March 4, 2010

Getting Things Done: Students

I wrote last time about teacher productivity and efficiency, and while that obviously deserves attention, students have a much greater deficit of these skills (big surprise, they’re students) yet what methods do schools put in place to amplify and revamp student working methods?

Surely individual teachers guide students to be more effective thinkers, note-takers, planners, etc. And some schools have advisory programs, “life skills” classes, and yes, a culture itself which breeds productivity and efficacy for students. When these initiatives succeed they ought be lauded, and ideally, replicated. Unfortunately, we have not arrived at a stage—perhaps due to our lack of national standards—where best practices for increasing general student effectiveness are widely known and practiced. Whether through the use of student agendas, advisory meetings, technology solutions or something else, school systems need to get serious about evaluating the effectiveness of student effectiveness training. That’s right, lets state that again to let that phrase soak in: evaluating the effectiveness of student effectiveness training.

Here are a couple ideas I’ve tried in the classroom, but have yet to fully put them to the test for effectiveness (and would obviously need to implement a large scale study to determine statistical validity… nevertheless…)

  1. Global History to do checklist: Students are given a template with columns for tasks (assignments, organizational goals, mastery of standards), priority rating (high, medium, low), and time estimates for completion. These lists would need to have prominent usage, and some class time would need to be devoted to coach students through the execution of their action items. It surprised me how few of my students had experience making to do lists, let alone using them. I would posit that this skill ought to be given much great emphasis in middle and high school curriculums.
  2. Emailing: We’re in an age when email is ubiquitous and teachers and students need to take advantage of it. Students need to learn how to write a formal email, need to be held accountable to checking their email on a regular (but not obsessive) basis, and need to learn the email organizational skills of the professional (see my last post). My students are required to use email for certain assignments, and with the advantage of time stamps, it really helps in time management training.

Of course there are many other strategies and tools to instruct students in personal task, time, energy, information and relationship management. What do you use?