Is your teen cycling on the long, hard path to reach their study goals? (Because they don't know any other way.)
What if they were handed the keys to a car that means they can get to places they never realised they could reach?
Those are Phases one and two.
The next is to learn to drive the car. That's Phase 3.
And then they have an option to become a master of 'driving'.
To take to the racetrack.
To make everything fast yet accurate.
To achieve controlled precision.
To be confident and in control, no matter what course or race they're faced with.
The fourth phase of mastery - and the reality of this in their study - is having practiced, proven systems for success, so they tackle any task they're set confidently, efficiently, accurately and do it all 'automatically' throughout their classwork, homework, assignments and exams.
You’re listening to the Parents of Hardworking Teens Podcast, episode 48 - the 4 phases of getting your teen get SO GOOD at using the most sophisticated skills, the most effective techniques and the best strategies in their study, assignments and exams, that they do it accurately, effectively and automatically, so everything becomes super-smooth and super-successful and even any hiccups that do occur, are ironed out quickly and easily.
Hello VIPs! How is your week going so far? I’m pretty sure everyone is fully back at school now, no matter where you’re listening in from, after the Easter break. For some of you, it might already feel like a distant memory because It kinda goes like that sometimes doesn’t it? But even if that’s the case, I hope you and your teen had a fantastic break, enjoyed time with family and friends and some time for fun and relaxation.
I have to admit that I spent a LOT of my easter holiday brainstorming, planning and collating tons of research ready for the Next Level Live Event: Get BIG Marks in those Big Qs all about Achieving Top Criteria in Extended Responses - that I’m hosting on Sunday 7th May, in just a few days’ time. I’ll share a bit more about that with you at the end of this podcast, because enrolment is open right now as this episode drops, so you can stay on for that if you’d like to hear more about getting your teen in on that.
And this ties in really well with what I want to talk about today: the 4 phases of mastery. And this is for anything - I’m of course going to talk about them in relation to study, but you also know I love a good analogy and I’ve got a good one for this. And in particular, I’m going to focus on moving from the 3rd to the 4th phase - where study becomes optimised so your teen becomes the most successful, efficient and effective version of themselves when it comes to their study. So that they are using the skills, strategies and techniques that I deliver in the 10WGT, accurately and effectively and automatically, so everything becomes super-smooth and super-successful and even any hiccups that do occur - because nothing in life is 100% perfect 100% of the time, right? - those are dealt with and ironed out quickly and easily.
Okay Phase 1: Picture me at 17 years old. Hair a bit longer and frizzy-er. Sat in the library at college, during my A’ Levels - the equivalent of ATAR here in Australia.
I’d rifled through the National Geographic articles and found one that sounded like it kinda tied in with the topic I was learning in Geography. I sat and wrote pretty much 2 whole A4 pages of notes on it. (Yep, I was terrible at summarising and condensing notes as a student. I was always worried that the part I’d decide to leave out would be something important. And I’ll say right away that that in itself is a phase 4 level of mastery. Phase 3 is being able to summarise notes using effective note-taking structures. Phase 4 is optimising that note-taking by knowing what you need to be getting from that and why.
That’s the next level of mastery right? Having the subtle but important understanding behind why those notes are being taken, what for, and what’s the best way, what’s the right focus.)
Now, that Geo article wasn’t particularly interesting to me or anything, but I’d heard or been told at some point that to improve my grades, I should do wider reading around the subject. In particular, that it was good to have a variety of case studies and examples to be able to use in my essays or exam answers. So, being the hard-working student who wanted to get the B+’s and the odd A- up to some proper A’s, that’s what I did. And then I filed those notes into my ‘ringbinder of knowledge’ (my badge of honour that was a visual symbol of how many hours I’d spent studying).
And then… after more hours of study and revision and wider reading and study and revision… Along with my other subjects, I sat the 2 final geography exam papers.
And what do you think happened in that exam?
Was it that I got a top A grade because of all that extra study I did?
NO. Now spoiler alert, this isn’t any dramatic story or a brilliant funny story, it’s very average and I’m betting, very common. Which is why I’m telling it.
Here’s how it really went. It’s all true up to the point of sitting those exams. Here’s what really happened. In my results, I got a B overall for Geography. So not bad, but probably doable without all that extra study, extra notes, extra case studies. And did I shoe-horn in that extra case study I wrote all about in the library into one of my answers? You bet I did.
