Teaching and learning: Giving confidence

It’s only been a weekend, but it feels like I’m just now getting back to teaching after a long hiatus. It felt good to be in the classroom today, interacting with and guiding my students. I had one student meet me during my office hours that reminded me that part of my role as a teacher is to give confidence to my students. Like so many other students in this class, this student felt overwhelmed with the Introductory Statistics course I’m teaching. It’s a notoriously difficult course, and most students feel like they’re drowning. So, it was time for a little pep talk.

She’s a great student who is doing quite well in the course. The only problem is that she, like almost everyone else in the class, is afraid of falling behind and not getting it all. So we spent about a half hour talking through techniques to give her more efficacy in her learning. She seemed relieved, and then it hit me: “We have to help our students understand that they are capable of learning.” So often, students feel defeated in the classroom and this just makes learning inabilities spiral out of control. To help prevent this, I affirm my students of their capabilities, point out where they are excelling or doing well, give them specific examples of ways they can improve their learning and understanding, remind them of how this learning is building on the future for them, and finally try to make it fun and less intimidating.

I’m slowly learning that good education outcomes are part curriculum, part student capabilities, but a huge part good pedagogy and encouragement.

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About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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