Secrets of scholarship students
By Truong Thuy Van, LSU
I was panicking. My notebook was blank, as well as my mind. My textbook was underused. The final exam was coming in a few weeks. I had never been in this situation before.
That frightening feeling happened six years ago in my Business Research Methods class. The teacher taught nothing from the textbook. He divided the class into groups and assigned each group a mini-research project. We met once a week to answer questions we had. We asked him to focus on the chapters that would be in the exam.
He replied: “I’m not teaching you for tests, and you are not learning just to pass exams.”
Though the final result was not good, I was happy that what I learnt in this class stayed with me in my job while other courses have faded away.
This experience has taught me what real learning is.
With this story in mind, I interviewed four current scholarship students at RMITVN to see what they think about learning and what makes them good learners.
Good learning habits earn you everything
Real learning can form useful habits and skills that are transferable into whatever you do in your study, career or life. This does not happen when you focus entirely on tests.
Tran Huyen Hai, a scholarship student at RMITVN, said “I don’t actually learn for grades, but to acquire new knowledge since I found it interesting and always believed it would be useful somewhere in the future. Maybe that is what really helped me earn good marks in the end.”
Her learning skills as well play a pivotal role in her academic success.
The habits of questioning what she learned, digging for new things, taking initiative in learning and reflecting on experience have made Hai a powerful thinker and a great learner. As a result, she does not simply give up on difficult questions in classes or exams. Broadly speaking, she can bring those good learning habits which have brought her success to her future jobs and along her life.
What we need to be a great learner
Firstly, one must believe that success comes from practice, not from luck.
When you look at someone’s success in any area, whether singing, writing, playing e-games or whatever else, you will find that the number of hours they have put in is huge. At university, great learners have done a great deal of learning.
“I often read textbooks and do exercise before a semester starts to get ahead,” said Dang Vu Ha.
“I stay up late to finish an exercise, a chapter or a question that I’m still confused about. In my free time, I think about what I’ve learnt and discuss it with my friends”, Dang Vu Ha, one of the four interviewed students, said.
Gifted students don’t wait for luck. They create their own luck.
Hai’s luck is her enthusiastic lecturers who made time for her questions outside classes until she thoroughly understood.
Nguyen Thi Bao Khanh’s fortune is her father and co-workers at her internship program who have a broad knowledge of economics. She talks with them about the world and Vietnamese economy, banking, government policies and other affairs. They explain complex economics models and recommend books to study. This is support that anyone can access. If one does not put in hours of practice, do not approach potential learning sources, and is too busy with watching movies and chatting on Facebook, they shouldn’t blame luck if they are not successful.
Secondly, students need to practise skills to learn effectively.
Those skills are questioning, discussing, taking advantages of resources, making connections, analysing and evaluating or critiquing knowledge.
Acquiring those skills is your right, not your duty.
Successful students think that they have the right to learn beyond what they are taught, the right to think differently apart from the crowd, and the right to question and challenge knowledge or even make new knowledge.
“Keeping a critical and questioning mind is key,” Doan Tuan Vu said of his friends and his own learning experience.
One student added: “I don’t trust everything lecturers say. That’s why I rebut them all the time during the lectures with my inquiries.”
“Sometimes I’m right and I’m always very happy to point out where the teacher might have missed or something been mistaken. Sometimes I’m wrong, which is awesome because it helps me to know my knowledge gap and fill it quickly before it gets bigger.”
They make connections in what they study.
For example, Vu Ha said, “I try to relate different topics to each other or expand on the problems raised in the classes to real-world cases”.
Through this process, your mind is open and your learning is no longer limited to an unemotional question booklet.
So if you are used to sitting quietly and listening to others talk, start asking questions when watching TV or talking with friends. You will be taking a step to be a successful learner.