This blog piece is written by Rachel Sneyd. Rachel is currently completing an undergraduate degree in History and Politics at Trinity College Dublin. She is a keen writer and has just submitted her first teen-fiction novel for publication.
It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes in order to help a student move forwards you have to go backwards.
The roots of seemingly big problems are often found in basic gaps in knowledge that occurred months or even years before. For whatever reason a student doesn’t fully master a piece of information or skill. They can’t keep up with subsequent work that relies on them having this knowledge and they fall further and further behind. Their confidence is eroded and they are too embarrassed to ask for help with something they should already know. A simple gap, like not having fully grasped factorising in fifth class, becomes a big problem, like not being able to do Leaving Cert algebra.
Identifying these gaps and taking the time to fill them in, even if this means going backwards in the curriculum, can allow the student to finally catch up with their classmates.
There is also value in going back to a level of work that the student finds more manageable. They finally get a chance to be good at the subject and their confidence is built up. A third year student who thinks they are bad at English can excel at first year year level comprehensions. They can gradually be moved up to second and then third year work, often without realising that the work is getting harder. They have the confidence to attempt work they would have thought was impossible and even more importantly they expect to do it well because they have gotten used to succeeding.