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The Pygmalion effect – How Teachers’ Expectations Affect Students’ Achievement

The Pygmalion effect describes how a teacher’s higher expectations lead to the student’s higher performance. If a teacher believes that certain students are late bloomers, there’s a good chance that they will become exactly that.

Pygmalion effects in the classroom

This effect can be found in different settings, but here we’ll focus on the classroom and the discovery by two American psychologists, Rosenthal and Jacobson, who conducted a study to test if children could be brighter when expected to be by their teachers. In another words, whether changes in teacher expectations produce changes in student achievement [2].

In their study, at the beginning of the school year, all of the children in the study were given an intelligence test, which was disguised as a test that would predict intellectual “blooming”. About 20% of the children were chosen at random and the teachers of these children were told that their scores on that test indicated they would show surprising gains in intellectual competence during the next few months of school. The important thing to remember is that the only difference between those children was in the minds of their teachers.

At the end of the school year, all the children were re-tested with the same test. The children from whom the teachers had been led to expect greater intellectual gain showed a greater gain than did the other children.

girl thinking positively about studying

How to use these effects to achieve better performance among students?

Teachers, but also parents, influence whether children will have higher or lower achievement. So, now when we are aware of the power of our expectations, one question arises – how can we help our children?

  1. Look for the good and positive things in each child. Find something to like or appreciate about every child, even if it’s their independence and tenacity. The teacher’s behavior is important. However, there’s more to it than that – it’s about the way you think about the child.
  2. Be aware of your effect. Teachers should always bear in mind that their behavior can affect a student’s performance. Although it’s impossible to like all students equally, it is imperative that they are all treated equally.
  3. Reconsider your treatment. Think about how you treat students you find smart/charming and compare that treatment to the way you approach those you find uninteresting/annoying. Who do you criticize more? Who receives more attention?
  4. More positive treatment. Try to give more attention to students you neglected before. Also, reinforce them if you see them struggling or feeling unsure. This way they’ll be more motivated to raise their hands and ask questions. Consequently, they’ll work harder at your subject and do much better in it.

We, at Nobel Coaching and Tutoring, believe in your student! Achieving better performance demands hard work, but with our help it is much easier and faster. Therefore, there’s one more way to help – you can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our Coaches HERE.

References:

[1] Babad, E. Y., Inbar, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1982). Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology,74(4), 459-474. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.4.459
[2] Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

6 Ways Your Child Can Benefit From Classroom Diversity

When we hear the word diversity, most of us tend to think only about race or ethnicity. But diversity comes in many shapes and forms: gender, socio-economic status, religion, even learning styles [6].  Each of those things makes us different and gives us the opportunity to teach others something new. In this article, we’ll look at the enormous benefits your child can gain as part of a diverse classroom.

School is for Learning

The main purpose of sending children to school is to allow them to learn. But we tend to think inside the box when it comes to learning. We immediately think about science, English, or psychology – that’s what my kid will be studying at school, right? Of course, but that’s not where the list ends. They’ll also gain important knowledge about the way the world works: by mingling among other children, your child can become better at communicating, understanding different people and different points of view; they can learn to be more relaxed and confident in different situations. And what better place to do that than in a diverse classroom?

How Does Diversity Make it Different?

You might be asking yourself – but wouldn’t they be learning all those things just as well in a homogenous classroom? Won’t they still get to hear a lot of different opinions and learn some important social skills?

Not quite.

While it’s true that any sort of interaction with others will aid your child in developing their social skills, the extent to which they’ll do that depends largely on their environment. Imagine this: it’s the first day of school. Your son comes back home, delighted to tell you all about his new friends. It turns out they’re all boys of the same race, same ethnicity, same religion, whose parents make roughly the same amount of money you do, living in the same neighborhood, listening to the same music, reading the same books. It’s perfect friendship!

But fast forward a couple of years.  You might start noticing that your child is having a hard time dealing with conflict, differences of opinion, and adapting to new situations. This could well be because they have never experienced anything different from what they’ve known their whole life. And as they grow up, there will be more and more of these situations, and the more your child is familiar with them, the easier it will be for them to navigate their way through this ever-changing world.

Not only that, but they’ll also be able to get a more complete perspective on any challenging situation if they are aware of all the different opinions a person can have in a given situation. This will help them when it comes to solving real-life problems by finding more (and better) solutions.

What Else Can be a Benefit?

Besides developing social skills important for the future, this is what your child can also learn in a diverse classroom:

  1. Empathy and Tolerance
  2. Feeling Safe
  3. Cultural Understanding
  4. Political Involvement
  5. Gender Equality

Empathy and Tolerance

Since the beginnings of civilization, there have been stereotypes. But the main thing that allowed those stereotypes to spread was the fact that different nations were separated by very strong borders, and there wasn’t nearly as much mingling as there is today.

In psychology, there is something called contact theory [2]. This theory has been proven time and time again, and the idea is this: (negative) stereotypes can be broken if different groups come into direct contact with one another, but only if:

  1. That contact occurs on the basis of equality
  2. in a setting that offers common experiences and objectives, and
  3. it happens frequently and intensively [2].

You may have already noticed that the classroom setting can provide all three of the necessary conditions [2]. This means that it’s a perfect place for different groups of children to come into contact and begin to understand one another. Once that happens, they’ll be able to develop tolerance for those different from them, and also empathy.

Empathy means being able to feel exactly the way someone else feels. You would probably agree that the more we understand someone, the easier it becomes for us to “walk in their shoes”. The basis of almost any large-scale conflict today is the fact that we don’t understand one another. We cannot connect to those of different origin, skin color, or religion because we don’t know what they are like outside of our TV screens and what  politicians tell us. So why not prevent all that misunderstanding simply by allowing our children to develop friendships in a context of diversity?

