How much is students’ perception of their own learning accurate?

It’s not rare to find students who are not demonstrating a high level of achievement and yet think they are doing just fine. Or, conversely, who, despite producing the required level of language for a given stage believes it to be necessary to retake all lessons again to improve more.

 I thought about this as I came across two cases recently.

The first, a student who was doing great at a certain level and came to talk to me about going back a level or two. She was not feeling confident with her learning and believed she had to do even better. I really tried to persuade her not to do so as I truly believe she would get so bored in the lessons, not to mention the fact of putting the other students off as she would be much more advanced than the others. It has taken me a while to make her understand that you do not need to be perfect and it is all right not to know a thing or two every now and then…

The other case was of a student who had taken upper intermediate level and whose teacher recommended retaking the level as the achievement was not as expected. This student begged the teacher to let her go into advanced level and that she would study as hard as demanded so to prove she was able to go further.

Well, these are illustrations of students lack of awareness of their levels or, even worse, their conflict of interest. I came into thinking about how difficult it may be for human being to face reality. If you are good, not seen as good enough, if you are not doing so well, not seeing the chance of taking the bull by the horns and face the challenge.

Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory may explain the need to be more aware of our intelligences, mainly the emotional one. All is possible but deeply dependable on how you face your challenges, your fears and the way you see life.

I fear that these reactions towards their EFL learning may be the exact attitude these people have towards their own lives, either demanding a lot from themselves or trying to dodge responsibilities. As teachers, we normally manage to minimise these features in class, but I don’t know if this can be achievable looking at the big picture and transcending the classroom.

Well, my experience has shown that images we have of ourselves can be distorted and awareness in not always present… How to work this out for the better?

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Beatriz Meneguetti

Mª Beatriz Magalhães Silva Meneguetti Teacher, teacher trainer, school director and sworn translator with over 30 years’ experience, graduated in English, post graduated in methodology, linguistics, school management and marketing. Holder of major proficiency certificates from Cambridge and Michigan Universities and holder of the DELTA and MA in Professional Development for Language Education from Chichester University. Academic director of ABCI - Brazilian Association of Culturas Inglesas.

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