Friday, December 29, 2017

Faculty Focus: Students' Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Five Ways to Break the Cycle

The article Students' Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Five Ways to Break the Cycle from Faculty Focus does a great job of identifying areas faculty can help students develop a positive self-image regarding their studies. In math classes I feel this issue is especially acute, given how many times students are unwilling to offer answers or solutions for fear of being labeled 'stupid' or worse.

I do a few of the suggestions in my current setup:

  1. Provide opportunities for metacognition. During the weekly binder checklists, and group quizzes, students have an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned and how. During nightly Check-Ins students are asked to think about the material from the day, and how well they know it. 
  2. Flip roles. In using the POGIL roles every student has a responsibility, and occasionally will become the manager of the group that day. In addition to "Creating leadership roles empower students who feel disenfranchised." it also provides structure to the group work, my main motivation for using them.  
  3. Create check-in points. My nightly Check-Ins are graded based on completion, and sometimes include the "muddiest point", "most important point", and "write a question to build understanding" questions. 
  4. Build in moments for dialogue. While my Check-Ins do have reflection questions, they don't specifically address negative self-image in the class. This is one question category I will try to incorporate into Check-Ins this term. Questions like "What if, after doing a bunch of homework and getting some questions right and some questions wrong, you start to feel discouraged? You start to feel like you just can't get this stuff, and that you're not 'smart'. What are you going to tell yourself to get out of this funk, and back on track?"
  5. Point it out. In my mini-lectures I do try to address process skills, and one of my usual 'spiels' is addressing anxiety and negative self-image. I try to relate to students explaining that I have anxiety about how each class will go, and that I use that anxiety to prepare for that class. I also make it clear that grades are a measure of understanding, not whether you are a good person or not. 
What do you do to disrupt a student's negative self-image, or their unhelpful self-fulfilling prophecies?