Feeling Safe

Did you know that students report feeling much safer in school and life in general, if they have been educated in diverse classrooms [6]?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise – we don’t fear what we’re familiar with. We would feel more scared going into anyone else’s house and finding it completely in the dark, rather than going into our own unlit house. We would have no trouble feeling for the light switch and walking in complete darkness from room to room.

It’s the same with people different from us, and I don’t just mean of different ethnicity. Up until the end of the 18th century, it was believed that atypically developing people were a danger to society and should be confined. But today, in the 21st century, we’ve adopted the principle of Integrated Classrooms, and thanks to that, many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can go to regular classes with their typically developing classmates. And it’s not only beneficial for children who deal with ADHD and ASD to interact with their typically developing peers [1], but it can also be beneficial for their peers as well.

However, that didn’t just happen overnight. It took a lot of explaining and contact with those developing atypically to understand that the more they interact with other people, the better off they will be and the more they can be helped. From fear, we went to understanding and love. We started feeling safe among those different from us, because we had the opportunity to see them and talk with them.

Cultural Understanding

The only way to truly understand a different culture is to talk with someone who comes from that culture. Just look at all the craze for Japanese anime that’s taken hold in recent years. There are some who conflate anime with traditional Japanese culture and style themselves accordingly – in dress, mannerisms, etc. But if you were to describe these people’s actions to the people of Japan, they’d very clearly assure you they are not remotely like that. Reading books and watching movies about different cultures is a great alternative, but nothing beats genuine human contact.

If your child decides at some point in their life to go overseas for studies, work, or for any other reason, they’ll fit in much more easily if they’ve been in contact with different cultures prior to their departure. But if all they have ever known is people similar to them, they are bound to experience “culture shock” – and adapting to their new apartment or workplace will be that much more difficult.

Political Involvement

Studies as well as personal experiences of teachers, show that if the teacher is willing to let the class discuss different political issues, the number of people engaged in the conversation and the variety of different opinions will be much greater if the classroom is diverse [5]. If everyone comes from the same background, there isn’t much to discuss – everyone more or less agrees on the same points and they don’t go too much further than that.. But this approach is what tends to lead to people not being interested and not understanding the current political climate, and, as a result, often not voting. It is much better for a country’s political health if everyone is involved, not just a handful of people with the same opinions. If we can discuss different issues with one another, we’ll be able to learn more, understand more, challenge ourselves and the others’ opinions, and arrive at much better ideas and conclusions.

And who knows, maybe that’s what will prompt your kid to one day run for president!

Gender Equality

Speaking of running for president, isn’t it about time more women ran? Skeptics might say, “but that’s just because women aren’t interested in politics and don’t have that much experience!” Such false assumptions clearly indicate the necessity for more discussion and encouragement about individual life choices while we’re growing up, and our schools need to support questioning of outdated gender stereotypes and challenge us to try doing things differently [8].

Attitudes can change if we talk to each other more. Research tells us that friendships tend to develop between same sexes, same socio-economic backgrounds, same ethnicity, same race [4]. How does that allow us to grow, then? If boys spend time with boys and girls with girls with no contact up until the age they’re looking for romantic relationships, how will we understand and support each other?

We could start with extracurricular activities – book clubs, political clubs, sports clubs, IT clubs. They are a great way to promote more contact between genders, ethnicities – all kinds of differences, really. It makes it easier to realize the discrepancies we’re a part of and start working on making them better [4]. How can we teach our girls to shoot for the stars and our boys to be respectful, if all they’ve ever known is the company of one gender? That’s how we separate children into groups, and that’s how they learn to identify themselves with their gender, instead of their humanity.

Final Advice

A report from 2012 noted that  “80% of Latino students and 74% of black students attend majority non-white schools” [5]. It would be a mistake to assume that everyone would feel better surrounded by like-minded people. Only if we talk with people from different backgrounds and opinions, can we learn to be more accepting, more understanding, more creative, and even create better opportunities for ourselves. And while this shouldn’t just be the case in classrooms, classrooms are an ideal place to start.

So my advice for you as a parent is: don’t shy away from diversity. Don’t force it, but inspire your child to support those different from them. Inspire them to learn from others. After all, “the friend of my friend is a friend” is especially true when it comes to schools: if one child is making friends among other ethnicities and learning styles, their friends will start doing that, too. And one by one, we may even reach the day when this article becomes completely unnecessary, because everyone is friends with everyone [4].

One child said it best: “There are a lot of ways things and people could be misunderstood. In order to eliminate them, we must be listeners and learners” [3].

 

References:

  1. Chan, J.M. & O’Reilly, M.F. (2008). A Social Stories Intervention Package for Students with Autism in Inclusive Classrooms. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Vol.41, 3, pp. 405-409.
  2. Janmaat, J.G. (2012).  The effect of classroom diversity on tolerance and participation in England, Sweden and Germany. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol.38, 1, pp. 21-39
  3. Lee, J.J. & Hoadley, C.M. (2006). Ugly in a World Where You Can Choose to be Beautiful”:Teaching and Learning About Diversity via Virtual Worlds. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Learning Sciences, pp. 383-389.
  4. Moody,  J. (2001). Race, School Integration, and Friendship Segregation in America. American Journal of Sociology, Vol.107, 3, pp. 679-716.
  5. https://blog.ed.gov/2016/04/the-value-of-classroom-diversity/
  6. https://online.queens.edu/online-programs/medl/resources/benefits-of-diversity-in-school
  7. https://www.millennialdialogue.com/blog/the-gender-gap-in-political-interest
  8. https://www.vox.com/mischiefs-of-faction/2017/4/10/15239998/womens-representation-congress-america

 

Back to School: How to Be Prepared

It’s that time of year already! Whether you’re ready or not, summer break is over and school has started. Since going back to school is often a bit scary, we want to help prepare you to crush this school year!

How to prepare for going back to school?

So, how can you ready yourself mentally and physically for a new, successful school year?

