Learning From the Habits of Bad Students

Sometimes the best way to succeed at a task is by studying the mistakes we want to avoid. At TSM we talk a lot about the habits of successful students, but it can sometimes be helpful to pause and consider the habits of bad students…and how to avoid them.

PhD student Stephanie Allen has compiled a helpful list of 8 bad habits that unsuccessful students typically exhibit. Her list, which can be read at the Oxford Royale Academy, identifies the following eight areas that are often characteristic of poor students.

1.   Plan to work right up to a deadline

People with a certain habit of mind need the pressure of a limited amount of time to motivate them to complete a task. Such a person will plan on using all the available time up until a deadline. However, Allen shows that leaving work for the last minute can lead to significant problems with the quality of work.

2.   Use caffeine to answer all problems

Allen points out that unsuccessful students often use caffeine to solve problems that could be addressed in other ways, such as getting sufficient sleep and exercise. The long-term result is detrimental to successful study.

3.   Stay up all night working

Staying up all night is one of the rituals of the unsuccessful student, and exists as the natural correlate to over-using caffeine plus working right up to a deadline. An all-nighter rarely yields the benefits it is thought to bring.

4.   Sit on social networking sites while studying

Unsuccessful students often have social media sites like Facebook and Twitter open while they work, simultaneously conducting their social and academic life from the same desk. Although this seems like a way to make work less stressful and more fun, it makes things harder in the long run by compromising one’s ability to focus.

5.    Work in their bedrooms

Working in one’s bedroom seems like a relaxing way to go. However, the bedroom tends to be an ecosystem of distractions that pull students away from the work at hand.

6.     Ignore problems

Unsuccessful students typically focus on what they are already good at. By contrast “what makes a really successful student is how they deal with things they find difficult…. If they don’t get something in class, they go home that day and read through their notes, a text book or their syllabus; they ask the teacher or a friend to explain it to them again  so that the problem doesn’t fester, becoming bigger and more stressful, and meaning that they don’t understand more things later on.”

7.    Leave work behind in the classroom

Unsuccessful students tend to leave their work behind in the classroom, and only review their notes at home when they are revising for a test. By contrast, successful students are independent and put in time outside the class to insure they understand the content.

8.   Stress out when they fail

Successful students keep believing in themselves even when they fail. As Allen explains:

If you mess up once, a few times, or even for a whole year, the worst thing you can possibly do is let it knock your confidence and make you stop trying. Instead, tell yourself that you’re just as capable of doing well as anyone else, and ask your teacher for feedback on what the exact problem was and work on rectifying that thing the next time. It might be that you then mess something else up but don’t let this stress you out. Making a mistake and learning a lesson often gives you a better understanding of how to succeed than flukily hitting the jackpot the first time round.

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