Helping Students Persist in Their Studies

November 2, 2018

I encouraged students to persist in their studies by showing them Ted Talks such as “Grit” and “The Power of Believing that You Can Improve”. My intention was to guide students to value hard work and perseverance instead of natural smartness.

Fang Wang, Communication Studies

In my FYS, I’ve done a whole presentation on mindset — what it is and how it affects your response to a criticism and your willingness to make an effort. I’ve asked students to record (for their own information) whether they have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Then they identify an upcoming academic project that will require some effort along with some criticism they’ve received from a professor this semester. Then they record whether they’re going to make the effort and how they’re going to respond to the criticism.

Jocelyn McWhirter, Religious Studies

This module nudged me to be a lot more explicit about the connection between adaptive habits and improved performance at this point in the semester. After I returned their first exams to them this week, I walked my students through a list of specific actions they should take in order to do well in the course. We had gone over these before in the first week of class (which is when I usually do it), but the information was probably a lot more meaningful now, several weeks into the course with first-hand experience of its structure and demands. I also very clearly made the point that there are no “bad students,” but students with bad habits that they can learn to replace with productive ones. I think I always implicitly believed this, but I don’t think I’ve ever laid it out this clearly for my students.

Holger Elischberger, Psychological Science

I have never approached a struggling student with the attitude that “they’ve hit their mental capacity for this task”. Instead, I believe most students “tap-out” emotionally once they reach a certain level of difficulty. One of my roles as a teacher is to help them push through—maybe not by working harder, but by working differently. So I give them a wide variety of tasks that go into their final grade. I give them chances to rework mistakes for a better grade. (I’m really after the chance for them to improve their fundamental understanding.) And, above all else, I am CONSTANTLY offering my help before class, after class, in my office, and in my lab. And, if that doesn’t work, I point them to tutoring, framing the act of being tutored as a normal part of the course which helps them commit to always studying at a certain time, in a certain place, with a certain group of people. I assure students that increased effort will result in improvement. And I make it a point to explicitly discuss the improvements I see.

Phil Voss, Physics

I try to structure my writing assignments (which all follow the same pattern) so that they build in value/weight over the course the semester. I found that this allows students to test out the skills we learn in class and then use the feedback to improve for the subsequent papers.

Laura Brade, History

I used the time leading up to Fall Break to remind students of the progress/growth they’ve made so far in the course, as well as what we still need to cover. As such, I try to offer specific areas of praise that might have occurred in class, or on a paper, etc. Continuing to motivate students, I try to challenge students to push beyond the hard work they’ve already accomplished to try to do more. This challenge allows for students to push themselves to do better and to build upon the skills they’ve already developed.

Dominick Quinney, Ethnic Studies

For the term paper/presentation process in my FYE Seminar, I broke the process down into intermediate steps last year (focused topic/annotated bibliography, rough draft, final draft) — it worked well for some students, but am refining it this year based on some of the techniques from this module aimed at persistence. Planning to make grades on the intermediate steps advisory only, with specific feedback based on improvements they can make later on. Also going to provide them with some examplars so they have a better idea of what’s expected.

Clayton Parr, Music

I took the Performance Prognosis Inventory from module 2E and revised it so that it fit with my Comm 101 class. For the last half of the class period, I had students fill out the PPI (attached) – it points out specific behaviors that students should be engaging in if they want to do better in the course. I then handed back the DAPPS goals (attached) they had set at the beginning of the semester and had them comment on how successful they were in achieving those goals. Then they had to come up with a new DAPPS goal for the last half of the semester. I think this was beneficial in helping them reflect on their behaviors for the first seven weeks and figure out what they needed to do to be more successful for the last seven weeks, with the intent of establishing that growth mindset.

Katey Price, Communication Studies