Oct 17, 2017
The effect of healthy choices on academic performance and how tutors can help their students make good decisions.
The link between academic success and healthy habits has become a popular topic. Perhaps, not surprisingly, researchers have found strong evidence that students who make good health-related decisions exhibit better performance in school, and those who make poor decisions often see grades suffer. In-depth studies look at a variety of health factors, with each generally contributing to factors in student success. Many school systems have recently looked upon educators to guide students toward healthy choices. As a tutor, you can play a role as well, ultimately leading to better academic outcomes for your students. Here are 3 health-related factors that contribute to academic performance and a look at how tutors can help improve them.
Research has shown that physical fitness is correlated with academic achievement. In a 2013 study, sixth and ninth grade students who scored higher than their peers in fitness also exhibited better grades in math and social studies. A New York Times article examined the relationship between exercise and health, and noted that a “panel of experts assembled by the institute says that ‘a growing body of evidence’ suggests children who are more active are better able to focus their attention, are quicker to perform simple tasks, and have better working memories and problem solving skills than less-active children” and they also outscored their peers on standardized tests (source). Other studies have further supported the benefits, with exercise improving blood flow to the brain along with a variety of other brain functions. Another important reason for students to exercise is to help lower obesity among the student population, a problem that negatively affects grades as well.
How can tutors help?
Sessions don’t have to be stationary -- make your meetings mobile. Try taking your student on a walk instead of a regularly planned seated session. It’s a great way to mix things up a bit, but can also be a means to an end. For example, if you’re a reading tutor, take your walk over to the public library. History tutor? Head to a local historical site. The options are endless and it’s a fun and easy way to get students moving.
Try connecting your lessons to the concept of exercise. For example, calorie burn is a perfectly relevant topic for science tutors, just as math tutors can give students problems focusing on exercise-related factors, such as distance biked. If anything, including the topic throughout your lessons can keep the concept of exercise top of mind for students.
Be a role model to your students by exhibiting good exercise habits. Talk to your students about your favorite sports you participate in, or try walking to sessions. Your students look up to you and setting a good example is an easy way to impact your student’s own decisions.
Routine is a contributor to overall health as planning makes it easier for people to lower stress and find time for activities such as exercise, good nutrition, and more. A student’s schedule can affect academic performance in numerous ways. Research has shown a definitive correlation when it comes to schedule and how it affects academic performance. The organization of a student’s day plays a role in how well they function in an education environment. Routine changes can negatively affect academic performance as “revisions to classroom routines can cause some students to become unsure of exactly what to expect; not surprisingly, students perform better if there is consistency between teachers’ expectation, student responses, and teacher feedback” (source).
When considering which time of the day would be optimal for learning, researchers found that students who took math earlier in the day had higher grades in the subject. It’s unclear whether this is associated with higher attentiveness earlier in the day or a different factor, but it’s certainly a significant finding to consider. Another benefit of earlier learning is the room it creates for more sleep in the evening, which has been shown to be a significant contributor to academic outcomes.
How can tutors help?
Try following a relatively strict routine. Because organization and regularity within a student’s schedule leads to better academic outcomes, keeping your sessions regular can be key. During sessions, you can also try to follow a relatively similar lesson plan outline throughout sessions to align with student expectations.
Keep sessions on the earlier side, if possible. Ensuring your sessions aren’t scheduled too late in the day will lead to higher levels of student attention and will make it easier for students to get to sleep earlier.
Ensure your sessions aren’t contributing to a student’s schedule-related stress. It’s common today for adolescent and child agendas to be jam-packed with extracurriculars outside of the classroom, and by scheduling your sessions on relatively light days you’ll be helping your student more easily find much-needed downtime on the off days.
It’s no secret that making healthy choices when it comes to food comes with numerous of benefits, and academic performance is no exception. Good nutrition improves grades and helps concentration. Research has shown that “healthier meals could raise student achievement by about 4 percentile points on average”. Meeting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in one’s diet contributes to improved academic outcomes. Another side of the nutrition argument is associated with meal regularity. Students who eat breakfast exhibit improved concentration when compared to their peers who skip out on the important meal, and also showed lower rates of obesity.
How can tutors help?
During sessions, provide healthy snacks for your students. By sharing food, you can lead by example. Social influence is a powerful factor in decision making, and when students see the choices you make they will often be inspired to make similar healthy choices.
Make it interactive by taking your student on a field trip. Depending on the subject you teach your students, there are a variety of locations that can contribute to a student’s understanding of nutrition. If you’re a biology tutor, for example, visit a local farm to look at the lifecycle of plants as part of your lesson. Math tutors can take students to the grocery store to work on math through shopping cart totals. Get creative with your lessons to incorporate food in a setting where you can educate on nutrition as you go along.
Developing healthy habits can make a significant impact on a student’s academic performance. As a tutor, you are an individual that your students look up to, and you have the opportunity to influence the decisions your students make when it comes to health. Even if it doesn’t seem simple to incorporate health-related topics into your sessions, the most important factor in changing human motivation is education. Simply speaking with your students about the correlating factors between health and grades can make all the difference.
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