Get enough sleep.

Sometimes we underestimate the value of sleep but sleep has effects on performance. It involves a range of complex functions associated with memory, the ability to learn, brain development, immune functioning, etc. So try to sleep at least eight to nine hours every night. While this might not always be realistic, do try to respect your sleep schedule!

Prepare everything you need the day before.

Pack your bag and choose your clothes the day before, so you don’t have to worry about it next morning and won’t have to rush. You’ll have time to think about the things you want to do that day, have breakfast, and get ready on time.

Be there 15 minutes early.

And while we’re talking about time… Don’t be late! It’s an annoying habit and you know that. The best way not to be late is to get to school 15 minutes early every day.

Study routine.

Establish your studying/homework routine. This will help you concentrate, memorize, and recall information faster and more effectively.

Be organized.

Write down all your due dates on a calendar template and review it daily as a study guide. Make a plan for how you’ll achieve everything you want to and stick to it. This helps with focusing time and energy on tasks you need to complete, and you can track your progress and make adjustments as necessary.

Planner and a yellow marker pen

It’s okay to be afraid

Have you had negative thoughts – for example, of having a test you didn’t study for that are coming back all over again? Do you have trouble falling asleep or you’re waking up frequently during the night? What about nightmares? Maybe you have none of these symptoms, but you still feel school-related nervousness.  However, there are ways to beat it!

Remember you’re not alone.

Many students feel that way and have the same worries that you do. It’s not unusual to experience some anxiety facing the new school year, even more so if you’re moving up to middle school, high school, or college. These “big changes”can be really difficult, but certainly manageable.

Don’t forget to breathe.

If you feel very anxious and don’t know what to do or how to stop it, just breathe. Try to find a place where you can be alone, close your eyes, and breathe slowly. Here’s a good exercise that is called 4 7 8 breathing:

  1. For 4 seconds inhale silently through your nose.
  2. Then, count to seven as you hold your breath.
  3. Next, exhale completely through your mouth for eight seconds.

You can also use this exercise if you have trouble falling asleep.

Talk about it.

Sometimes the best way to face a fear is to say it out loud. So if you have any fear, or you feel nervous, anxious, and/or sad, share it. Share your feelings and your fears with someone you’re close to. For example, a friend is a good choice – they might be feeling the same way and you can talk it through together.

However, if you have trouble adapting to school for more than the first week or two and it’s affecting your everyday life, talk with your family and friends and consider asking for help.

School is cool

Even though you’re a bit nervous and a little bit fearful facing a new school year, you can also look forward to some great new experiences. These are a few reasons why School is Cool.

  1.      New people.

The new school year is a good chance to meet new people! Why is that so good? Those people may become your friends (or a crush, right?).

  1.      Friends.

Seeing classmates after a few months is great, isn’t it? You can finally hug them and talk about how you spent your summer break and what’s new. Friends are also a great support that all of us need from time to time. Even if you experience some anxiety in social situations, you now have a fresh chance to make connections and to work on maintaining a sense of calm while joining in new experiences.

  1.      New, interesting things to learn.

There’s plenty of new things to learn and you may be surprised by what you’ll find to interest you! Also, there’s a wide variety of opportunities available for you at school which may be beneficial in your future career. Leadership in a student organization is a good example of that.

  1.      Extracurricular activities.

Have you already found your favorite one? If you did, congratulations! Keep doing a great job! However, if you didn’t, here’s a chance to try different extracurricular activities and find out what you like and what your passion is. There are many benefits to joining a choir or a basketball team. Also, you can meet new people and learn many interesting things there!

Mindfulness While Studying

As we have written before, there are plenty of proven benefits to mindfulness – that state of active consciousness and open attention, reached through the process of meditation – especially for students and learners.  Not only can meditation and meditative thinking help with stress reduction, but practicing being in the moment can greatly improve focus and productivity.

However, mindfulness is not just meditation – it’s a process to reach a state of present mind through an entire mindset that can include meditation, breathing practices, mind exercises, and habit-releasers (everyday tasks “meant to reveal and break open some of our most unaware life patterns of thought and behaviour” [1]).

Because of this complexity, you should not expect instant benefits from just a few mindfulness practices. In their book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Danny Penman and Mark Williams suggest an eight-week program through which you change your day-to-day life and thoughts gradually over a course of two months for best mindfulness effect.

However, if this seems too much for you, if you’re not really sure it can help you, or you need an “instant fix” because your exams are almost upon you, we’ve chosen a few practices that will help you during studying itself. These small exercises, meditations, and habit-releasers are meant to improve focus, stop negative thoughts that interrupt your work, and help you stay in the moment, consciously going through the study material.

So, who knows – after these, maybe you’ll be convinced that the eight-week program is worth it!

Cutting down the frustration and impatience

We all have those moments when we can’t seem to concentrate and our study progress seems minimal. The usual reaction is to get frustrated and get caught in a thought loop – being frustrated by lack of productivity, then being frustrated because we’re frustrated by it, therefore wasting more time and…. well, you get the point.

That’s why the point of this exercise is to let go of that anger and frustration and gain control over your emotions simply by realizing they are there and that they are normal. If you rationalize your emotions, chances are they aren’t going to stand in your way that much while studying, so you can concentrate better on the mental process.

When you find yourself tangled up in anger, do a quick check-up and ask yourself

  • What is going through my mind?
  • What sensations are there in my body?
  • What emotional reactions and impulses am I aware of?

Then, try to allow frustration to be present without trying to make it go away. Stand tall. Breathe. Allow yourself to feel. Accept that this, too, is a moment in your life.

You might not instantly stop being frustrated, but the point of mindfulness is not to ignore unpleasant feelings, rather to accept them. This way, you can stop obsessing over trying to change them and focus more on why you’re feeling that way, and getting on with the task at hand.

