At the end of Term One, you would have received your child’s Academic Progress Report and been invited to meet their teachers at the Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences at Australian International School Vietnam. At these conferences, you would have heard of your child’s strengths as well as areas of possible improvement in each subject. Now that you know how your child can improve, it is important to work with them to devise achievable goals and help set realistic expectations. Along with realistic expectations, helping your child develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals will greatly assist them become successful in their studies.
So how does goal setting, expectations and success relate to education? First, we need to define what we mean by success. For most educators, academic success is not about gaining a particular grade. Rather, it involves a student achieving realistic goals and performing to their potential. Under this definition the highly able student who is capable of scoring an A* but whose work ethic is poor and scores a ‘C’ grade has not been successful, whereas the average student who has a positive attitude and is hard-working and gains a ‘C’ grade has. Expecting the average student to get an A*, and judging them a failure when they don’t, is both unrealistic and unfair. As the Secondary Principal of the leading international school in Vietnam, and a parent myself, when I look at a school report the thing I place most value on are the grades and comments that relate to attitude and effort.
What is key here is that the expectations of parents, teachers and of the students themselves, are realistic. However, when people have unrealistic expectations – and, again, this can sometimes be the students themselves - this creates undue pressure to perform which often has negative consequences. Forcing students to do hours and hours of extra study (which is often unfocused and therefore unproductive), or chastising or punishing students who are deemed to have gained poor results, is generally demotivating and creates performance anxiety, and can even lead to depression. The sad irony is that this sometimes results in a decrease of performance, not the desired improvement.
By contrast, when expectations about student achievement are realistic students are not under undue pressure and can concentrate on the process, stay positively focused and motivated and achieve successful outcomes. American sports coach Jim Harbaugh summed it up well when he suggested ‘Realistic expectations …are that we are going to be better today than we were yesterday, be better tomorrow than we were today. That’s the plan for success’.