Friday, April 12, 2013

Helping Students With "Completion Amnesia"

"Completion amnesia" is a term I use to describe a student's insistence on having completed an assignment, but cannot recall any or all of these questions.

1. Where is the assignment?
2. When is the assignment due?
3. Why was the assignment given?

Completion amnesia reaches its peak for many students during the middle school years (grades 6-8, ages 11-13). It is often misunderstood and often (mistakenly) assumed to be a symptom of a lack of effort. This leads to frustration and confusion which, in turn, create a less than satisfactory experience for students, parents, and teachers. There are some ways, though, to minimize the effects of "completion amnesia" that anyone tasked with supporting students can use.

First, be patient. Adults, for the most part, do not struggle as much with such matters as adolescents do. Solutions that are easy for us to understand and use are not always easy for students. This can lead to a great deal of frustration when what appears to be an easy fix always seems just out of reach. Patience and knowing that the solution is easy to us because we have had much more practice can help. There are many times when I hear teachers (and parents) lament having to repeat themselves over and over again. Sure, it is frustrating, but it is also necessary sometimes if the end result is important.

Second, advise the student to slow down and do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is not always a good thing and with the busy lives students live today, it is easy to see how an eleven year old can feel like she needs to do a lot more than you and I did each day when we were eleven. While the ability to multi-task can help get things done, it also contributes greatly to making careless mistakes. A lack of focus also prevents the student from possibly remembering important key concepts. Slowing down, taking one thing at a time, and being more deliberate in your work can help prevent carelessness and support thorough completion.

Third, add "when" and "where" to each assignment. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard students answer the question, "What do you need to do?" That is certainly important. However, two other questions have shown to help students actually follow through and get the assignment done on time and with good quality. Those questions are, "When are you going to do it?" and "Where will you do it?" If you use an assignment book or have a chart at home, add those two pieces to the equation. You may see better results from needing to answer them. Also, the more specific your answers are to these questions, the better.

Fourth, and finally, allow students to learn from their mistakes. This may be the toughest tip for some because it forces parents and teachers to face the fact that making a few mistakes along the way is where the learning takes place. It is tough because it places the learning process in front of the conversation in place of results and grades. Grades have their place, but can distract a student who is doing something new or difficult from focusing on doing better at the task at hand.

If the student has an idea about how to correct their own "completion amnesia", let them try. Give them feedback and enter into a partnership with the student to help them find what works better form them. After all, it is their work and they need to begin owning it. Ask questions. If you hear, "I don't know" too many times, then offering a specific idea is in order. The goal here is not perfection. The standard for satisfaction should be growth and effort.

"Completion amnesia" is a frustrating part of the school experience for students, parents, and teachers. Be prepared to help by considering these strategies.

This post was originally published on April 1, 2013 at The Thrivapy Blog
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