Body and brain connection

If you find your body restless and fidgety, showing signs of nervousness (twitching, legs jumping, heart racing…) it might be an indication that your mind’s stress is showing up physically and you need to concentrate on calming the body-brain connection.

With these few tricks you can focus on your physical processes, soothe your nervousness, and prepare your body for studying, by connecting it fully to the brain and mind processes, while being in the best possible physical position for concentrating.

There’s no point in continuing to study while you’re not focused, so take a short break. Before you say that you have no time for breaks, think if it’s more beneficial to do unproductive work and waste time, or to take a short 15-minute break, and then continue working with full focus.

The first thing you can do is “ground” yourself. This means doing a meditation that is designed to settle your body as well as your brain. One useful method is body-scan meditation, which pays attention to all the parts of your body, relaxing them and learning to let go. If your body relaxes, you’ll be in better posture to study and focus, relaxing your brain as well.

You can also try grounding yourself by changing your position to a more meditative one. Perhaps you can try moving into a yoga position and doing a short breathing exercise. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, and then, slowly, move your right foot to the left thigh. Do the same with the left foot. Try to move your feet as close to the base of the thighs as you can and do everything very slowly, thinking about each move [2]. When you’re in this posture, breathe slowly and focus on movements of the body. If it’s comfortable, you can even try reading in this position.

The second thing you can do is go for a meditative walk, lasting somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes. You don’t have to go anywhere special, just walk around your neighborhood, paying extra attention to details you haven’t noticed before – small things, like the birds or leaves on the trees. The walk doesn’t even have to take place in nature – you can go out in the city to walk and just look up at the facades of the buildings you’ve never noticed before. The point is to be mindful of your surroundings, to focus on details and to see new things, or even familiar ones in a different light. Stop by that tree you always pass by and think about its texture, its colors and its scent. Are there any birds in it? Inwardly name every color you see on it, touch the texture of the wood and tell yourself how it feels. While you’re walking, pay attention to your whole body – how it moves whenever you take a step, what muscles do the work, and which stay still, what sensations you feel, how the floor feels, what your legs do, etc.

This whole exercise will help you move your muscles while walking, but also transfer your focus onto  your surroundings and away from your physical nervousness. The huge thing is that it is also good for practicing focus, so once you’re back at your books, you might notice that you look at the information in front of you in a new light.

Finally, doing a simple yoga routine can also help. There are plenty of videos with practices online, so you can try them out.

And remember…

Don’t be too harsh with yourself and accept your limits. Take a break if things are not working and exercise your focus whenever you can.

The key to meditation as well as the whole mindfulness program is not “not thinking” – it is simply being aware of your thoughts and channeling them properly. Guided meditation says that if you notice your thoughts flying away, don’t scold yourself; that is what minds do.

 

[1]   Penman, D. and Williams, M. 2011. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Pennsylvania: Rodale Books.

[2] Wills, P. and Gimbel, T. 1992. 16 Steps to Health and Energy: A Program of Color and Visual Meditation, Movement and Chakra Balance. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.

Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hachette Book.

 

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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: You Create Your Future

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. – Henry Ford

Have you ever studied for a test and thought to yourself: This is too difficult, I’m not going to pass this test and exactly that happened – you failed? In that moment, you probably concluded you were right. But why was it that your prediction was proven correct? The answer to that question is the self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is the self-fulfilling prophecy?

A self-fulfilling prophecy is simply the physical outcome of a situation being influenced by our thinking. It can be both positive and negative [2, 3]. This phenomenon describes how our identity shapes how we act and communicate. We’ll explain it this way…

Studying for the test

Let’s say a student is facing that test we mentioned. He’s anxious and is convinced he’s destined to fail. So he spends more time worrying than studying. He may also procrastinate – hang out, watch movies, text, etc. Yet he probably thinks he studied the whole day. He does poorly in the exam, a consequence of the negative thinking that interfered with his studying – thus, a self-fulfilling prophecy..

So, now let’s imagine the same test scenario, but this time the student predicts he’s going to pass the test with flying colors. He’s really focused on studying, puts in the necessary effort, and doesn’t procrastinate.  He may even ask a friend for help if he needs it. He passes the test and gets an A!  Here we have a different thinking pattern, with consequent actions and a positive outcome.

These may be extreme examples, but each reflects the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. So now we can see that a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction or expectation that comes true simply because one acts as if it were true [1]. However, not only do we ourselves buy into the expectation that makes us act in a certain way, so do the people with whom we communicate.

The self-fulfilling-prophecy cycle

Have you ever been invited to a party you didn’t want to go to because you expected to have a terrible time? If you were, is it possible that your prediction of having a very bad time increased the likelihood of its occurrence?

Imagine this prophecy as a cycle with five basic steps [1]:

  1. You form expectations of yourself, others, or events – for example, you may think – Emma won’t like me.
  2. You express those expectations verbally or nonverbally – so I`ll keep my distance from her.
  3. Others adjust their behavior and communication to match your messages – Emma thinks you’re convinced that you`re superior and decided not to talk to you.
  4. Your expectations become reality – you may conclude that Emma actually doesn’t like you.
  5. The confirmation strengthens your belief – every time you see Emma, you’re reminded that she doesn’t like you.

Feeling bad and unlikable is an unwelcome outcome, but it doesn’t have to be like this! More positive beliefs that lead to different behaviors could bring about the desired outcome.

Now, let’s imagine a positive self-fulfilling-prophecy cycle. You can’t wait to go to a friend’s party. There is Emma and you hope she’ll like you. When you see her, you approach her and make small talk. Emma is having fun and thinks that you’re interesting. You see that she likes you and you’ll be happy to meet up with her again.

How to break the cycle of the negative self-fulfilling prophecy

The cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy frequently has an unfavorable outcome, but that isn’t always the case. Some people use it to their own advantage [2, 3]. Here are some ways to break a negative, vicious cycle and create a positive one.

