Have you ever walked into your teenager’s room hoping for a focused, fired-up and powering through their latest exam… only to find your child they’ve barely made any progress?
What really hits hard is that it was the same picture last week and the week before that: overwhelming chaos of crumpled-up assessment notifications (is that some chocolate smeared on the corner?!), their laptop screen full of tabs that have nothing to do with whatever they’re supposed to be doing, and another late night for another crammed assignment.
You might think that if they just had some way to organise their assignments — that all this would go away. It seems simple — just organise your stuff, spread it out and do it chunk by chunk!
Believe me, they already know. In fact, over 85% of students are already aware that it’s a good idea. Two-thirds of these students are actually willing to admit it would make things easier things would make it if they had something to keep track of their tasks.
So, why do most teenagers not commit to it? Why choose to get sucked into this vicious cycle of procrastination, leaving things to the last minute and handing in sub-par work?
We’ve worked with thousands of teenagers — varying ages, varying personalities, interests—you name it. It’s time we shed some light on some hard-to-swallow truths about your teenager and what prevents them from keeping all their schoolwork organised and getting it done ahead of time.
Why do teenagers struggle to track assignments?
If you’ve ever wondered why your child is taking forever to start things or doesn’t do as well in their assignments as they could — despite being in good schools AND having subject tutors — then here’s some insight into the inner workings of a developing teenage brain in high school:
- Staying on top of things takes time and effort.
Imagine a teenager in Year 11 or 12 with their workload piling up while the pressures of achieving a high-ranking ATAR and getting admitted to university trickle down… And that’s just a few of the more common issues teenagers have told us! Dealing with piling commitments and responsibilities like that becomes easier when they’re just buried — a go-to response for any child not equipped with the correct study technique and tools to keep them afloat.
- Some students don’t know where all the information is.
If you don’t know where something is (or that it even exists), you’re not going to use it or do it. Especially for younger kids who have just started high school, or maybe they’ve changed classes or streams, it takes time to understand their new learning environment. How does that particular teacher like to post work versus another teamer? Without access to the rubric, the notification, and all the materials that go into studying and preparing for an exam, dropping the ball and gaining low marks should not be a surprise.
- They lack the connection and risk/reward when it comes to their future.
Why organise their study plans and materials when they can scroll through social media, watch Netflix, or go out with friends? A lot of students admit to having a hard time seeing what’s in it for them when it comes to studying… They get that they’re heading toward Year 12 and ATAR — but gosh, that seems like a lot of work! They don’t know if they’ll get a good enough result after studying, and their marks to date haven’t been that great. They could study or work a bit harder but they just don’t know if it’ll work out. Sometimes, they don’t feel like it… but they KNOW they’ll enjoy hanging out with mates or checking out TikTok. Yes, it may be some selected or biased teenage thinking here, but it’s a fact for many teenagers.
- They think they can “cross that bridge when I get there.” (aka ‘She’ll be right.’)
Some students figure that organising their assignments and projects is not important now but will be later. Because of the lack of urgency in their mindset, they miss a lot of opportunities to spread their assignments in a workable timeline. It’s most often the case for students who lack strong time management skills.
- Not being able to see the bigger picture.
When details about projects and exams come through in drips and drabs, students miss critical information that could be helpful along the way. This is ESPECIALLY common when an in-class essay or research task is set. Not only do they need all the pieces of a 1000-piece puzzle, but they also need to know how to slot each piece into place to really hit the marking criteria.
It’s a bit controversial, but it’s worth calling out. Some students just don’t like their parents (or any adult, for that matter) telling them what to do. Imagine a workplace or another social environment — and all of a sudden, their knee-jerk reaction makes a lot more sense. It’s like someone speaking it to them is stating the obvious while being intensely irritating — so even if they can understand the logic, their emotions flair and that coupled with poor impulsivity control and a tendency towards defiance can lead to confrontation and lasting injury to motivation, trust and self-efficacy. As adults, we’ve learned to manage this but remember that they’re still learning those skills and developing those muscles.
Getting organised with an assessment tracker
For most parents, the end goal is for their child to be organised and prepared for their assessments, so they’re spreading out the work throughout the term and avoiding any burnout or major backlog towards the end. An assessment tracker is a great way to achieve this, stay on top of things, and achieve better academic results.
A 2021 study by the University of Sydney found that students who used a similar tool — a study planner — were likelier to accomplish assignments and achieve higher exam marks. Another study indicates that students who used a study planner during their HSC year were 15% more likely to achieve an ATAR of 90 or above and higher marks than those who did not.
It’s also well-documented that students who are more prepared and equipped for exams enjoy higher marks with less stress. Motivation levels are healthier and better sustained with less effort and external inputs throughout the term. That means children are more confident during exams and have fewer mood fluctuations than those who are not as equipped. This is supported by a 2022 study from Macquarie University, where they found that students who utilised a study planner admitted to feeling more organised, less stressed, and more confident in their ability to manage their workload.
Our team of education strategists have worked with thousands of students across Australia, each with unique learning needs. Some of our students have ADHD, while others struggle with anxiety. Some of our students want to hit over 95 in exams, while others want to move from 70 to the 80s. It doesn’t matter what your child’s goals are. All of it is okay and achievable, but they need to have a way of tracking and ‘doing’ that fits their unique learning profile and their goals.
One important thing to remember is that assessment trackers are not just about monitoring deadlines. It’s also about planning the steps and support needed to complete tasks. Your child’s tracker can include a breakdown of tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. It could identify different resources or books that will be needed and lay out a schedule for review or study sessions. It could also include strategies for dealing with distractions, sustaining motivation, and managing stress for your child.
At the end of the day, the goal is to make the assessment process as stress-free as possible for both your child and your family. Having an effective system in place can set the difference between an overwhelmed student and one who feels in control and prepared. And when students feel in control and prepared, they’re more likely to unlock and perform to their full potential.
If you’re looking into helping your child develop the organisation skills to manage their assessments effectively, consider first why they’re facing their current challenges. From there, creating a tightly knit, tailored assessment tracker will be easier and more beneficial to your child.
For more tips and strategies on assessment organisation, get in touch with one of our education strategists today: https://calendly.com/kalibrate-ed/lets-chat.