There are several factors that can make a subject difficult for students to learn. Though some subjects may come naturally to many pupils, others stump even the most studious. While some of these difficulty-boosting factors cannot be controlled by teachers, others can be controlled, giving educators a chance to help out struggling learners.
One difficult thing for many students, especially at the secondary level, to master is the art of critical thinking. Some students may excel at math or science but be woefully stumped by English literature and composition, where they are expected to write, edit, analyze, and project. This is increasingly true as personal communication moves away from complete-sentence writing with brief text messages, 140-character Twitter tweets, and social networking lingo. As society slowly lets formal language go the way of the dodo, teachers must be vigilant to enforce proper English in the classroom.
Teachers can help struggling English literature and composition students by upholding clear and consistent expectations from day one. Many students may dig themselves into a trap by getting away with “text speak” and incomplete sentences on early assignments and tests and then later be suddenly expected to write crisp, clear, eloquent prose. Grades fall from decent to horrid overnight, leaving the student confused and with low self-esteem. It is better for English teachers to be tough from day one than to be kind during the first several weeks of the school year and then “drop the hammer,” forcing students to play catch-up, which can be overwhelming. In order to not overwhelm later, start strong in the beginning.
A second factor that increases difficulty in some subjects is lack of real-world usage, at least for the students. World History, for example, may be difficult for students to learn because their daily lives do not focus on anything historic. As a result, students become bored with the material and think “when am I ever going to use this?” As a result, teachers must make extra effort to show how a knowledge of such subjects can be important.
By relating current events and world challenges to similar events in history, teachers can often bridge the abstract gap and show how not knowing history makes one doomed to repeat it. Explaining to students how most of human knowledge is built on history, using previously-garnered knowledge as a foundation, can make the subject more interesting. Mankind does not develop in a vacuum; it is influenced by history in every endeavor. Assignments asking students to predict the future based on recent history and current events may also help make subjects like history seem more pertinent.
Finally, many students may struggle to learn in an environment where so many courses are dealing with topics that have no commonality. To remedy this, some schools try to pair similar subjects, such as math and science and English and social studies, together in terms of curricula. Students will study literature from the time period they are studying in social studies, and students will also practice math in math class that is needed for their unit in science class. Students get considerable cross-application of knowledge and learning, helping kill two birds with one stone.