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Declining Student Resilience: The Increasing Challenges Facing
Faculty in the Classroom Presented by:
Dr. Lynne Trevisan
Dr. Angela Thomas
What is Resilience?
• Resilience is the ability to bounce back or get back up after defeat or failure. Resilience factors include having “healthy relationships, good self-care, and an optimistic outlook. Resilient people use this skill set to respond to problems more effectively and balance life’s demands” (SCoRE, 2016, para. 2).
People are normally resilient in the face of difficulty or stress. It is common to have stressful moments throughout a normal day. Generally, a person will figure out coping mechanisms to get through the difficult times. Sometimes, those coping mechanisms are not always healthy or appropriate for the situation. Increasingly, we are noticing a decrease in student resiliency that creates barriers for successful outcomes. So what does this look like?
Students lacking in resilience can display the following behaviors or emotions:
Neediness Inability to problem solve Demand for excessive instruction or attention
Coming to class unprepared (no computer, textbook, internet access) and not reading the information provided by instructors. They want to be taken by the hand and led/spoon fed information.
Lisa Simpson Syndrome – refusal to accept anything less than an A. Immediate escalation of issues to the advisor, Dean, a lawyer, Department of Education
“I’ve got a good lawyer in J. Noble Daggett”
Students lacking in resilience can display the following behaviors or emotions - continued:
Wordle of student excuses. Pick one off the list. Ask attendees how they would handle the complaint.
What is the cause? Perhaps a Paralyzing Fear of Failure
• Many students cannot comprehend failing because they have never experienced it.
One possible cause is fear of failure. Failure is seen as a disaster in their lives. A student’s entire future may be balanced on the grade they receive in the class. If the student fails the course, he/she may not get into a selective program. Students relying on financial aid to cover expenses could face disastrous outcomes, including possibly the loss of a job or even homelessness.
It’s ok to fail; it’s not ok to give up.
• J.K. Rowling was on welfare, her manuscript was rejected 12 times, but now she is one of the most successful authors of our time.
We need to encourage student to understand that it’s ok to fail, but to never give up – and even better yet, to take the responsibility to ensure their success from the start.
Extra Credit, Resets, and Do-Overs, Oh My!
• How much is too much flexibility?
• What happened to a fair and level playing field for all?
• There are no do-over’s in the real world of employment – only success and failure and the consequences of both.
Low resiliency students, those who are failing and those with ‘Lisa Simpson Syndrome’ will ask for all of these. Angela and I recommend maintaining a fair opportunity for every student in class. If you offer extra-credit for one student, offer it openly for every student. If you allow one student a do-over or a reset on a quiz or exam, do the same for every student. Limit the number of times these opportunities are offered. The goal of taking a class is for students to learn the material and pass the class on those merits – not on extra credit opportunities that may not have anything to do with the course learning outcomes. While it may be difficult for students to understand and accept that you don’t offer extra credit, consider how the material in your class will be used in their future classes and professional role. If the student cannot pass without the extra credit, it likely means they are not ready to use the material from the class.
Who or what is to blame for declining student resilience?
Does it matter?
We cannot change the fact that students are less resilient. We can only share strategies and tools to help them become more resilient and responsible for their own success.
No Child Left Behind
Terrifying world events & constant media bombardment
Increase in legitimate mental health disorders
Lack of mental health services
All of these could be to blame to one degree or another, but the issue we face is handling the challenge as it sits in front of us – or on the other end of the computer monitor. �
According to the CDC, 1 in 5 (20%) of American children have a mental disorder (ADD, depression, anxiety, autism, etc.) (2015). The increase in the rate of mental disorder diagnosis and decrease in mental health services could also be impacting student resilience.
Increasing rates of mental disorders combined with decreasing mental health
Not only a disaster for the patients, but an extremely complicating factor for teachers in all classrooms.
A little support would be nice.
So now that we have identified the problem, what can we do to support faculty in overcoming it?
• What type of support is available to faculty in dealing with low student resiliency?
• Does any institution have a policy that specifically addresses the concern of resiliency?
