Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Attitude Adjustment: self-awareness in education

  Posted on: January 19, 2017

Jasica Munday, TRU graduate, facilitating a Supplemental Learning session

Despite rigorous study sessions, Jasica Munday, recent BSc graduate from TRU, was rocked by waves of anxiety in the moments leading up to a challenging exam. Though the feeling of disappointment was mutual amongst her study partners, Jasica took the defeat personally. “My C+ was higher than the average, but a terrible mark in my mind. I didn’t understand why my hard work, the countless hours studying, hadn’t paid off.”

In her CACUSS article “Mindset Matters”, Jasica describes this classic student experience, and highlights that crucial fork in the road—whether to give up or give it another go. Jasica cites Psychologist Carol Dweck’s Growth versus Fixed mindset theory, which argues that a positive attitude is the crown jewel to success.

Those harboring a fixed mindset believe that intellectual or athletic qualities are instinctive and inflexible, and often reinforced through the opinions and expectations of others. Individuals with a growth mindset believe that change is possible through effort, persistence and repetition. “Our attitude has a major impact on how we see our potential and respond to challenges,” Jasica said.

Jasica was first introduced to Dweck’s Growth Mindset Theory during her Supplemental Learning (SL) training.  As an SL leader, the training process integrates information about the core principles behind different learning styles. Throughout Jasica’s experience as an SL leader, her connection with students in her sessions further captured the relevance of the mindset theory.  Student success often appeared to directly relate to their mindset. “One ‘regular’ in my Anatomy & Physiology sessions had an extraordinary growth mindset. With no prior background in biology, he jumped from a 60% midterm to an 87% by befriending other students, attending every SL session possible, and spending extra time studying.”

Jasica mentioned the growth mindset theory to the student, who didn’t know that applied to his unwavering efforts until she made the comparison. The conversation sparked Jasica’s intention to include this theory within her coaching methods. “I started, in small ways, promoting a growth mindset in my SL sessions. For an intro activity, I’d play a short video on mindset and follow with a quick discussion.”

In “Mindset Matters”, Jasica notes that when individuals are praised for their intelligences, they were more reluctant to challenge themselves for fear of failure.  Instead of expanding their knowledge base and skill set, they would focus solely on their pre-perceived successes“While there is little risk, over time there is little reward or growth,” Jasica concluded.

Dweck recommends “praising wisely” acknowledging the process and the effort, not the talent and intelligence.  Jasica would implement the theory in her positive reinforcements with students: “If I overheard a frustrated student say, ‘I’m just not good at chemistry’, I’d respond, ‘You’re not good at chemistry yet’. Jasica also assessed the way she praised successful problem solving sessions. Instead of referring to intelligence, she would remark on the intention or the team effort.

When it comes to scholastic challenges, there can be a self-defeatist concept that prevents educational growth. A fixed mindset can be dangerous to one’s effort to excel: I’m not good at math, therefore I will never be good at math.  The perseverance, the focus, the intention is the reward, and in fact, science had proven that stepping out of your comfort zone, overcoming fears actually makes you smarter. Also, by pushing yourself to face challenges empowers you to tackle future challenges. With a healthy dose of self-awareness, both Jasica and Dweck believe that it is possible to adjust one’s mindset.   As Dweck describes, there is power to behold in “not yet.”

Jasica describes SL sessions as an “optimal environment for students to experiment with learning techniques because leaders demonstrate multiple approaches to the course content.” Learning is multi-faceted, by organizing group activities, playing games, and hosting mock exams. In addition, sharing YouTube clips, introducing students to resources such as Khan Academy, and including social media as part study sessions has been an interactive learning experience. “Leaders modify activities to match the content and encourage students to reflect on whether and how each activity helped them learn”.

Through SL Coordinator Elizabeth Templeman, Jasica and her friend Daveen presented at a conference in the winter of 2015. There was a call to submit at a CACUSS in Winnipeg, which was another opportunity that they leapt at. Following the publication of her article, Jasica credits Templeman for being such a supportive figure in her academic life, describing her as a “great mentor and friend.”

Now at University of Calgary in an accelerated nursing program, Jasica reflects on her time at TRU fondly.  Helping others learn taught her a lot herself, “I’ve always been a good student—good, but not great, but SL was immense for my own learning process.”

Furthermore, the pure satisfaction of helping others reach their academic heights was a highlight of her university education.  “I’m glad that I became an SL leader… helping students discover their mindset and to take control of both their attitude and their learning. These theories are too important and too empowering to ignore.”

For more information about Supplemental Learning, refer to the website.

     

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