In contemporary education negotiating meaning is more important than ever before, just to be sure that we are talking about the same concept/word/idea – and the word “success” certainly has several different connotations. Defining success is not easy, and sometimes we get tangled in details and want to define students’ success as mastery of a single subject or unit, or course.
Successful students are independent learners. They have strong executive functions, and they often are also life-long learners.
Often applying unnecessary power over students is also disguised as success – but do students really need to perform according to minor details, or should we emphasize understanding the concepts and entities, so that the learned skill is transferable? I would include the student-centered teaching and learning principles into the definition of success and have students:
- know how and what they learn and how that learning is assessed
- have their unique perspective valued
- enjoy the individual differences in their backgrounds, interests, abilities, and experiences
- be co-creators and partners in the teaching and learning process.
To me student success means simply making myself unnecessary as a teacher by empowering my students become autonomous learners, who can work independently and who know where to find the information and guidance they need. This requires handing over the tools for learning to students, and trusting in their motivation and drive to get their learning done, but having open and honest interactions with students to be able to help if needed.
Many schools aspire to empower their students to become life-long learners, and that is great! This is the true paradigm shift we need in education! But, it is not enough if we say this aloud (or write it on the visions and missions of school, or publish it on the school website), this goal must be integrated into everyday teaching practices as well as to the assessments. Students’ perception matters. We need open and honest communication to remain believable so that our students understand and feel their success and learning being important for us.
Well-being in schools as defined above is an essential measure of providing students with successful learning experiences.