Be aware of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now that you know how our expectations can impact our behavior and that of those around us, you should keep that in mind in both your self-talk and when you talk to others.

Change your beliefs.

You are your own ego breaker or maker. Break with old ways of thinking and update the way you think about yourself. Replace negative self-talk and upsetting mental pictures with objectively more accurate expectations. Practice your positive self-talk, be optimistic about yourself and your performance!

Work on your self-esteem.

When we have low self-esteem we may have lower expectations than what is reasonable. If we think we’ll fail, it might seem outlandish to believe we could pass a test, but that’s exactly why we need to adjust our thinking. Focus on who you want to be/what you want to do, and not on your current expectations.

Fake it.

In the beginning, if you’re struggling with negative thoughts, just fake it – fake it until you make it. As you practice positive thinking, your behavior will change as well. Remember that making this change may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you’re being less yourself. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing –  you’re just adjusting your behavior to match your values.

Change your language.

Try to avoid using absolute words such as never, always, I can`t, and hate. Vicious cycles usually include those words. Instead, replace them with neutral or positive words and phrases, such as I`ll give it my best. Thus, instead of thinking negative thoughts, say to yourself I can do this.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you.

How others treat us influences the person we think we are. Choose the people you surround yourself with. Over time, they will convince you and a magical process of fulfilling these expectations will be launched.

Take your time.

Changing your thought patterns is a process which takes a lot of time, consistency, and persistence. Be patient with yourself! When you recognize an unproductive thought pattern, stop, re-group, and begin again.

References:

[1] Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2013). Interpersonal communication: Building connections together. Sage Publications.

[2] Merton, R. K. (1948). The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The Antioch Review,8(2), 193-208. doi:10.2307/4609267

[3] Merton, R. K (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.

 

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Why Teens and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Alcohol is cool!

People drink, it’s not a big deal.

Adults (my parents, siblings, coworkers, etc.) are drinking, so why shouldn’t I?

I only drink sometimes…

I only drink beer and wine.

Do you recognize some of these thoughts as yours? What do you think about drinking alcohol?

You’ve probably heard a lot about it from your friends, parents, favorite TV show, and on the internet. But that’s not enough when it comes to deciding what role alcohol should have in your life. It’s important to fully recognize its effects on your health and behavior. For that reason, we’re providing you with facts about underage drinking in this article, so you can decide to be healthy and happy.

Adolescent alcohol abuse in numbers

Drinking is illegal for youth under 21 in the United States. However, people aged 12-20 drink almost 20% of alcohol consumed in the United States and there are over 10.8 million underage drinkers! Further, when young people drink, they tend to drink heavily – underage drinkers consume on average four to five drinks per occasion about five times a month [2, 4].

Drinking too much and at too early an age, creates problems for teens, for the people around them, and for society as a whole.

Eight reasons why underage drinking is dangerous

The negative consequences of underage drinking include a range of physical, academic, and social problems [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

  1. Underage drinking is the number one cause of death among youth under 21 years.
  2. Drinking causes many injuries – there are more than 150,000 emergency-room visits each year by youth under the age of 21 for alcohol-related injuries.
  3. Alcohol abuse can have serious consequences on your health. It damages the heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs and leads to numerous problems with them. It increases the risk of developing cancer and dementia.
  4. Drinking alcohol is particularly harmful to teen development because it can cause significant cognitive or learning problems and make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially a risk when people start drinking young and drink heavily.
  5. Drinking may cause students to have trouble in school. For example, kids who drink are more likely to get poor grades and often have problems with social integration.
  6. Persons under the effect of alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behavior and illegal activities. Drinking makes it harder to keep your wits about you and to avoid or react appropriately in “dangerous” situations.
  7. Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
  8. People who start drinking in adolescence are at increased risk of having alcohol-related problems later in life.

Some people think that only drinking too much over a long period of time leads to these complications, but that’s not true. Sometimes drinking too much on a single occasion is enough to lead to serious consequences [1].

How to avoid drinking?

Okay, now you know reasons why you shouldn’t drink, but how to say no? Sometimes it’s not easy not to drink, especially at parties where your friends might pressure you to join them. There’s the fear that you might be left out. However, although you may feel pressure to drink, it’s your decision to drink or not. Make your choice and don’t let yourself be a victim of someone else’s behavior. Surround yourself with true friends. Would true friends make you do something that’s bad for you?

Here are some other ways to avoid drinking alcohol.

Prepare yourself.

Think about how you want to respond and behave. It’ll raise your confidence. It would also be helpful to share your thoughts with someone you trust.

Say no and let the person know you mean it.

Say it firmly and don’t make a big deal about it. Try to stand up straight and make eye contact. Keep your response short, clear, and simple – no, thank you. 

What should you do if the person persists?

If they’re pressuring you, repeat the same short response each time the person does this. If that doesn’t help, simply walk away.

Practice your “no”.

The first few times it may be difficult to say no. Because of that, try to imagine a situation where someone is offering you a drink. Think what that person might say and how you’d respond. Practice it out loud – for example, in front of a mirror. Another way is to ask someone you trust to role-play with you. That way you could experience real pressure and get feedback about your response.

Although there are many underage drinkers, remember most young people don’t drink alcohol and don’t support it. You are not alone in making this decision.

Why is this article written in April?

Did you know that April is Alcohol Awareness Month? Talk with your friends and family about drinking alcohol and its side effects. Help spread awareness. Also, Do you think that you or your friend has an alcohol problem? If that’s the case, don’t wait – get help. Reach out to a trusted adult!

Resources:

[1] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (U.S.). (2011). Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol’s impact your health. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

[2] Sommers, A. R., & Sundararaman, R. (2010). Alcohol use among youth. In Underage Drinking: Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol(pp. 9-22). New York: Nova Science.

