The "Academic Gameplan" Overview
Coach John Baxter - Founder of Academic Gameplan
Academic Gameplan was founded on the premise that High Schools and Colleges teach academic subjects, but not the fundamentals and techniques which are essential to a student's effective
learning of these subjects. In fact, with the exception of some introductory college courses, there is no curriculum officially taught by secondary or higher education institutions which ensures a student's understanding of organization and learning techniques for success in the classroom. To use an Academic Gameplan quote, ". . .school is a game to which nobody teaches you the rules, fundamentals or techniques!"
Since 1983, Academic Gameplan's founders have been identifying the differences between those who are successful in the classroom and those who are not. These student observations eventually led to a specialized notebook and seminar program designed specifically for student-athletes. Although the original intent was to improve the academic success of student-athletes, the techniques and fundamentals are equally critical to the success of the general student population of any high school or college.
The Fundamentals "Fundamentals" are basic skills that once mastered and ingrained are the building blocks for
executing greater and more complex tasks. In athletics great coaches spend the bulk of their time on seemingly simple fundamentals, because they know an athlete has no chance to execute complex schemes or techniques until they can perform the building blocks. (e.g., football players are taught how to block and tackle long before they learn any plays). The fundamentals are simple to understand and are logically presented. As each fundamental is presented, students are encouraged to challenge the fundamental, and soon all other possibilities are eliminated as non-fundamental or unreasonable. This is what we call the "magic of why."
Academic Gameplan believes that you should ". . .never do something because someone tells you to do it; do it only because you know why." The "magic of why" provides a strong, defendable motivation to try a new technique, that comes in large part from having enough "whys" (reasons). Once students understand the reasoning (why) of the program, the next step is to coach them "how" to execute
the fundamentals effectively. The "power of how" empowers students with the ability to execute a gameplan for academic success.
Classroom positioning, teacher/professor psychology, note taking skills, reading technique, review and preparation techniques are just a few of the fundamentals Academic Gameplan coaches. However, the most powerful fundamental is having the right tool for the job. The "Academic Gameplan Notebook" is a fundamental tool for success and provides students with a powerful "how" to approach their studies.
The "power of how" organizes the student's semester gameplan. Through the notebook, students are enabled to track upcoming assignments, tests and quizzes. They also keep a running "scoreboard" which monitors their individual progress in each class, a semester's worth of notes, class handouts, finished tests, quizzes and assignments - all in one place. The notebook also provides an organized and easily accessible format for test preparation and limits the possibility of losing documents.
We use athletics and "sports as a continual theme" because of the clear correlation we draw between how athletes are prepared for competition and how a student must prepare for a test. Mastering the fundamentals is necessary for both athletic and academic success. Through athletic analogies we draw clear parallels. And by relating the material in this manner we ensure confidence within the student as the skills and goals are attained. The analogies not only simplify the student's process but also provide the motivation because the goals become attainable through application of these simple fundamentals. "NOW THEY HAVE AN "ACADEMIC GAMEPLAN!"
Coaching vs. Teaching Academic Gameplan uses a unique approach. "We coach" the mechanics of classroom learning
rather than teach them. In general, and as related to the Academic Gameplan, the differences between coaches and teachers are these:
- Teachers teach primarily using auditory and some visual channels,
i.e., lecture, the blackboard, overheads and visual aids. Teachers beyond the eighth grade become subject specific lecturers who measure and evaluate a student's grasp of the material by assigning a grade. The grade they give in most cases is to reflect how much the student learned, rather than how well the course was taught.
- Coaches, on the other hand, use auditory, visual and kinesthetic channels. Coaches add the "do it right" part to teaching. Coaches take athletes out on the field and drill fundamentals; they practice fundamentals every day and provide the athlete with personal investments in the skill learned. When the investment pays off (e.g., a homerun after change in a batter's batting stance), the athlete will use that fundamental consistently and will look to add more fundamentals to his/her game. To a coach an athlete doesn't have the option to make a "C", "D", or "F" because poor performance in a game reflects on the coach as well as the athlete.
Being an "athlete" doesn't mean an individual can play baseball, football, or even swim. It only means he/she is physically able to perform that skill once he/she is taught. The coach must still show them how. Even professional athletes still need a coach. Coaches assume nothing about a new "athlete." Regardless of how good an athlete might be, the coach will always make sure that the athlete is well grounded fundamentally prior to presenting a scheme or putting him or her in a game.
The distinction between teaching and coaching is simple. It boils down to what one assumes about the learner. Teachers, assume too often that because a person is a "student" in their classroom that they "know how to study." A good coach would never assume that because someone is an athlete that they can "play football, baseball or basketball. A coach would, however, assume a person has the ability to play, but only after being taught the skills and fundamentals. Students are thrown into the game (i.e., lectures and tests) without solid preparation in the academic fundamentals necessary to compete and succeed. In fact when the simple question is asked: Who teaches you to play a sport? The answer is always, "The Coach". When the question is asked: Who teaches you to study? The answer is usually, "No one." In just about every classroom situation, teachers spend 100 % of the time teaching subject matter, without regard for a student's grasp of the fundamentals of how to organize the material, note the material, study effectively, manage their time and ultimately learn the pertinent material.
It has been a long-standing "cliche" that the academic fundamentals are the 3 "R's" (reading, writing and arithmetic). This is at best only a half-truth. The three "R's" are building blocks that are taught in elementary school when the teacher really acts as a student's coach. Prior to junior high school, a teacher actually "coaches" the trial and error process in the classroom and attempts to help all students gain a command of the material.
However, at the beginning of secondary education, the educational process radically shifts, giving the student no warning or fundamental preparation for the change. From at least 9th grade on, the teacher is a lecturer who presents material on a specific subject. Grades are then assigned to indicate which students have learned the material and which have not. However, how to organize, note, understand and learn material is left up to the student. This is the reason the Academic Gameplan is so necessary! We supplement the educational process with fundamentals that should not have been assumed, but rather taught long ago. We "coach the fundamentals" necessary, so the student can not only compete but succeed academically.
In summary, the Academic Gameplan closes a gap which has been left unattended by the traditional curriculum. Students have, for the most part, picked up the mechanics of learning through their own trial and error process. The flaw that we recognize in the trial and error process is the more error one experiences, especially in early stages, the less one feels motivated to continue to try. The Academic Gameplan eliminates the trial and error process for students and instead provides solid fundamentals and simple effective strategies. In turn, this allows for concentration on the subject matter and greater motivation, making the student experience much more interesting and rewarding. We realize that whether it's a football game or a math class "execution fuels emotion" in all cases. It's the "big play" that excites the crowd and infuses the team with spirit and drive. "Execution" is the bottom line behind winning, and the key to execution is a great plan. When that plan starts with solid fundamental preparation that plan has a chance to be executed.
The Academic Gameplan is not just a theory, but rather is a realistic application that is also fun because of its simplicity. The program is used by student-athletes at several colleges and universities, and the results have been dramatic. Student-athletes at Tulane University, University of Arizona, University of Utah, University of Maryland, University of Maine and California State University-Fresno have used this program to reach their full academic potential. Because of the success of The Academic Gameplan with hundreds of student-athletes over the past 13 years we have now packaged it for use by all high school and college students and affiliated organizations. It can be used by any student or organization to "TARGET" and develop the academic fundamentals that are necessary yet unaccounted for in the educational process of today's student.