“Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.” – Abigail Adams

Many times, parents/caregivers from the educated middle-class segment are unable to identify the reason for the poor academic performance or dip in academic performance of an otherwise smart and normal, average to above-average school/college going son/daughter. There may be one or more causes for the same. I have listed a few possible factors in descending order as per my observation in the experience that influences the academic performance of these students. I request the readers to kindly introspect honestly on each and every heading and try to identify if any of these categories ring a bell with you. If you (student or parent) have been able to identify the possible factor/s from here it may be easy for you to address it in the most effective manner at the earliest either by changing the situation in a positive way either with or without outside intervention.

Listed here are some of the most common factors:

1. Environment within homes

Home is where the foundation of learning and education takes place. Parents are the first teachers of their children. Parents are sources of security, encouragement and help for children in providing solutions to their problems. The presence of amiable home environmental conditions such as effective communication among the family members, good relationships and terms and conditions make provision room for the students to concentrate on their studies. The encouraging attitude of the parents primarily proves as a source of inspiration and motivation. When parents are unaware of some information, then older siblings mainly guide their younger siblings. Older siblings in some cases also provide instruction to their younger siblings. Parents and siblings within the family are the ones that render an imperative contribution towards the achievement of academic goals.

2. Social circles and friendships

A good social circle helps students in solving academic problems, getting involved in leisure activities, sharing one’s joys and sorrows, and so forth. Forming a good social circle and healthy friendships have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of the students. Parents have a huge responsibility in encouraging their child’s social circles and friendships with constant monitoring and at the same time being non-interfering too.

3. Time management, prioritising and planning

The normal schedule of school and college students comprises of school/college hours and time for completion of home-work assignments, in some kinds of extra-curricular activities and sports etc. In addition to all this, they have to spend time with family, friends and for their personal interests and activities. It is essential for the students to create a balance between all the tasks and activities. The activities that are more important should be given more time and a lesser amount of time can be spent on the activities that are less important. As far as their subjects are concerned, they should spend more time revising those subjects that they find difficult. More focus should be put upon the weak areas. One should form a study plan, for a week or a month. It should comprise all the subjects and concepts that one would revise. Lack of adequate planning is regarded as one of the areas that may lead to low academic achievement.

4. Study skills

In order to enhance one’s academic performance, it is vital for individuals to develop study skills within themselves. Some of the study skills include memorizing from the textbooks or other materials, making notes, practising writing essays and articles, especially in languages (as subjects), practising calculations in mathematics and so forth. Inability to completely concentrate leads to not being able to grasp the concepts well which is one of the factors that lead to undesired academic outcomes.

5. Physical and psychological health

In order to generate positive academic outcomes, it is essential for the students to maintain their physical and psychological health. Factors such as physical health problems, trauma and accidents, stress, anxiety, fear, depression prove to be impediments within the course of their academic achievement. Consuming a healthy and nutritious diet, getting engaged in extra-curricular activities, staying calm and taking pleasure in school/college activities and studying are some of the aspects that help in maintaining good physical and psychological health.

6. Exam phobia, anxiety and fear

Depression mainly takes place among students due to low grades in assignments and tests. When they have worked hard and yet achieve low grades, they feel depressed. Exam phobia is the fear of the exam and the expectation of failure. It weakens one’s preparation for the exam by affecting attention, concentration, thinking and memory. Fear of examinations is natural, but what is important is, individuals need to learn how to overcome fear and not make it a barrier within the course of their academic achievement.

7. Encouragement, counselling and guidance

There are numerous problems and difficulties that students experience in school and college. Some may even get involved in violent and criminal acts, drug abuse, overuse and misuse of technology devices, HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancies, induced abortions etc. These factors have a direct impact on not only their academic performance but also their lives. When problems and difficulties are experienced by the students, then they need to obtain assistance from others. When students are unable to achieve the desired grades, the teachers and parents need to offer and provide help and assistance, motivate and encourage them to do better in future. Counselling and guidance services need to be established in schools and colleges to help the students to provide solutions to their problems, focus upon their studies and careers in order to become responsible members of the community.

