Teaching Responsibility: How to Help your Student to Take Charge

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Teaching your students to take responsibility for their learning and their actions is a great way to empower them and to motivate them. Being responsible isn’t something that comes naturally to most students and part of the reason for this is that those areas of the brain which deal with responsibility (frontal cortex) continue to grow and develop well into their early twenties. You can help them to take ownership of their actions and to think things through before acting with these simple techniques.

Instilling confidence

The first step in taking responsibility is for your students to believe that they are capable of making the right choices and of taking the lead. Start with baby steps; ask them how they are going to deal with a situation like an upcoming test or looking after a younger sibling.

Listen to their plan and discuss things that could go wrong and how to deal with possible problems. It’s best here to allow your student to come up with their own solutions; don’t be too prescriptive as to what they should do. Allowing them to formulate their own plans inspires confidence and giving them more responsibility shows that you have confidence in their abilities.

Dealing with failure

As students take on more responsibility with their studies and in other aspects of their lives, it’s inevitable that some glitches will occur. When this happens, try to remain calm and reflect on their actions, and the consequences of those actions.

When discussing failures, ask open ended-questions to allow students to arrive at their own conclusions. Taking responsibility means taking ownership of actions and consequences both good and bad. If you give your students responsibility, but keep taking the issue back or interfering, it will take them longer to assume responsibility.

Developing responsibility at home

Pets, chores and independence should be gradually introduced when your students are ready for them. As they learn to be responsible for all aspects of their lives, they will naturally assume responsibility for their academics too.

If you find yourself nagging them to do the things they know that they are responsible for, allowing them to fail occasionally and to deal with the consequences may inspire greater responsibility in the future.

Assuming academic responsibility

When students are struggling with academics, it may be time to set some goals that are realistic. Decide together on goals that for short term improvement and long-term achievement. Then set out a plan to accomplish those goals.

Get a tutor for students who have fallen behind, set a study schedule and suggest ways in which you can monitor their progress. Be involved, but don’t dictate; remember that they must be responsible for their own academic progress if they are really going to succeed.

Reward their successes with more freedom and responsibility and be patient and supportive when they fail.

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