[3] Taite, R., & Schraff, C. (2016, September 16). Here’s Why Your Brain Makes Quitting Drugs/Alcohol So Hard. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201609/here-s-why-your-brain-makes-quitting-drugsalcohol-so-hard

[4] The Scope of the Problem. (2004). Alcohol Research & Health, 28(3), 111-120.

[5] Underage Drinking [Brochure]. (2017). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/Underage_Fact.pdf

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TEACHERS: Four Easy Ways to Address Your Students’ Visual and Verbal Learning Styles

Each teacher is unique and has their own particular teaching style. “Teaching style” refers to the way one prefers to teach and is illustrated in instructional behavior from which a teacher will rarely deviate [3]. Despite the fact that teachers seldom, if ever, change their style, they may vary their teaching strategies depending on the nature of the subject, requirements of the course, common learning styles, and other factors.

Understanding one`s teaching style can serve as a foundation for the improvement of instruction and enhancement of the learning experience [2]. How much a given student learns in a class is governed in part by the compatibility of the instructor’s teaching style and the pupil’s learning style [1]. However, although each teacher may consistently embrace one predominant learning style, students will experience various teaching styles as they encounter different teachers. Both students and their teachers can therefore benefit from understanding variations in teaching and learning styles [2]. This awareness can be the means to achieving the highest possible effectiveness.

This article can help you become aware of your teaching style, understand its relationship to learning styles, and how to easily customize it.

Visual and verbal learning styles

Students learn in many ways. There are visual, verbal, and kinesthetic learners. Most children learn most effectively with one of these three modalities and tend to miss or ignore information presented in either of the other two [1]. In current educational practice, we have tended to distinguish principally between visual and verbal learners, although much more attention is now, appropriately, being focused on kinesthetic learning as well.

Visual learners remember best what they see. They prefer using pictures, images, demonstrations, etc. Verbal learners remember best what is explained in words or written and they learn best from books and lectures.  In the article Are You a Visual or a Verbal Learner you may find out more about what suits each type of learner best.

Most learning and teaching style components parallel one another [1, 5]. So, for example, the student who favors visual perception would be most comfortable with an instructor who uses charts, pictures, and films.

The mismatch between teaching style and students’ learning styles

The most common learning style is visual while most teaching is verbal [1]. Educators present information predominantly verbally through lecturing or words/symbols written in texts and handouts or on a chalkboard. Accordingly, there can be a mismatch between the preferred presentation mode of educators and the preferred input modality of most students, which may lead to serious consequences.

Students may become bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about their courses, lose motivation and the desire for achievement, and in some cases, even drop out of school. Educators are confronted by low test scores, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance, and dropouts. They also often become frustrated, because they realize something is not working [1]. 

Teachers can’t adapt to all the students they teach

In the classroom, there’s usually only one teacher and many students. Do you ask yourself Should I adapt my teaching style to the students’ learning styles or should it be vice versa? There are arguments and evidence in favor of both sides [4]. However, if we think about it, we may conclude that it’s impossible for one teacher to adapt to all the students they teach! But there is something teachers can do.

The adoption of a few teaching techniques may help teachers meet the needs of most or all of their students. They can keep their particular teaching style and at the same time find ways to reach students whose preferences differ from their own.

Four easy ways to address your students’ learning styles  

Motivate learning.

If you motivate your students, they will learn more easily and retain information, regardless of the way it’s presented. For that reason, relate the presented material to what has come before and what is still to come in your course, to material in other courses, and particularly to the students’ personal experience. You can even ask some students to present the same material you’re teaching in a different way to the class, you may be able to learn a new technique while motivating students with different learning strategies to pay attention!

Combine visual and verbal presentations.

Irrespective of the extent of the match or mismatch, presentations that use both visual and auditory modalities reinforce learning for all students. Before, during, or after the presentation of verbal material, you can use pictures, schematics, graphs, or simple sketches. The way to encompass both visual and verbal learners is to show films and provide demonstrations, followed by discussion.

Talk to students.

Try to find out what their academic difficulties and learning preferences are, so you can help them. You can demonstrate various learning styles by using the same content presented in different ways and ask them which one they prefer. Sometimes, explaining the way to learn most efficiently to a student who is struggling is a great help – that way they may reshape their learning experiences and be successful. You can also learn about tips and tricks they use to help themselves, so you could recommend those later to someone who has learning difficulties.

Teach students to help themselves and to seek help.

You don’t have to do all the work! For example, teach students to look for alternative sources of information that suit them better or explain to them the benefits of learning in groups. Check in with them to see if they were able to find something that would benefit the entire class. They may feel like the task is more purposeful if they feel is it able helping others.

Utilize brief formative assessments of your students’ learning by quickly surveying the students about their understanding of the material. This will help you figure out if how your teaching is meeting the needs of your students’ learning styles. If a student continues to struggle, we have Coaches and Tutors who can help them overcome academic and learning difficulties, look us up for ways to refer families to our services.

Resources:

[1] Felder, R. M., & Silverman, L. K. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering education, 78(7), 674-681.

[2] Heimlich, J. E., & Norland, E. (2002). Teaching style: where are we now?  New directions for adult and continuing education, 2002(93), 17-26.

[3] Silver, H. F. (2003). Teaching styles and strategies: Interventions to enrich instructional decision-making. Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ: Thoughtful Education Press.

[4] Thompson, T. C. (1997). Learning Styles and Teaching Styles: Who Should Adapt to Whom? Business Communication Quarterly, 60(2), 125-127. doi:10.1177/108056999706000212

[5] Vaezi, S., & Shahroosvand, H. R. (2015). Iranian EFL Learners and Teachers Sensory Preferences and the Learners Speaking Ability. International Journal of English Language Education, 3(2), 14. doi:10.5296/ijele.v3i2.7627

 

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Are You a Visual or a Verbal Learner?

