One frequently overlooked approach to improving academic success is the simple technique of listening to the students. Students are uniquely positioned to understand the nature of school problems, and their perceptions can be useful in forming solutions to problems of academic failure and school leaving. In this study, science-tracked secondary school students in Portugal (N=346) responded to open-response questions regarding what schools and teachers can do to improve success in the 10th grade in general, and specifically in Mathematics and Physics/Chemistry. Content analysis revealed specific dimensions of student recommendations including (a) teacher strategies, (b) teacher affect and (c) curriculum. Student recommendations emphasized diversifying teaching methods, permitting greater student input, making clear connections between class material and real- life applications. Students indicated the importance of developing a positive classroom environment and urged more time for the learning of complex concepts. While their implementation may not be appropriate in all cases, student suggestions can be useful in identifying problem areas, and in some instances may offer sound advice to teachers and educational leaders. We discuss these suggestions, including just what it means to teach with a “real-life” orientation. We propose a distinction between authentic events that are learning relevant and those that are goal relevant.
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