Important Factors that Influence Learning and Help to Predict Future Success

As parents or future parents, we all want to give our children every opportunity to succeed in life. 

And for many people, this starts with providing our children with opportunities to learn and succeed in school, so they can go on to find a good job or start a successful business. 

If you’re thinking that way, you are on the right track!

Spengler et al. (2018), in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined data from 346,660 U. S. high school students that were initially collected in 1960.

The researchers followed up with 81,912 study participants approximately 11 years later, and again, 50 years later, with 1,952 people, to examine occupational success following high school completion.

Results showed that there were 3 primary factors linked to occupational success for high school students.

These factors were:

  • Being interested in school
  • Being a responsible student
  • Having good reading and writing skills

Takeaway Message

Education is a very important ingredient for the future success of children and adolescents.

Not only is it important to be an interested, responsible student who has good reading and writing skills, but it's also necessary to introduce your child to learning as soon as possible.

Protzko et al. 2013, in the Journal of Perspectives on Psychological Science, found that the most effective methods for boosting your child's cognitive performance were to:  

  • Read to your child interactively
  • Enroll your child in early educational interventions
  • Send your child to a quality preschool

So, needless to say, the sooner you can promote learning with your child, the better.

3 Strategies to Improve Learning

Now that we’ve established how important learning is, let’s look at three methods to improve learning.

Even though it helps to start young, learning can be improved at any time throughout childhood and adolescence.

So, let’s get started!

1. Exercise Regularly

Much has been written about the physical and mental health benefits of exercise.

And there are numerous studies to show that exercising improves brain health, which, in turn, can help to enhance learning.

But what you might not know is how important the timing of exercise can be when it comes to learning.

Most et al. (2017), in the Journal of Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, found that study participants who did just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise after learning remembered more than those who didn't exercise.  

So, encouraging your child to participate in after-school physical activities and remain physically active overall can be beneficial for learning.

It also makes a strong argument for encouraging your teens to take a physical education class each school year.

2. Take Short Breaks After Learning

Here’s a strategy that can help with learning at home.

When it comes to homework, the temptation is often to have your child start as soon as possible and power through it until the work gets done.

However, there is an argument to be made for working in short spurts followed by short breaks. 

Surprisingly, even very short breaks seem to benefit learning.

Bönstrup et al. (2019), in the Journal of Current Biology, found that short rest periods are as important as the practice itself in learning a new skill.

In this study, participants were instructed to practice a skill for 10 seconds, followed by a 10-second break.

Unexpectedly, the researchers found that performance actually improved when people were resting, not when they were practising.

It appears that the short rest period is critical to allow the learning to consolidate in the mind.

It was also discovered that rest periods are even more critical in the early stages of learning when the brain is doing the most work.

So, encourage your child to take short breaks periodically while learning a new skill, as this will allow the mind time to integrate the new information.

Also, as a general rule of thumb, encourage your child to work in shorter blocks of time (e.g., 20 – 30 minutes depending on their attention span) followed by short, active rest breaks (e.g., going for a drink of water, brief walking and stretching) for 5 – 10 minutes, as recent studies show that this schedule can benefit learning and attention. 

3. Confidence Counts

School can be challenging for students, which can lead to developing a belief that some tasks are just too challenging to learn or that "I'm just not good at (fill-in-the-blank)."

And while it’s true that students may find some subjects more difficult than others, chances are they can perform better than they realize.

Hall et al. (2014), in the Journal of Psychological Science, found that having students complete a self-affirmation exercise before engaging in a cognitive task helped to improve their cognitive functioning.

In case you are wondering, a self-affirmation exercise involves doing something that helps to assert your self-worth and ultimately increase confidence.

In the study, participants were instructed to recall a past success.

So, I encourage you to remind your child how great they really are.

Not only can it help to improve their feelings of self-worth, but it may also help to enhance their learning.

What do you do to help your child with learning?

Are you surprised by some of these strategies? 

Join the conversation on Facebook!

Article by

Trevor Sullivan, MA, RP

Registered Psychotherapist

September 9, 2020