8. Administration and management of school/college, teachers and class environment

The academic performance of the students is also influenced by the administration and management of the school such as proper rules and policies put into practice in an appropriate manner. Blessed are the teachers who play an imperative role in influencing the academic performance of the students. They have a huge responsibility upon their shoulders in moulding a student to become a good human being in addition to providing adequate knowledge and information regarding the subjects they teach. The main objective of a teacher is not only to enhance the academic performance of the students but also to boost their all-rounded development. It is crucial for a classroom environment to be disciplined, well-ordered, with both the teachers and the students implementing the traits of morality and ethics. It is vital to promote mutual understanding, amiability and co-operation among the teachers and students as well as among the fellow students. Such classroom environments help the students learn better and improve academic performance. 

9. Teaching-Learning Methods (school/college/tuition/coaching)

It is vital for the parents and teachers to make sure that effective teaching-learning methods are implemented, which may encourage learning among the students and help them understand better.  It would be wise to bear in mind that each individual is different and therefore as a teacher he/she will be adept in imparting knowledge and information well in a particular way/s. Similarly, each student is unique and may learn quickly and effectively in manner/s which is different from how another student can learn. Therefore, one size fits all is not going to be effective in this category. As a student, it would be wise to identify the best method suitable to him/her and plan your study accordingly. As a teacher, if the student to teacher ratio is low then the teaching method can be adapted accordingly. But in a large class, the learning teaching methods will have to be adopted by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the teacher and the majority of students in a given class and also as per the rules and policies of the school/college management. Given below is a classification of teaching and learning methods centred either on the person teaching, or the person learning or the activity and the degree of activity.

  • Centred on the teacher—expository methods:
    • Lecture/exposure;
    • Story telling;
    • Explanation; or
    • Instruction.
  • Focused on the interaction between teacher and student
    • Conversation;
    • Collective discussion;
    • Problem solving;
    • Troubleshooting;
    • Demonstration;
    • Modelling;
    • Exercise;
    • Case analysis or study; or
    • Didactic/educational game.
  • Student centred or active-participatory methods:
  • Methods of organising information and graphic visualisation:
  • Cube method;
  • Method of mosaic or reciprocal teaching;
  • Conceptual map;
  • Starburst;
  • Clusters;
  • Diagrams; or
  • Training on simulator.
  • Methods of stimulating creativity:
  • Brainstorming;
  • Philips 6–6;
  • 6/3/5 Technique;
  • Panel discussions.
  • Methods to facilitate metacognition:
  • The Know/Want/Learn method;
  • Reflective reading;
  • Walking through the pictures; or
  • The Learning Log.

10. Covid Pandemic

Simply put, last and this academic year, there are more factors to consider when looking at student performance such as student’s environment, family status and new teaching methods. Many students who may have been successful in prior academic settings, might be struggling with new hybrid and online teaching environments. Video fatigue is real. The lack of social interaction with classmates is real. Technology challenges are real. The challenges presented to today’s teachers to teach in these remote environments or in-person with half the class are also very real. Professionals who may have been well equipped to handle web conferencing and remote training are even struggling. When you consider the needs of today’s students and how they are adjusting, the concerns are much greater. Students thrive when given opportunities to collaborate and converse with peers. They grow from classroom discussions and social interactions with classmates, both academically and socially. Now, they’re being deprived of these opportunities to do so in person. This is not to say that discussions cannot be achieved virtually, but the success of these are yet to be understood. Teachers are tasked with finding ways to encourage the social interaction and engagement of their remote students. Parents are tasked with ensuring that their children are logging on and participating effectively. Teachers and parents are both concerned with ensuring that children are given ample opportunities to interact with their peers for social growth. With so many members of the household learning and working from home, they’re likely relying on the same Internet and experiencing bandwidth issues. Being off a video call can create challenges of missed information and communication that’s unclear. These factors can present students with additional challenges that disrupt their learning experiences. The Covid pandemic is another major factor that has affected the learning, teaching, evaluation and academic performance of today’s students.

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