Addressing Student Performance Issues

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Jan 18th, 2017

Earlier this week, senior instructor Mark Brosten and I were discussing some challenges we’ve faced regarding student performance. The following is our process for helping students make necessary “corrective adjustments”. We use this as a step by step method to help the student change their behavior.

First, adequately prepare for the discussion. Changing behavior is often difficult. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the student or the coach. Consider the different responses the student might offer and consider how to best answer their concerns. Generating the proper attitude, dealing with potential questions, anticipating possible excuses, etc. before the discussion, will make the conversation easier.

Next, start by expressing your confidence that the student has the skills and knowledge necessary to correct the situation. Often, your affirmation and support will be a deciding factor reinforcing the student’s belief that positive change is possible. This also reinforces your perspective that the alterations are essential and important.

Work with specifics. Deal only with issues you’ve observed and noted. Don’t deal in hearsay. If another person, student, family member etc., saw the behaviors, make every effort to have that person present during the discussion. Because your goal is to change the behavior, it's central to specifically address the specific behavior or behaviors observed.

Likewise, be specific about the possible consequences of the student’s behavior. Be precise about what may happen if this situation is not resolved. Then, ask the student to help create solutions for the issue. Together generate a series of steps to make the required changes. Here again, restate your belief that the student has all the skills necessary, she only needs to take the first step and then, the next… 

Students often don’t realize how their behavior can negatively affect others. Whether it’s their fellow students, their family members, or the image of the studio, help the student make a connection between their current behavior and its negative impact on others. Often, identifying the social impact of the behavior can motivate an individual resistant to change.

Always be specific about what you expect. And, together with the student, agree on a specific date to achieve this change. By making a deadline, you’ll produce the necessary external motivation that will generate action steps. This will reinforce the step by step process for change that you created with the student. 

Every teacher faces coaching challenges. New students confront learning challenges, senior students may need to deal with unfamiliar responsibilities, and difficult students create issues for everyone in the studio. As instructors, we concentrate on building physical skills for ourselves and our students. To be an effective coach, we must learn and implement the skills and techniques of changing behavior to handle those situations successfully.


Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

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