Encouraging Persistence

Reading-Clip-ArtHow can post-secondary educators assure that first year students learn how to persist at a given task?  One of the first steps is understanding that having an open mind-set provides them with opportunity to learn. Another important factor in achievement is goal-setting.  While  establishing these goals, they should also recognize that they will face obstacles. Therefore, once they plan how to work around these road-blocks, they must engage in consistent effort to accomplish their goals.

According to Don Hosler, et al. “Access to postsecondary education is achieved not solely by admitting students, but also by enhancing their odds of earning a degree or certificate.”  Many first generation college students enter  college without the benefit of role models in persistence. When faced with a difficulty, they may give up rather than tackle the problem, sometimes providing excuses unrelated to the real issue.  ”The common belief among campus practitioners concerned with student retention was that students who indicated finances as the reason they were dropping out were simply offering a socially acceptable reason, and that other concerns, such as poor academic performance, a lack of social integration, or homesickness, were more likely their real reasons for withdrawing.” Therefore, the college instructor can be instrumental in teaching students the importance of persistence, a non-cognitive skill that can benefit them not only in a particular content area, but throughout life.

An educator is usually so familiar with his subject that she may not realize that the information is novel to students. Of course, he should have high expectations for the class. Breaking down concepts into small chunks may be a way to make the assignment more accessible to students. As an example, while teaching the research paper, the instructor can break the components into areas: the topic, the thesis statement, research areas, outlining. Students are less likely to feel overwhelmed if the work is divided into manageable tasks.

Aside from “chunking,” the teacher should encourage genuine effort. The process is as important, if not more important, than the product. Providing continual and specific feedback can encourage the student to persist when the work becomes challenging.  The classroom should be a safe environment where students can make mistakes, which provide the opportunity to learn.  Communication is crucial whether in person, through e-mail, or other means.  Let’s help these students succeed!

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