Reading… 17th place. Science… 23rd place. Math… 31st place.
In a country that’s used to gold, silver and bronze that’s a pretty poor showing. These stats come from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which tested students in 65 countries and shows that students from the U.S. might want consider training a little harder. Or maybe we need better coaching… or better training facilities? In any case when it comes to global competition – especially for the jobs of the future – we’re getting the pants beat off of us by the likes of Shanghai, China (who ranked !# in all three areas), Korea, Finland, Japan and too many more to mention!
The good news is…
I just attended a conference for the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities (APCA) and the emphasis there was on Learning Outcomes. Learning Outcomes are statements of the knowledge, skills, and abilities a student possesses and can demonstrate after completing a learning experience or sequence of learning experiences. That includes regular courses, degree programs, internships, work-study programs or – in the case of campus activities – a co-curricular activity such as a guest speaker, trainer, band, fire-breather or any other brand of dog-and-pony show brought to campus with student activities dollars. For me that’s good news because I got into the world of speaking to and training college students because of my own commitment to learning outcomes – getting real results.
Because I had to overcome ADHD and dyslexia at an early age I have a passion for helping students – and that means making sure they have more than just the motivation, but the actual skills to succeed. In my own life, when I realized that the ability to remember was a skill and not something you were born with, it was a huge revelation for me. I immediately set out to achieve my own ‘learning outcomes.’ I became a two-time Guinness World Record Holder for Greatest Memory, I am CEO of three successful companies, I invented a new theory of memory used by neuro-scientists today and my memory program is the best selling memory improvement kit in the world. All of this from a kid who was placed in a separate class and told by one of his teachers not to expect much out of life! I succeeded in school where others said I would fail.
Let me make this clear – I don’t have a gift. Memory can be taught because it’s a skill – the kind of skill you need to move from worst to first. Most people think your memory is just what you are born with but it’s not. Once you learn how your mind really works, a whole world opens up. Anybody can learn this stuff because you either have a trained memory or you don’t.
Training your memory – to read and comprehend or to remember math or science formulas – is like the difference between pushing your car and getting in to drive it. You have the same tools (car) in both situations, but in the first situation you’re exerting a ton of effort and getting virtually nowhere, and in the second you’re applying good strategy to succeed. You’re actually using the tool in the way in which it was designed.
Don’t get me wrong. Motivating students is great, but I’ve seen my own life reflected in the eyes of many of the students I come into contact with. Because I’ve been there I may be biased but I say it’s hard to get motivated, be confident and show ambition if you’re failing academically or you’re staring at a piece of paper that says you’re not measuring up. Sometimes the motivational efforts only serve to further isolate you when you feel that the pep talks are only for the students who have the skills to succeed. If you don’t have those skills you’re only going to be moved by results. I was one of those students and that’s why I’m so passionate about making a difference – through ‘learning outcomes.’
In a way I’m a big cheerleader, but what I do best is train students to study better and how to be smarter because it really does result in success – and not just a warm, fuzzy feeling. In addition, when I show someone how to do something they previously thought was impossible… well, there’s nothing more motivating – for both of us! We can yell ‘go team’ all we want, but to really win we have to hit the gym. And maybe by the next time PISA releases their study we can be on the medal stand.