Defining and Understanding Student Performance
What is the essence of student performance in the classroom? Students’ performance is often considered to be an action state, which encompasses activities they are expected to complete throughout the duration of the class. Every student is held to an expectation that they will complete some form of activity or submit a work product to demonstrate that learning has occurred. In order to improve student performance it is important to understand how it is assessed, what expectations students hold, and how to create an environment that is conducive to reaching peak performance.
Students may be evaluated according to how they are performing within the classroom environment during class discussions, along with the level of progress and skill set development demonstrated for written assignments. Instructors may assess students’ progress visually during class discussions, based upon the level of substance provided, the frequency of participation, and their overall engagement in those discussions. For written assignments students are assessed according to how well learning objectives, goals, and assignment criteria are met.
From the students’ perspective, they begin class with expectations and perceptions about the classroom, the learning environment, and their instructor. Students start with an expectation that they will produce some form of work product, whether it involves a paper, presentation, quiz, or an exam. Students’ perception about how well they must perform is based upon prior learning experiences and often influenced by the feedback received and belief that the work completed was meaningful and contributed to the knowledge creation process. This reminds instructors that students want more than busy work when they come to class. When students believe that assignments hold no real value or meaning they are more likely to do the minimum required and just get by.
One method of engaging students in the learning activities and promoting strong performance is to develop class discussions and assignments in a way that requires them to take information, synthesize it, and apply it to real world situations and problems. An adult student who has prior experiences and knowledge needs to be encouraged to do more than memorize facts as lasting knowledge acquisition is more likely to occur when high-order cognitive processes are utilized. Discussions in the classroom provide a means necessary for cognitive and intellectual development as all students have an opportunity to participate and contribute. By encouraging the use of critical thinking and analysis students become actively involved in the process of learning.
A potential barrier occurs when students are focused on their grades without considering or understanding their potential to meet the performance requirements. Students may also not realize when they have reached their full performance potential or they have attained a peak performance level. Another possible challenge is present when students are motivated to take the class and they want to be engaged in the class; however, they may not have the skills necessary to produce a satisfactory work product. It is possible that performance in the class may also be adversely affected when students have taken on too many responsibilities. Performance may decline if students have too many demands made of their time or they are not effectively managing their time and balancing coursework assignments with these responsibilities. Only through the use of meaningful feedback can an instructor identify these issues and take corrective and responsive action.
Another effective method for overcoming these potential challenges to students’ progress is to offer periodic contact with them through some form of availability outside of the scheduled class hours. This may include office hours, which is a requirement for some institutions, or contact through electronic means such as e-mail. This helps to transform the students’ perception of their instructor in a positive manner by viewing them as a source of support for their overall progress and development. When students recognize the true value of a classroom learning environment through meaningful activities and a supportive instructor, their performance is likely to demonstrate a positive outcome.