• On a side note: Many online adjunct professors must now provide a phone number so they can be reached by students.
• How does this affect students who have low resiliency skills?
Most online faculty have the support of the academic advisors and the Dean. However, they have to find a balance between keeping students enrolled (persistence) as well as maintaining academic excellence and integrity. Faculty may also have connections with peers through conferences and faculty development events. Collegial or mentoring relationships can help faculty navigate these difficult situations by sharing experiences and methods of handling past issues.
The first step towards success is access!
Students must have the ability to “show up” in order to learn. Accessing their online classrooms and material is often the first obstacle student’s encounter.
This is what students see when they log in on the first day of class in my course.
What are your thoughts on this? Is it too much? How do I specifically answer student questions differently? How do you handle the first week of class? I limit the assigned activities that week. They have to read the textbook, complete assigned practice activities, participate in introductions, and take a syllabus quiz. The syllabus quiz helps students get acclimated to the rules of the class and it includes a scavenger hunt aspect where they have to locate answers in the information. As teachers, we usually put the information in the classroom so we know where it is. Students do not intuitively know where information is located. They may find it quickly, or it may take them hours to find it. If it takes more than 10 minutes, that is frustrating to the student. Imagine how you feel when you are over booked, have a ton of work to get done, and a short time to finish it. Many of our students are non-traditional students, which means they may have a job, a family, are caring for aging patients, etcetera. Time is precious for all of our students. The clearer your information is, the easier it is to find, the happier your students will be.
Uh Oh!!! Now what?
Now what? Do students know how to reach tech support if they don’t have access to class? How much do you stress that they need to write the phone number and web contact information down, and keep it where they can easily find it? Have you thought of emailing Tech Support info to your students?
• “Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person's resilience.” (American Psychological Association, 2016, Resilience Factors).
Students who have self-confidence in their abilities fare better than those who believe they will fail. You can help boost a student’s sense of self-confidence and resilience. Be accessible and welcoming. Email students at the beginning of class to give them first-week information. Remind them to read announcements at every log in as this is where valuable information is located. Post a Frequently Asked Questions announcement. Organize the questions by topic and provide answers. Provide answers within the written material of class. Perhaps post a video of you addressing some of the more common questions. Remember, all videos must have a transcript or closed captioned to meet ADA accessibility laws. Technology ideas are Jing, Prezi (moving PowerPoint slideshow), and your own video. When grading, be sure to tell them what they did right in their work, not just what they did wrong. Keep a “gold” file of commonly used feedback instead of typing the same thing over and over; personalize it as needed. Provide encouraging quotes throughout the class to let your students know most paths towards success are twisted and bumpy roads, not a straight path.
• Welcome everyone to class in the Introduction forum.
• Have the schedule of assignments and due dates set for the entire duration of class before the course begins.
• Post this as part of your syllabus so students can see it prior to the first day of class.
Respond with a personal note to each student to show you took the time to read their post. This establishes a foundation of trust with the student. In one class, I was unable to respond to every student in the introductions due to some personal events. This is the only class it happened in all my time teaching online. It was the WORST semester I’ve ever had. Students were argumentative and overall scores were lower than in any other semester before or since. Because I started off weak, that set the tone for the entire class.
• Add ‘check-your-progress’ activities to the class.
• Encourage students to become more self-aware, examine their limitations, and embrace any changes necessary for success.
Consider adding short self-assessment quizzes for students in the early weeks or a weekly enrichment activity (no points/pressure). This helps put the ball in the student’s court and encourages them to evaluate their own progress. Students who have Emotional Intelligence – that is, understanding and managing one’s emotions and appropriately communicating those feelings to others – tend to have greater resiliency. To help students become more self-aware, encourage them to look at their daily schedule from the previous week. What did they do each day? Outline the day and show the time allotted to each activity: work, study/class activities, family. What can they do to organize their schedule to allow enough time for classwork and define priorities? We will provide additional resources at end of presentation. We all have 24 hours of time each day. Encourage student to arrange their life to give their education a priority status. Perhaps suggesting time management tips such as: menu planning, cooking ahead, setting aside study time, finding a babysitter to watch the kids while taking tests and doing homework, create a study group, etcetera.
Strategies for building resiliency
• Create a professional, yet friendly and supportive, relationship with your students.
• This means being present in the classroom and easy to reach for communication.
• It does NOT mean you have to be connected 24/7.
Be accessible to answer questions, understanding that it is often more helpful to show the student how they can find the answer themselves. When students ask questions that are already addressed in the classroom, I tell them where they can find the answer. I don’t give them the answer unless they email a second time stating they cannot find the answer.
Tone: What we WANT to say versus what we SHOULD say!
Often tone can be misinterpreted in written communication. Make sure your message does not come across as cold or harsh. Adopt a calm, welcoming tone in your communication.
When providing a “friendly reminder” of an upcoming due date you could start your announcement with one of these.
But perhaps not this!
Obviously this lacks respect for our students and would alienate them immediately. Your tone can convey the same information as this picture reflects. Take a moment to consider how the student would perceive your message.
Instructor Communication is Key
Identify your communication procedures: • Tell students when you are available and how long they may have to wait to
hear back from you – not more than 48 hours. • Clearly and professionally communicate – follow Emotional Intelligence
suggestions (don’t argue with irrational students!) • Post policies regarding class work, responsibilities, deadlines, grades, etc. at
the beginning of the course. Be sure to follow these throughout the course. 26
Use the syllabus and announcements to share important information. If placing information in an announcement, make sure the announcement remains open to students for the full duration of the class. It is best practice to tell students at the beginning of class what work is due every week without them having to guess. Adding assignments throughout class often frustrates students and adds unnecessary stress to them. If they know at the start of class that an assignment is due, they can prepare for the assignment. This may mean taking time off work, hiring a babysitter, going to a quiet location to study or work on written work. That can take a good deal of advance planning for some of our students. Create office hours or tell students how to schedule a phone meeting with you outside of normal office hours.
Strategies for Building Student Resilience
• Making goals – taking responsibility for their own learning • Active learning • Anticipating curve balls • “Why do I need to know this?” • Explain criticisms in greater detail • Resources Guide – Campus counseling, Community health resources, etc. • Clear policy guidelines from the University on student resilience as well as boundary
Goal setting gives a sense of purpose. Identifying individual steps to follow increases the likelihood of the person reaching the goal. Point out to students that the learning outcomes are the individual steps they must meet in order to pass that section of class. Active learning assignments that require students to investigate, simulate, role-play, complete case-studies, debate and journaling give them the opportunity to learn both on their own as well as through group activities. They create their own questions about the material, then share it with others who bring a new perspective to the learning. Journals allow students to reflect on what they learned, how they learned it, what was easy, what was difficult, and where they need to focus future efforts (Idea.edu, 2016). Adding activities for all learning styles will keep students engaged in the class. Anticipating curve balls means figuring out what to do when something comes up that is unexpected. This could happen on a personal level, such as not having a babysitter to watch the kids or losing internet service when the deadline is looming. Another curve ball ties into our last topic – Active Learning. Assignments that allow for more than one right answer help students move away from passive listening and into greater resilience. Why do I need this course? – Demonstrate to students the importance of the subject matter covered in the class. Connect course information to real-world experiences the students can expect to encounter in their future profession.
Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.
Resources for Students
• Instructor contact information and hours of availability
• Faculty expectations
• Tech support contact information
• Textbook title with a picture and ISBN
• Other required course materials and respective support contact
• Schedule of assignments with due dates
• Directions to find Library resources.
• Online Writing Center links
• Templates for assignments/forums
• Plan B items (internet, computer)
Student Resources/Tackle box
• Study Guides and Strategies: http://www.studygs.net/
• How to Study: http://www.howtostudy.org/
• Managing Your Time (Dartmouth College): http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/time.html
• Stress Management for College Students (University of Georgia): https://www.uhs.uga.edu/stress/
• Tech Support: (insert your institution’s info here)
• Advisor/Instructor Contact Info • Common national hotlines: