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5 Elements of Highly Effective Students

July 16, 2018
By Dr. Jason Song

I'd like to shere the following five elements of highly effective students. The first two are what I consider "God-given" elements, and the remaining three are what I refer to as "developed characters."

#1: Physical fitness 
Here, I am referring to a student's weight, diet, physical growth, strength, stamina, posture, exercise, etc. The reason why I consider this as a God-given element is that, while nutrition, exercise, and rest can have significant impact on a person's physique and health, ultimately you are born with your body. In other words, there are certain innate limits and capabillities to your body. For example, if a person was born with physical deformities, there will be limitations as to what that person can do. Of course, there are those who overcome physical handicaps to do amazing things, but that's the exception.

Having said that, there are somethings that we can do to make the most of the body that we're born with--eat healthy foods, manage our weight, have good posture, exercise frequently, get plenty of rest, etc. It has been proven through research that one's ability to stay focused and engaged in learning depends greatly on physical fitness. So, one of the most important elements I find in highly effective students is that they are typically physically fit, have good posture, are not obese, exercise regularly, and they rest their body.

#2: Intellectual capacity and development
Often intellectual capacity is automatically understood or perceived as IQs or aptitude. That is not entirely wrong, but there's more to intellectual capacity than just IQs. While IQs matter, I would argue that the differences among students are quite negligible. Also, research shows that using a wide variety of instructional strategies can greatly close the apparent "intelligence gap" among students. In other words, it could be altogether possible that what we typically call "smart" or "intelligent" students are auditory and visual learners who are served better by traditional teaching methods.

I do not think highly effective students are so-called "smart students," but those who are willing to learn, who remain curious, and who possess the "grit." A combination of these qualities make students to continuously learn/grow and not give up when challenges are presented.  

#3 Motivation
I often meet or speak with students who lack motivation. But, I've learned that that does not mean they have no motivation whatsoever. They just have different motivations. For example, some are motivated to earn high scores on games. Then there are others who are motivated to do well in sports. Some desire to earn good grades at school. So, everyone has motivation but for different reasons or goals.  

Highly effective students are those who have internatlized wisdom from others that working hard now will benefit them greatly in the future. In that sense, effective students forego immediate gratification for grander and long-lasting rewards.

It's important to note that motivations is a product of external input that's been internalized. So, rather than asking students as to why they lack motivation, it would be wiser for grown-ups to provide positive stimulus and examples to students. 

#4. Prioritization 
Students must learn to distinguish what is important and what is not so important. Students who aren't doing well in school usually have mixed up priorities. That is, they perceive less important things such as playing games or hanging out with friends as their priority. This happnes because young people are immature. Yet, they can be taught and influenced by wiser grownups such as parents, mentors, and teachers. 

Once the priority list is set up appropriately, students can learn to manage their time accordingly. They can focus on important things and also determine the amount of time they allot to specific activitiies.

I personally share with the students that, as a Christian, the first three priorities are God, family, and education/work. The rest can be things such as friendship, sports, hobby, part-time job, etc.

#5. Relational Skills
The last element of highly effective students is developing and maintaining good relational skill. Especially as young people become teenagers and adults, they need to determine who can help or hinder their growth and development. Often teenagers misperceive parents and family members as meddlesome distractions, teachers as taskmasters, and pastors as annoying naysayers. 

Yet, effective students know that parents, teachers, pastors, and church leaders are all there to help, support, guide, and impart wisdom. These people are not the enemy! When young people give respect to whom respect is due, they will not only gain wisdom but find many opportunites provided by others.   

So how do you develop relational skills? The Golden Rule from the Bible says if you want to be treated nicely, then you must be nice first. Treat others as you want them to treat you. That's the principle of reciprocity.