The presentation of information can often be more impactful than the content itself and is directly instrumental in its retention. During instruction and practice, students employ various learning styles. The term “learning styles” refers to the idea that different modes of instruction are more effective for different people. There are several different learning styles. If we take the way people receive information as a criterion, we have three common categories of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. However, the most frequently used distinction is between visual and auditory (verbal), as those are the modes of instruction most commonly employed in schools. We shall address kinesthetic learning in future articles. The goal of this current article is to help you find out if you are a visual or a verbal learner.

What would you say if somebody asked you, Which presentation style do you prefer – pictures or words? By understanding what kind of learner (visual or a verbal learner) you are, you can gain a better perspective on how to implement these learning styles into your study techniques [1, 7].

Visual learners

I often think in mental pictures or images.

My powers of imagination are higher than average.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

If you agree with these statements, there’s a good chance you’re a visual learner [6].

Some students remember best what they see, so they prefer pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films, and demonstrations to access and understand new information. Sometimes they have trouble learning information presented through words. It is more effective for everyone to absorb information when it is presented both visually and verbally, but what if the lectures consist of speech only [3]?

Here are a few ways to help yourself if you are a visual learner:

  1. If the course material is predominantly verbal, try to find diagrams, schematics, photographs, flow charts, or any other visual representation. If you can’t find anything, try to make your own.
  2. Find videotapes, CDs, Youtube videos, or video podcasts about course material. You can ask your teacher to help you or consult a reference book.
  3. Make a concept map where you’ll list key points, enclose them in boxes or circles, and draw lines with arrows between concepts to show connections.
  4. Color-code your notes with a highlighter. You can choose different criteria for this – for example, everything related to one topic could be yellow. Stickers in different colors are also a great way to present the material so it suits you better.

Verbal learners

I can`t imagine thinking in terms of mental pictures.

I prefer to read instructions on how to do something rather than have someone show me.

I have better than average fluency in using words.

Do you think like this? Do you consider yourself a verbal learner [6]?

It seems that there are people who study better when the information is presented through words, by reading or listening. They prefer written or spoken explanations [3]. If this describes you and you’re struggling with learning or recalling the material, try these tips to make it easier for yourself:

  1. Write summaries or outlines of course material in your own words. By adapting the material, you will understand it better and could save yourself some time in the long run.
  2. Working in groups can be effective: you gain understanding of material by hearing classmates’ explanations and you learn even more when you do the explaining. Also, you don’t have to choose between friends and studying. You can have both!

If you are interested in knowing more about balancing between these two, read our article Balancing Homework And Friends After School [5].

  1. Use repetition as a study technique. It is most effective when there’s a short time interval between repetitions at the beginning and then you prolong it every time you successfully remember the lesson.
  2. Make associations of words or information that are hard to remember. For example, you can use some song lyrics as a memorization tool and link them with that information. This could be fun!

Why is it important?

Students who recognize their learning strengths (and limitations) have an advantage over those who don’t. They know how to help themselves, and when and how to seek help. Learning styles may affect learning and eventual outcomes [6]. Since teachers can`t take care of every individual’s needs and preferences, it helps if you know your own strengths. For example, although most students are visual learners, students in most college classes mainly listen to lectures and read material written on chalkboards and in textbooks and handouts. In that case, you can study the content using your preferred learning style, so that it is easier for you to understand and remember [3, 4].

Learning styles continuum

People sometimes think that you are either a visual or a verbal learner, but it’s more of a spectrum. The best way to understand this is to imagine it as a continuum, a line where on the left is 100% verbal learner and on the right is 100% visual learner. The trick is that neither one of them exist in real life – everyone is a combination of not only those two but many different learning styles [2].

What characterizes good learners is that they are capable of processing information presented either visually or verbally. This means you can enhance all your skills, not only your strengths!

As already mentioned, visual and verbal are not the only learning modes. People usually think in terms of visual and verbal learning styles only, so kinesthetic learners can be unfairly neglected. If you want to learn about kinesthetic and other types of learning styles, stay tuned – some of the following articles will deal with them.

Actively engaging in your education by understanding your learning preferences and supplementing material not presented in your preferred learning style will help you attain and retain the information you need to remember. If this is difficult for you, we have coaches and tutors who can help you assess and enhance your strengths, so you can be successful in any learning environment.

References:

[1] Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Should we be using learning styles? What research has to say to practice., Learning and Skills Research Centre, London.

[2] Felder, R. (2011, March 25). Richard Felder on learning styles [Audio blog post]. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://onteachingonline.com/oto-4-richard-felder-on-learning-styles/

[3] Felder, R. M., & Soloman, B. A. (n.d.). Learning Styles and Strategies. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm

[4] Franzoni, A. L., Assar, S., Defude, B., & Rojas, J. (2008, July). Student learning styles adaptation method based on teaching strategies and electronic media. In Advanced Learning Technologies, 2008. ICALT’08. Eighth IEEE International Conference on (pp. 778-782). IEEE.

[5] Jegdic, J. (2017, September 25). Retrieved from https://nobelcoaching.com/balance-homework-friends/

[6] Kirby, J. R., Moore, P. J., & Schofield, N. J. (1988). Verbal and visual learning styles. Contemporary Educational Psychology,13(2), 169-184. doi:10.1016/0361-476x(88)90017-3

[7] Pashler, H., Mcdaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles. Psychological Science in the Public Interest,9(3), 105-119. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x

 

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Test Anxiety – How Can We Help?

“What? I don’t know this one! I didn’t study it. The very first question and I don’t know the answer! And it’s happening again… my heart’s racing… I’m sweating so much I can’t hold my pencil…can’t catch my breath. I’m going to fail, I’ll never graduate, I’ll never get into college. My parents are going to be ashamed of me. I just need to focus… I can’t focus. Okay, I’ll just guess and go on to the next question. No! I don’t remember this, either! I know I studied it. Why can’t I remember? I’m no good. I’m a failure. What’s the point? I’m just going to stop trying and I’ll fail. I’ll just guess at all the other questions, too. Probably won’t know them, anyway. I’ll never amount to anything. I wish I could at least catch my breath. I just want to get out of here.”

