Coaching for Academic Accomplishment
Tips from Tutorial Sessions.
Mastery vs Understanding
It is a common complaint: "I understood your lectures, I
did all of the readings, I studied my notes, I just didn't study
what you tested on."
This means one of two things.
1) Your professor writes exams that have nothing
at all to do with what he or she
lectures on, and they have not made clear what their expectations
2) You have "understood" the material, but not
If the former is the case, the coaching: become an "office-hours-junky".
Do not leave until you know what your professor expects from you.
Keep at it until you catch onto what they expect. Not all professors
are equally adept at establishing clear expectations. You can be
angry with them (and continue doing poorly) or you can take responsibility
for your accomplishment, and manage your professor's communications.
If the latter is the case, .... well, just what does this mean?
We have all attended lectures, read books, seen videos where we
followed the points, understood the language, appreciated the concepts
and yet later when asked to recreate the points and concepts, been
only poorly able to do this. What happened? I like to make a distinction
between understanding and mastery. Understanding means you followed
the logic of a commentary. It all made sense, the points were clear,
yet perhaps you had no real vested interest in the subject, so you
did not "own it". It passed through your mind without
a hitch, (you understood it), yet you did not claim it and make
it your own. Mastery, is when you so thoroughly devour an idea that
you can recreate it yourself on the spot. You can give the lecture.
Too often we settle for understanding, and mistake it for mastery.
Then when called upon to recreate a concept, or to think about that
concept in new ways, we come up empty.
The coaching: do not trust your feelings! Test yourself. Take a
blank sheet of paper and deliver the lecture, write the essay, illustrate
the structures. Find a friend and give them the lecture. Make sure
they tell you when they do not understand something you've said.
Go back and study until you can fill in all the blanks. If you really
want to be sure, visit your professor and give them the lecture
asking for criticism. The level of mastery you will achieve will
empower you to be able to do something even more sophisticated:
think critically and in new ways about a subject.
Commitment to what?
Commitment comes before everything else. If you are not clear in
your mind about what it is you are committed to, everything that
you do will be "faking it". That works up to a point,
but ultimately, for real accomplishment, the kind that is satisfying
and powerful, you need to discover and/or invent what it is you
are committed to.
Types of commitment:
1) commitment to being comfortable.
2) commitment to looking good
3) commitment to minimizing risks
1) commitment to creating breakthroughs
(overcoming obstacles and personal limitations)
2) commitment to achiev ing the extraordinary
(not settling for the level of participation and accomplishment
sees in one's peers and pod-mates)
3) commitment to mastery
(owning the intellectual landscape one is covering).
4) commitment to empowering ones' friends and neighbors.
(this journey is most rewarding with company)
We all have inherited the ordinary types of commitments. No escaping
that. They represent the "ground state" or "default
option" of being human. The second type are just some examples
of the extraordinary kinds of commitment that set people apart.
The good news: being here demonstrates you have already discovered
and expressed extraordinary commitment. You already know something
about what extraordinary commitment is. The bad news: it isn't enough.
What you exhibited in the realm of extraordinary commitment has
become the old standard. Growth takes yesterday's ceilings and turns
them into today's floors. More good news: the journey of discovering
new challenges, stretching ones self, and mastering life's situation
is rich, and a journey worth taking!
It is almost always appropriate to examine, what is one committed
to? Having said that, I feel compelled to add, that the cycle of
commitment, failure & accomplishment is only a training vehicle.
It serves to develop in one those skills that will serve ones' ultimate
commitment (whatever that turns out to be). In that sense, we are
all faking it as that which we are truly in service to emerges and
grows within our awareness.