This paper focuses on the educational process in American (US) high schools and the way interaction between teachers and students influences progress in studies. For many decades, there have been numerous myths about how high school education should be approached and how students should be taught; however, in spite of numerous education reforms in the USA, very little has been done to change the core of the high school curriculum. Speaking about high school curriculum, there are too many deceptive factors, which may mislead even the most experienced educators. In most high schools, teaching is limited to scholastic cramming whereas it might be a good idea to make it closer to real life taking into consideration such factors as the learning style of each student. Lack of understanding of such crucial notions as intelligence, motivation, and IQ level misguides many teachers, which negatively affects children’s progress at school. Sometimes, failure to deliver a message of subject importance may cause great learning difficulties. One of the most crucial factors dominating learning is motivation, which is even stronger and more powerful than intelligence (Petty, 2010).
Lack of Students Motivation and What Stands Behind It: the Weak Points of High School Curriculum
Lack of high school students’ motivation is a serious problem, which can even lead to a drop-out. Over the last 35 years, there has been spent approximately $3 trillion on high school reform with no visible results (Nemko, n.d.). At present, the problems that educators have been trying to solve for many years remain unsolved. First of all, teachers at high school neglect the individual approaches to every student. It may definitely seem impossible to accomplish when you have 30 students in a class, but still, high school teachers should consider this aspect. It will be more effective if a model of learning styles could be implemented in the modern high school curriculum. In particular, the Fleming VARK model of learning styles is worth special attention.
This model suggests that all learners can be divided into auditory learners, visual learners, kinesthetic learners, and reading/ writing-preference learners. Being able to identify what kind of learners the students are may give a teacher insight into how to improve his/ her teaching technique. Visual learners may need more diagrams, charts, and other visual aids to learn better material, but auditory learners would prefer listening to lectures or having group discussions to get a subject better (Hawk, 2007). It may be a quite challenging task even for the most experienced teacher, and many educators believe that this practice cannot be incorporated into school curriculum since it is impossible to use its methods in teaching because of ineffectiveness.
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Another aspect of high school curriculum, which may seem quite discouraging to most high school students, is conventional scholastic approach to teaching a subject. A teacher gives much information on a particular subject; students try to learn it, cram for exam, pass it, and forget it in the end. Most of them do not even know why they need it and where it can be implemented. It is learning for the sake of learning (which can be useful for a tiny minority of students). There is no doubt that in some cases it may prove useful; nevertheless, it may also be a good idea to add more internship programs, in-field researches, invite guest experts to show students where they can use what they have learn, what good it makes for them, and how it can help society.
At that, school subjects should become more life-oriented. The main goal of high school education is to teach how to interact with the real world and get over real life problems instead of overloading children with tons of information they may never need in their life. Education is called to give students ability to learn to analyze, see a problem, and be able to choose one out of many possible ways to deal with it. That is the only way to make high school curriculum liberal and encourage students to think out of box.
The peculiarity of liberal curriculum, which makes it different from the modern high school curriculum, is availability for every student. It gives opportunity to reveal the best qualities of a person, develop sense of equality, and show that there are no limits for any student. With this being said, it is very important for every teacher at high school to demonstrate to his/ her students that regardless of their social or ethnical background, there are no obstacles for them in achieving their goals, and education is the medium that will help them. However, we can see completely opposite situation in many US high schools.
Many teachers at working class schools have stereotypes that the children who attend those schools should not go any further than trade or working as an electrician, and they pass that kind of attitude to their students which is quite dangerous as it may ruin childrens future (Petty, 2010). Of course, an argument may arise that this is the problem of a teachers qualification and professionalism, but on the other hand, it has already become a part of national educational system. These tendencies should not be neglected as it leads to steady fall of secondary education standards. We must also remember that a teacher is the vehicle that moves curriculum, and no curriculum can operate without a teacher (Null, 2011). The task to encourage and give motivation is totally a teachers responsibility. He/she can modify curriculum to some extent in order to make it fit his/her experience, skills, and knowledge that is quite common and productive practice.
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Another task of a teacher is to create environment in the classroom that will prompt children to study and investigate the world. A teacher is not considered as a lecturer or the person who merely gives information. He/she is rather a guide who provokes students to find answers to their questions. Within this approach, curriculum is not a set of recommendations and educational directions. It becomes atmosphere in which students cognize the world. It is called existential curriculum. This type of curriculum does not force them to participate in a competition and win an award; its prior objective is to make children interested, which best motivates them to study. The aim of this curriculum is to get children involved rather that make them competitive (Null, 2011). Students get a chance to work on and research what is interesting for them. Every child has some interests of his/ her own which might not even be connected with school; so, a teacher should find a way to give his/ her students a possibility to implement these interests in their research papers and classroom discussions.
At present, we can see that the situation in high school is completely opposite to the above thesis. Students perceive information, but they cannot apply it to the real life. The curriculum supplies information, but no special attention is paid to students intellectual needs. The modern curriculum is not designed to encourage students to find practical use for what they have learned. Thus, it proves to be vain. One possible resolution to this situation is to create a system of subjects that would have stages of learning starting from basic to profound. That way a student could choose a subject of his interest at a basic level and then decide at this stage if that is the subject that he/she is willing to master and study in the future.
Analyzing the effectiveness of high school curriculum and lack of students motivation, we cannot by-pass such factor as Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and its role in defining main educational aims. Educators broadly discuss this matter nowadays. However, there are many misinterpretations and stereotypes in the modern curriculum discourse related to IQ and its influence upon students progress in studies. Many believe that IQ is one of the most important factors that determine whether a student will get along at school or fail, but in fact, it is not really so. IQ is not intelligence itself, but merely a measure of intelligence (Petty, 2010). IQ tests will not show how well a child can perform at school, neither will they show if a student succeeds in life; these tests rather demonstrate a persons predisposition to use his/ her intelligence, which may lead to false conclusions. At that, ability to use your brain can be easily developed throughout school curriculum. Intelligence is not a solid entity, so during analysis of intelligence and its influence on childs progress at school, we need to take into consideration many other factors.
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Emotional intelligence is crucial for understanding what can make students succeed at school. This type of intelligence is our subconscious desire to achieve our objectives and reveal our potential. In other words, we can call it motivation. It is dominant over IQ level in many ways since it provides stimulation for our brain and drives progress in all our endeavors. Students motivation depends on many things, which are not connected with school in many cases.
Numerous researches have proven that Asian students, who attend US high school, outperform other children (Petty, 2010). That is not the matter of higher IQ level or any mental advantages over other students since for most of them, English is not a native language. The answer to this question is quite simple and lies in social background of these students: they just have better motivation and turn out to be more ambitious than their peers. These children take after their parents who have to deal with many challenges and do not have a chance to step back. Therefore, motivation is the main force that drives their progress at school.
To sum up, modern high school curriculum faces many problems that require immediate resolution. In the essay, we tried to outline some of the problems that arise in the modern school. We analyzed learning types, criteria of IQ, and motivation to better understand how to deal with students lack of motivation and eagerness to study. It has become obvious that there are many misunderstandings and stereotypes concerning students abilities and studying progress. We also paid attention to a teachers role in a classroom and what steps he/she should take in order to make his students intrigued and willing to learn. We considered liberal and existential types of curriculum as the ones that can strengthen high school education and open new horizon for students professional and personal development.