Monday, April 15, 2013

7 Questions For Which Every Student Should Have An Answer

Successful students know plenty, but some of what they know will never appear on a test or exam. While facts and figures are important and have their place in school, every student is not going to know everything. However, if I had to choose a few questions to which every student knew the answer, the list would include the following:

1. What is your purpose as a student?
This question speaks to the student's sense of mission. Generally, students can take two approaches to their role. One is the student as a receiver of an education. The second is a student as a producer of educated work. I advise students to reflect upon and move towards the second.
2. If all barriers to success were removed, what does an ideal school experience look like?
Another foundations* question, this asks students to craft a vision of success. An important element here is the need for specifics in the description. I have found that greater specificity leads to greater chances of success.
3. (2 part question) - What are the barriers to your ideal experience and how can you overcome them?
Of course the ideal is probably out of reach (if it wasn't out of reach, you would have gotten there by now), so facing reality and recognizing the real challenges facing your success is important. Knowing the difficulties you are about to face makes it easier to identify where you may need to work harder, who you may need to get on your team, and what type of help you may need along the way.
4. (2 part question) - What beliefs do you have about being a student and what actions are implied by those beliefs?
This question can be a difficult one to answer. It is difficult because your answer can reveal some inconsistencies in your work which would need to be addressed. For example, if one of your beliefs is that homework is an important part of getting better and getting better is an essential aspect of education, then the implied action is that you would always do your homework. For a student, this could be a difficult conclusion to manage, especially if you realize either you really do not hold that belief or you need to adjust your actions. Sometimes, neither course of action is attractive. However, the exercise of reviewing belief/action continuity can uncover some useful insights into why a student is not as satisfied or successful as they would like to be.
5. What did (will) you do to be a better student today?
I like this question better than, "What happened in school today?" One reason is that this question focuses on growth mindsets. Second, because this question is more focused, you are more likely to get a specific answer instead of "nothing" or another equally less descriptive answer.
6. What did (will) you do to help someone else be a better student today?
This is the previous question's cousin. After reflecting on your own growth, this one turns your attention to others. One of the principles of Thrivapy is relationship building and nothing helps build relationships like sharing your talents, ideas, knowledge, etc. with others. By helping others, we help ourselves. For example, I played baseball from the time I was able to walk  through college. Upon graduating, I became a high school baseball coach (which I continued to do for about 10 years). To this day, I am convinced that I was a better batter while I was coaching players and sharing what I knew than I was when I played.
7. Who are the people you can count on to support your efforts? Who is on your team?
When I played and coached baseball and football, I had a shirt with the word TEAM spelled out in all caps with the meaning "Together Everyone Achieves More" written on the back. While such messages are common in sports, the work of the student is often very much a solo act. Even with increased emphasis on collaboration, students can easily feel alone and unsupported when things begin to get a little tough.
We live in, arguably, the most connected society in the history of the world. Now, more than ever, it is easy to form a community of like-minded and talented people and tap into the collective genius of the group to help get you through difficult times. This is when knowing who is on your learning team and what they can do to help benefits students. This team can include parents, teachers, administrators, friends, other relatives, etc. Having a team in place does not, however, diminish the student's responsibility to act and make satisfactory efforts. What the team does is elevate the potential of the individual by creating a network through which knowledge is created and shared.
These are important questions and are the basis for some of the Thrivapy conversations I have with students. One of the great aspects of these questions is that with very little adjustment, they are as applicable to helping almost anyone, including teachers, find greater clarity, satisfaction, and success in their work.

* The term "foundations" is what I use to include mission, vision, beliefs, and philosophy as a single part of one's ability to find greater purpose, direction, satisfaction, and success. The foundations concept is one of the seven principles upon which Thrivapy works.

This article was originally published on The Thrivapy Blog (4/3/2013).
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