Monday, 20 February 2017

Skills development over exam successes, what is more important?

What do we do when students don't pass? What do we tell them when all their hard work and effort seem to go unnoticed and a pass doesn't seem possible? I want to talk today about the emphasis that needs to be placed upon development of skills over the end result.

Certain skills mean that you are suited to a particular occupation, it may be to do some work in a particular field that you may need a certain qualification in order to get there. This doesn't mean that you can look for short-cuts and easy ways to achieve the pass in order to get there, the work required takes hard work, resilience and patience to master.

The students I teach are more than happy to spend hundreds of pounds and repeat their driving test again and again, there is no easy way to get through a driving test without knowing the skills and applying them in a practical exam. The same can be said for any Maths or English exam, to enable yourself to complete this to the best of your ability, you need to be able to understand concepts and work towards making progress within this field. There is a common practice where students look for shortcuts and easy to memorise examples to get them through an exam, rather than developing their skills in this area.

Are your students looking for instant gratification from their English and Maths exams? (Image courtesy of

What are we really telling our students when we are merely preparing them for an exam rather than giving them skills to develop their critical thinking? Really we are part of a system that is forced to get students to pass an exam without too much emphasis placed on being able to apply those skills directly to a vocational activity, or to real life situations. The amount of people I am aware of that already have their GCSE in English or Maths at C grade or above and struggle to read and write is terrifying, considering that these are basic skills that employers would expect employees to know given the presence of a GCSE in these subjects.

Why do we value the result so much, rather than the journey. We don't actually teach our students to feel anything but the instant gratification of an exam pass rather than taking the time to sit down and throughly get involved in developing their understanding of a field. Some students are busy in their lives looking for a quick fix rather than taking the time to develop their own skill-set to make them work-ready. We can't hide from this hidden curriculum that has been thrown into our schooling system, but I wish it was different.

Is there anything we can do about this? Especially in a system where we value results and emphasise the importance of passing exams rather than applying content. What does this tell us about the future of our workforce and how do we continue to work with students when all they are focused on is the end result. Let's apply a context to discuss this in more detail.

Let's say someone wants to lose weight, not only do they have to take up an exercise routine, but they have to change their lifestyle. There is a reason that people don't adapt to this as they are looking for instant gratification and instant results in their own goals, this is why get fit fast fixes sell really quick, along with all the paraphernalia associated. They are focused on the goal rather than the journey, they don't feel satisfied in feeling a little bit fitter or more agile, they just want the result. This is why a lot of people fail. Can you apply this thinking to your students Maths and English lessons?

A journey of 1000 miles begins with a simple step. Why should it take any less? (Image courtesy of

How do we encourage the journey rather than the final destination? Maybe we could look at what we are teaching students and how we can apply their learning to real life examples, let's focus on what we were here to do, teach great lessons and make an impact. Would it make you happier knowing that your students developed their Maths or English skills over simply getting exam grades? Would you prefer to be the person that believed in someone's competency in your craft rather than their ability to pass the exam?

Encourage your students to enjoy the journey, rather than seek instant pleasure from a letter (soon to be numbers, but we will talk about that in a future post!) they may value their lessons much more, but this will need to be a shift from all sides of the educational system.

Don't forget to check out my YouTube video on Mean, Mode Median and Range here filled with real life examples, suggest new content for me to include as well as feedback. Any feedback is massively appreciated.

Have a good week

- Matt