By: Fiona Lam
Lianna Genovese, a 3rd-year McMaster engineering student, has grown her first-year undergraduate project into a burgeoning business that is helping individuals with accessibility issues find independence and opportunity.
By: Diane Hollister, Faculty Advisor, Pearson
Sweet chili lime pistachios. Yes, they are real; and they are addictive. One of my team members told me about them, and because I’m a pistachio lover and a chili lover, I had to try them. Yum! I’m a sucker for Tex-Mex flavors, and this one got me. Like many of you, I tend to eat lunch and snacks at my desk, so I need to be careful my laptop doesn’t end up with chili in the keyboard!
When I first heard about sweet chili pistachios — maybe you did this, too — I kind of debated whether I really wanted to try them. Sometimes we read or hear about combinations of foods that don’t sound so good, like the Scandinavian chicken / banana dish my aunt recently sent me as a joke. Ew. Sometimes we try the new combo and discover it’s really amazing. And other times … well, it may have been better to ignore it! (Kudos to the first person who put peanut butter and chocolate together … but why would anyone want that chicken / banana combo or a mayonnaise-and-peanut-butter sandwich?!)
You might justifiably wonder just how this foodie blog has anything to do with student engagement. Bear with me a moment or two while we explore some thoughts here. Like those addictive sweet chili lime pistachios, sometimes we need to spice things up to get students engaged. Sometimes we have to be willing to try something new, or look at something innovative to capture their attention. Sometimes we need to seek out new resources to share with them.
First, it can be helpful to think about how we teach and how students learn. Take a look at a book like Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide. Read Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning if you haven’t yet done so, or Powerful Teaching. Whet your own appetite with practical applications for the classroom based on solid cognitive research. Consider tools like retrieval practice, spacing, interleaving, and feedback and how these can be used to help your students learn better — and keep them interested. Our excitement, and our own growth mindset, can help students be more engaged.
Next, explore technology tools (or even non-techy tools like index cards) that allow you to track student responses and get real-time feedback on muddy points. Look at tools like Pearson’s Learning Catalytics.
Then, take a look at the research about emotional intelligence, grit, mindset, and related qualities. As simplistic as it may sound, many students aren’t sure how to schedule portions of their days. They don’t realize the importance of mindfulness vs. the multi-tasking that they are so familiar with. They need specific, targeted feedback and modeling to develop metacognition skills.
Don’t forget resources for the students. Maybe they are not engaged because they don’t even know how to be a student. Share www.studygs.net. Students might really appreciate the Learning Scientists blogs. A recent one explores the importance of explaining things to help cement memory and learning. Earlier this summer, another blog outlined research about note-taking. Giving such tools to students can empower them, and drive them to succeed which can engage them more deeply in the learning process both in- and outside of the classroom.
By: Madison Kriege I have trouble managing my mental health. I push it off like a check on my To-Do list and tell myself I’ll come back later; however, I know that I never will and new priorities will take its place. This mindset is something that I am confident I am not alone in.
By: Zoë Banen Procrastination is usually a student’s favorite hobby in college. Waiting until the last minute is rarely the best idea and leads to stress and panic. To be successful and remain stress-free, it is important to stay motivated when completing assignments and studying. I too, fall victim to the temptation of procrastination at times. However, I have found that using these two strategies can help.
Using a Study Timer
The Pomodoro Technique is my favorite secret weapon to combat procrastination. It was developed by productivity consultant Francesco Cirillo to help improve focus and concentration on the task at hand. The technique helps you commit 25 minutes of your time to working or studying without becoming distracted. The specific amount of time dedicated to working allows for high levels of motivation. Studies have shown that our maximum attention span in work is between 20 to 45 minutes if a brief break was taken before. Using a pomodoro timer takes advantage of this information by allotting 25 minutes to work followed by a 5-10 minute break. The breaks in between are purposely made short in order to maintain a constant rhythm of progress. This flow helps me stay motivated and focused without allowing me to procrastinate beyond the given break time. The Pomodoro Technique changes the user’s mindset about time, so it can now be seen as a way to achieve something. I become more conscious of how much time goes by and am determined to stay concentrated until the 25 minutes have ended.
Another strategy that I use is keeping myself organized because it increases my motivation to get my work done. I make checklists for myself and feel a sense of accomplishment when I am able to check off a completed task. I am a visual person, so writing down all of the assignments I need to complete is a great way to see what I need to get done for the day. When I am organizing my to-do lists, I break up larger assignments, like projects, into smaller and more manageable tasks. I also make good use of the calendar app on my phone in order to stay organized. I insert deadlines into my app for any future assignments or projects that I need to complete and it gives me alerts when due dates are coming up.
Procrastination can be a difficult thing to avoid, but it is important to find a way to motivate yourself. Each person is different, which is why it’s best to figure out what strategies work for you!
By: Ashley Dittman When I was 15 years old, I began having frequent and horrible headaches. By the time I was 16 I was diagnosed with chronic migraines. When people think of disabilities, migraines are not usually what come to mindor even thought of as a disability. However, migraines are the 6th most debilitating illness in the world.* A migraine headache is defined as an extremely incapacitating collection of neurological symptoms that usually includes a severe throbbing recurring pain on one side of the head*, but most people just think it is a really bad headache. In school, it has always been hard to find people that understand what I am going through and that are accommodating. In high school, they did not believe that migraines were a good enough excuse to miss the amount of school I missed. Now in college, I am registered as a student with a disability that has special accommodations, but still some professors are not willing to understand.
Learning from hardships
Although there is a lot of frustration and hardship with my disability, I am thankful for what it has taught me. Missing class is never fun, and missing class because you are at home in bed with all the lights off, a pillow over your head, and in excruciating pain is even worse. The hardships I encounter only push me to be a better student. I miss a lot of class, but because of this I know I have to work hard to not get behind.
Partnering with professors
Most students don’t attempt to make relationships with their professors, but in order to stay up to date on everything, I must. These relationships are beneficial not only with my accommodations, but looking toward the future, like when I need letters of recommendations. I want to show my professors I am more than my disability.
Maintaining good time management
I probably would procrastinate more if I didn’t have migraines, but with them I have to use good time management skills because I never know when one will strike. I use the free help resources that many students don’t take advantage of; it has been beneficial in helping me understand what I have missed. Even if you don’t have a disability,establishing good relationships with professors and maintaining good time management are helpful in succeeding in the long run. You never know when something could come up and you would already be prepared because you are ahead or you can easily contact your professor. There are so many times when I have wished that I didn’t have this disability, but now that I reflect on it, some good things that have happened because of it.
Looking for the silver lining
If you have a disability or know someone with a disability, I know that it can be frustrating that people don’t understand. Don’t let that stop you. Power through and stop to think about the silver lining in your disability. Whatever you do, don’t be ashamed of it. You’re not alone and you’re not the only one going through this. Talk to people to help them understand. Show others that you are hardworking. Don’t let your disability define you. You can do anything. If you don’t have a disability, try to understand those that do and what they go through. Don’t belittle them or ask why they are never in class, but instead celebrate the little victories with them. They are not their disabilities.