Due to large size classes as well as heterogeneity of classes teachers are often not able to offer individual assistance to the students who needed extra attention with planning and organising their work. The reason to start Studiekring was to help students struggling to make their own planning and do their homework, students who are falling behind or at a lower level which led to less joy in studying and finally dropping out of school.
The Studiekring organisation started in 2000 has now opened over 100 locations in the Netherlands. Per year they help over 10.000 children. They have started an afterschool program where students who need extra assistance receive personal attention and help with organising and planning their homework. I herewith describe the location in Culemborg, central part of the Netherlands in a rural area.
By offering an afterschool program led by a professional manager with pedagogical background and who stays in close contact with the mentor of the student as well as the subject matter teachers, students find more time for life outside school and are more likely to do better in school and find more joy in studying.
This eventually will prevent students from dropout or downgrading to a level below their intellectual level. It will keep them involved and motivate them to finish their studies.
The results are convincing: the students have more free time left for out of school activities and it gives them more joy in school. Conflicts between parents and their children on homework decrease, a parent can be parenting again instead of playing police and having to check on homework. Cooperation between school, parents and contact person at the Studiekring adds to a better atmosphere and better relationship between parents and their children as well teachers and their students.
Context of good practice
In Culemborg, the Netherlands there are two secondary schools. The schools are large schools with over 2500 students. In Culemborg many students are from rural area and travel by bike, train or bus to school many of them more than 10 km on one way. All school levels are represented here in the area. Even though 2500 students are located over 4 buildings per school it still has the impression of being large. Enough personal attention for each student is not always possible. Therefore an after school program with help on personal guidance fits in perfectly.
In Culemborg the location is led by Ameli Dominik who assist daily 8 – 10 students, for 3 to 4 days a week. Every day from 15.00 – 18.00 hrs. students are welcome to come to the location.
Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group
One of the problems is the overall under motivation in learning: under motivation of students and the lack of feeling confident and happy and having a hard time to find the right balance in life. Due to the increase of the gap and the differences between school and social life it has been hard to motivate and to involve students. At the same time the pressure to achievement has increased enormously.
The heterogeneity of classes at all grade has increased which teachers hardly could handle, they did not have methods or time to deal with the rapidly changing situation. At the same time students had learning difficulties, failed in performing and planning and they did not succeed in studying. That caused several conflicts and resulted in frustration on both students’, parents’ and teachers’ side.
It appeared that the methods of teaching have turned into more independent learning and research has shown that many teenagers have difficulties with this. Their brains are not yet fully developed so therefore it is hard for them to work and organise themselves independently.
Students with difficulties in organising and planning their work as well as students with concentration problems. These students tend to drop out easily or fall to a lower level which makes it less interesting for them to study. Most of the time parents try to help but this often resulted in frustration on both sides and teachers had a hard time to understand and also felt short to be able to help the students due to lack of time. The conflicts could lead to dropout or having to change school which often leads to t dropout either because it is very difficult to change schools at that age for teenagers.
Success factors and processes
Acknowledge the fact that class sizes as well as heterogeneity are too wide, so teachers do not have enough time for each student. Recognizing the need of personal guidance for those who have problems organising their schoolwork.
The director of the organisation started with a team and set up homework institutes in many places in the Netherlands. Per location a coordinator is appointed to help the students with organising and planning their homework. They create a peaceful and quiet environment for a small group of students (max. 8 students) and stay in contact with the school and with the parents. Every day from 15.00 – 18.00 hrs students are invited to come to the Studiekring after school program.
The coordinator works by the following strategy:
- 1st step: create a peaceful and quiet environment
- 2nd step: gives personal attention to students helping them organise and plan their homework using a program adjusted for each student, personal attention
- 3rd step: stay in close contact with school teachers and parents by sending weekly reports on progress
- 4th step: if necessary find extra resources to help explain content of the subject
The coordinator in each location has an Ortho pedagogic (accompaniment of students with learning disabilities) background and is able to help the students to define their areas of challenge. The method used strongly appoints the student in the direction taking their own responsibility, being able to organise their work and planning and if necessary can help in depth of the subject.
The first results – less school stress for the student, feeling more in balance and reduced number of conflicts between parents and students. Better prepared in class and completed homework more often. Better understanding of teachers and parents on students challenges and new ways of learning for them.
For students who are studying for their exams there are special trainings, as well as 1 on 1 coaching is available.
In order to be able to help the students the coordinator has studied pedagogy and is also fluent in four languages. She is an expert on student learning problems as well as coaching. She has very positive mindset and is able to motivate the students. Another crucial competence is that she is able to connect with teachers and parents and keep the students motivated.
Every student is unique and learns in his or her own way. So every student needs a different kind of coaching. Personal attention is crucial here to reach learning goals. So for every student there is a personal plan. The organisation strives to help the student to become as independent as possible in planning and organising within a period of 7 months. After that it depends on the student’s needs if they continue coaching. Students can attend up to 3 to 4 times a week to the afterschool program.
As it is an overall program, according a given concept the afterschool program is easily implemented. More important is to check on the need and to help schools, it makes school aware of the Studiekring program and what it can offer as help. Once the program is offered it is very important to talk to school leaders and teachers in the area and make a connection and be able to reach students as well.
The management of Studiekring decided 5 years ago to start the afterschool program and it has proven to be successful. Some students only use the afterschool program for a year others have been in the program for 5 years now. It all depends on the student and his/her needs.
Impact of measures taken
The program results in main changes for the students and their families as well as for the teachers. As for the teachers, it is great to be able to understand the student better and not feeling disappointed because they don’t have enough time for the student.
It has helped many families to spend more quality time and to have happy students that like to go to school and still have time for sports or social activities.
It is of great importance to have a coordinator that is very good in making connections as well as understanding the students and able to motivate them in a positive way. The program’s success is very dependent on the coordinator, this could be a risk.
Cost of the afterschool activities can be high or even too high. It would be great if these programs would work closer together with the schools and get financial aid from government
Any other information
Parents experience: Studiekring as professional approach with clear feedback on progress of the student and most of all no more frustration and arguing on homework in the family.
Teachers appreciate the help and the guidance of a 3rd independent party. The students experience a great and peaceful environment to study with professional help and feel they have more time for their social activities that keeps them motivated.
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