If that narrative or something similar has ever played out in your head, you’re in the company of 38% of U.S. students who also struggle with test anxiety. That means more than three out of ten students face similar symptoms before, during, and/or after taking a test. From the debilitating physiological symptoms – rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, out-of-control breathing, stiffening jaw, etc. – to the nagging psychological symptoms, such as thought-consuming and self-disparaging, negative self-talk – the impact of not addressing test anxiety can be quite damaging to a child or an adolescent. Many students struggle with finding and applying the best techniques to prevent or counter the symptoms of anxiety, so this article is meant to provide insights on how to be the best test-taker possible, especially if you’ve ever struggled with testing before.

Before we move on to the tips, you should know that the physiological symptoms you feel during a testing or performing situation can actually be beneficial – they are your body’s way of telling you to focus and ensuring you give your best performance. For example, rapid breathing is your body’s way of getting more oxygen to your blood so that your senses are heightened and you can react more quickly to a challenge. [6] If you’re able to recognize the physiological sensations and then use your self-talk to make a positive statement about them, you may not get stuck in the thought tornado of labeling what your body is doing as damaging. “My heart rate’s increasing. That’s great because now my blood’s circulating faster so I can respond faster. I’ll take some calming, deep breaths so I can give my body the oxygen it needs and  my heartbeat can settle down.”

Similarly, there has been research that resulted in the concept known as “facilitating anxiety” that actually helps you get motivated to perform. Facilitating anxiety is meant to help you use your thoughts to predict potential outcomes accurately so you make the best choice, because some of the worried thoughts you may have are in fact true statements. For example, the thought “I’ll fail the class if I don’t take the exam, since it’s worth half my grade” is true because, yes, you will actually fail the class if you don’t show up to take the final exam, but the thought “I will never amount to anything if I don’t get an A on this exam” is untrue because one A on an exam does not predict overall outcomes for the rest of your life. Learning how to distinguish between worried thoughts that facilitate motivation and self-disparaging thoughts that damage your mental wellbeing is an important skill to have during a test.

Now let’s add some other skills you can use before, during, and after taking a test.

Fighting test anxiety – what can students do?

Music therapy. Yes, you can actually help yourself through listening to your favorite music! Whether it’s the newest pop releases or heavy metal, the music you prefer listening to in your free time works miracles to calm you down before a big test. If concentration allows, you can even listen to it as you’re studying, especially if the music is instrumental, so lyrics won’t distract you. If you notice that your heartbeat hasn’t lowered after listening to your favorite music, don’t worry – music tends to raise the heartbeat while calming your thoughts (the worry dimension of your anxiety). [1]

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). You can start to become familiar with progressive muscle relaxation through this video. PMR allows you to work primarily on the physiological symptoms, but not only that. Self-defeating thoughts can be caused, in part, by physiological symptoms, because the body and mind are connected; calming the body will, in turn, calm your mind, and allow you to think more clearly about the situation at hand. These exercises relax your muscles, deepen your breathing, and calm your heartbeat. You’ll learn to systematically tense and then relax your muscles while breathing deeply and getting to a “happy place”. [2]

Work on your mistakes.  Making mistakes is the only way for us to actually learn something and become better at what we do. So if one of your dominant anxieties is “I’ll fail again”, ask your teacher to let you see your previous test. Explain you’d like to look at what you got wrong so you can work on it. Once you see which part of the test is the issue, you can sit down and work carefully on learning those things – alone, or with a classmate who can help you. You can also ask your parents if it’s something you think they’d be good at explaining. [3]

Another thing you can try is to create a test-like situation as you’re studying. One of the scariest things about tests is that they’re full of things that are unknown to you and that you’re not used to. The simple act of entering the classroom on a test day can be enough to send your heartbeat into overdrive. To make this a little bit easier for you, why don’t you create a test-like situation at home while you’re studying? Make your desk look like a school desk by getting rid of your phone and other distractions you won’t find in a classroom. You can even schedule an alarm to ring at the end of the “class”, both to allow yourself to rest a bit and to recreate the school atmosphere as best you can.

Fighting test anxiety – what can parents do?

Offer them incentives. One of the best things you can do to ease your children’s test anxiety is to offer them some sort of reward if they do well on a test. Their thoughts are telling them that they can only expect a bad outcome after the test, so having something good to look forward to might make the whole experience less stressful for them. This reward works best if it’s something that means a lot to them – it can be as simple as praise, or it can be a material reward, depending on what you believe works best for them. [4]

You can also take the time to create a Plan B with them, in case the test doesn’t go as well as they’d like. This will show them that it’s not the end of the world if everything doesn’t go perfectly!

Quiz them. Students themselves can create an atmosphere that resembles that of the classroom, but you can help by playing the teacher. By quizzing them, you’re accomplishing two things: you’re helping them learn what they need for the test and you’re also making them more resistant to the test situation itself. You can combine these two by offering them a small reward if they do the practice test well – but be careful: if you can do it without becoming adversarial, then it’s a good thing to try.

These exercises and tips are something you can do, and should make a student feel better and more at ease! But if you feel as though you need more guidance on this matter, please contact us to set up a consultation with one of our coaches. Parents and students can also sign up for our FREE WEBINAR on test preparation and learn how to improve time-management and eliminate test anxiety!

References:

  1. Davis, W. B. & Thaut, M. H. (1989). The Influence of Preferred Relaxing Music on Measures of State Anxiety, Relaxation, and Physiological Responses. Journal of Music Therapy, XXVI (4), pp. 168-187.
  1. Conrad, A. & Roth, W. T. (2007). Muscle Relaxation Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: It Works But How? Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21, pp. 243-264
  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-9cqaRJMP4
  1. