September 5, 2017
Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. ~ Pele
I believe that this is one of the best weeks of the year – the return of students to campus for the semester. All the planning for the semester mixes with excitement and anxiety as to what will come. From reflections by colleagues and students, it seems this is true whether we’re returning for the umpteenth semester or starting for the first time. Our campus theme this month is Jumpstart!
For many of our students, campus life (the constellation of courses, co-curricular activities, living with others in res halls and apartments) can have quite an impact. The W-curve helps frame the trajectory for these experiences. Developed by Gullahorn and Gullahorn in the 1960s and expanded over the years, the W-curve includes stages when experiencing culture shock. “Culture shock” as defined by Merriam Webster (2017) is “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation”. International students,those who are first generation college students (nearly half of our students), and students from many other backgrounds can be affected by this phenomenon. While the W-curve does not fit all, it is a common model used in the United States to understand students’ college experiences. (See more at https://www.uwsuper.edu/fye/parents/upload/The-W-Curve-for-Parents.pdf).
The first stages of the W-curve are excitement and hope. Students begin the semester with anticipation for what is to come. As the semester sets in with homework, studying, work and co-curricular responsibilities, students may begin to doubt that they belong and can effectively face the challenges in front of them. Homesickness can exacerbate things. You likely have seen this – the student who was active in the first week or two of classes now seems to have disappeared or is unengaged.
We know that connecting with students during this time is most critical. If they receive support and encouragement, they can persist, helping them adjust and adapt to the new environment. Obviously, over time this can lead to growth and success in all areas – academic, personal and professional. Strategies we’ve seen reflected on our campus inside and outside the classroom and discussed in the literature are:
1. Promote the student-instructor connection. Use activities that promote rapport between you and the student. Significant research shows that one of the strongest predictors of student success is the relationship with faculty/instructors.
2. Enhance students’ self-belief. Help students see that there is not a “college gene”; it’s not something you can just do (the fixed mindset) – it takes hard work and determination (this is the growth mindset). An assignment during the first week of class that provides an opportunity for students try new skills and receive meaningful feedback from you, is just one idea of how to do this. For ideas on what to say to promote self-belief, see the growth mindset feedback tool at http://www.mindsetworks.com/FileCenter/MM3J5IO126930FPPC4TD.pdf.
3. Create learning experiences that are active and collaborative. Active learning in groups can promote shared experiences and the ability to struggle and succeed together. Active learning stretches their skills and abilities and promotes healthy brain development.
These are three ideas; there are many more. Explore https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/10-ways-to-promote-student-engagement/ for additional strategies and background information.
We know that there are many great strategies happening on our campus, inside and outside classrooms. We would love to hear your ideas! Please subscribe to the CETL blog and leave a reply in the “Share Your Strategies” area.
Last week, I shared the activities that the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has planned for this semester.
Our events calendar with information on our Communities of Practice and new initiatives
Travel grant application (for travel to conferences related to teaching and learning), which is due on Monday, October 2.