And you know what? It would’ve been hilarious to read that as an examiner: “here’s this decent answer (a B grade remember - so nothing spectacular, but pretty decent) - here’s this decent answer with this random, tenuously linked, and totally unnecessary and gaining zero credit- case study info.”
That’s the real non-dramatic ending.
But you know what is interesting? That I have such a strong memory of sitting in that library writing out those particular notes. And I think I know why. I think part of it was because at the time I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Doing something that the supposed top students do. Doing wider research, making all these study notes.
But ALSO - and I think this is the main reason: I remember, even then, thinking in the back of my mind - ‘I’m not sure how this is going to really help me’.
I wasn’t convinced I’d ever really need that extra info, because we already covered everything in the syllabus in our lessons and I did get it all. It wasn’t like I wasn’t sure about something so had to go look it up to fully understand it. That would be a different thing to wider reading - that would be consolidating learning or fully understanding a concept. But I carried on anyway. Carried on slaving away, following the advice, doing anything and everything I thought I should or could to help get the results I really wanted.
And this is what I still see happening for students today. They’re doing the things they think they could or should be doing, to raise their grades or produce better results.
Because they believe (totally understandably) that working hard and doing everything they’re told to, will mean they get the best grades they’re capable of.
But they don’t truly know HOW it’s going to help them. In fact, they’re often spending time and effort on things that are barely going to make any difference to their grades.
They don’t know HOW to study STRATEGICALLY. Just like I didn’t either as a student.
I know NOW that probably about 50% of what I was doing to try to get better results, was either useless, or could’ve at least been a lot more effective. For example, there are SO many things I would get a student to do before doing wider reading around the subject.
Things that actually WOULD improve their results, the way they study and their grades.
The trouble is, we don’t know what we don’t know. And when students don’t know what they don’t know - They’re what I’ve come to call this first phase: Problem Unaware.
In other words, there’s a problem here - there’s something keeping them stuck. Stuck at a particular grade they can’t seem to break through, stuck slaving over their study for more hours than is necessary. And they’re not AWARE that it’s even a problem.
It’s like you need to get somewhere and you’re trying to cycle there. It’s slow, it’s tiring and there are some places we just never get to - they’re up steep hills or just too far away. And at times, it’s annoying or frustrating, so you try to ride faster and for longer. Because you don’t even know there’s this thing called a car. Just like students don’t realise there’s that application element of the study success formula at play here, let alone being aware of or being trained in the skills needed to fulfil it.
In science and psychology this is called being unconsciously incompetent - we’re incompetent at something and we don’t even realise it. We don’t even know that there’s this other skill we need. But I think that wording - Unconsciously incompetent - sounds a bit harsh. Which is why I’ve decided to call this problem unaware. Because after all, it’s not students' fault! They’re not taught ANY of this explicitly in schools, and even I didn’t have a clue as a teacher really until 4 years into my teaching when I decided to do external exam marking and if you heard my interview with Gemma Toms a couple of episodes back, then you’ll know she says the same about what you come to know only when you do external exam marking. And so it’s not teachers or schools’ fault either - they’re not required to know or teach it and they’re busy delivering the KNOWLEDGE part - delivering the jam-packed curriculum.
So, what’s the next phase AND how do we get your teen to it?
Okay the next step is to become Problem Aware (or CONSCIOUSLY incompetent). We know there’s something we need or want to learn and even master, and we know that we don’t have those skills yet. This is partly what this podcast is about. I’m hopefully making you aware of the skills and strategies that will help your teen, and what won’t - In other words, to go back to that cycling vs car analogy, at this point, we know that there’s such a thing as a car, but we haven’t yet learned to drive. So, we learn the skills, we practise them …and ... Phase 3: PROBLEM SOLVED! We’re in the car and we are driving!
We’re getting the training, we’re finally understanding all the levers, pedals and the nuances of changing gears, knowing what the road signs mean. Knowing what the rules of the road are. We’re practising and we’re doing it. This is where we’re Consciously Competent or the wording I use for this third stage: Problem Solved.
We can get ourSELVES to where we want to go and faster, with less effort than cycling, although we’re still having to concentrate. Remember that time, when you still had to really think about the gear changes, concentrate on getting the clutch right as we move away from traffic lights. And sometimes, if we lose focus the windscreen wipers start going when really we just wanted to indicate left.
Giving your teen the keys to the car AND training them how to drive it is what the 10 Week Grade Transformation does.
It’s where I teach them the rules of the road - teach them the game of exam success, how to dissect any question, structure any essay in relation to the question or thesis, and how to study in a way that gives them maximum return on effort, because they understand how the game works and what to do. They have the skills to drive and to drive the car independently to get themselves to their goals, their destination. To get to new places they never could before, perhaps never believed were possible for them. Because now they know what’s REALLY required and they know HOW to do it, how to put that across in their answers or their tasks. So they’re hitting their desired destinations - desired grades or results and doing it faster and more easily - with less wrong turns, less uphill battles and with less exasperation or confusion along the way - it feels pretty amazing and exciting.
The ultimate goal really though is to get to the fourth phase - No Problem!
Which is where we’re -in official terms - unconsciously competent.
Where we’re driving effortlessly and skillfully not having to think about every move and manoeuvre.
We’ve mastered the skills and do them repeatedly, automatically, on demand, confidently, and all importantly: accurately.
At the No Problem phase your teen doesn’t have to concentrate as hard on the actual skills or how to use them. For example, They don’t have to work to pick out the command word in the question. It just naturally jumps out at them and they know exactly what it means and what they need to do to respond at the level it demands. Even for high level questions.
They automatically use active note-taking and revision techniques, condensing and transforming information as they go. Planning their tasks and extended responses is just part of the process of tackling them. They are optimising their study and themselves as a student.
This is driving the car unconsciously. We do it without thinking. And this is half of what we do in Next Level Coaching as we practise everything together, so your teen is actioning and applying everything accurately because they’re getting direct and detailed feedback on their own writing, their own tasks, their own exam questions or essays. So they know they’re doing it right. It’s where they get feedback on how to tweak their study and their responses for the highest quality and see all different examples in all different ways so that nothing is daunting any more.
The other half of Next Level Coaching is where we do advanced training. Where your teen gets to become a professional driver - maybe they’re more of a racetrack style driver, or more of a precise and orderly chauffeur. But either way they’re performing at an elite level.
Because think about it: I can drive, but if I tried to drive a racetrack, I could get around it safely, but there wouldn’t be any panache and I certainly wouldn’t achieve a top time. I can get to more places now I’m in the car, but I need advanced training if I’m going to become a top performer in the study arena or if I’m going to do it in the fastest, smoothest way possible.
So the 10WGT gives your teen the car and teaches them to drive it. It gets them to the third phase of mastery. Next Level Coaching gets them to that fourth phase of mastery. Because they practise regularly with expert feedback and coaching, and they’ve gotten the advanced training and honed their skills and up-levelled their performance. Because, yes, there will be some challenges as they start taking on higher level tasks, if they have to drive a mountain road, or race that racetrack, - but they can not only navigate any challenges more confidently and effectively, but they can also get back on track without too much fuss or drama if they ever find themselves off track.
You’re likely now starting to think about which phase your teen is currently at. And if they’re in Phase 1 or 2 or even, getting into some elements of Phase 3 and you’d like to have them at the peak - to make study feel like it’s ‘problem solved’. Whether they’re problems like time management, procrastination, exam technique and performance, remembering information for revision,tackling assignments, writing high quality essays with ease, and you’d like to have them do it all through a proven system, with me doing it all for you and delivering everything to your teen on a plate, then enrol them into the 10 Week Grade Transformation Program at www.rocksolidstudy.com/program.
Or if they’ve completed the 10WGT, they’ve got the car and they know how to drive it, and are ready to take to the racetrack, so they can say ‘no problem’ to whatever they’re thrown in their study, then go over right now to www.gradetransformation.com/nextlevel to enrol in time for our Next Level online Live event which is going to be the highest level training I’ve delivered to date.
So, I hope these 4 phases help give you a clear idea of where your teen’s currently at in terms of their study and their goals, and achieving them in a smooth and sustainable and stress-free fashion - so they do it all while enjoying the journey along the way.
Have a brilliant week everyone I’ll talk to you again next week here on the podcast. Bye!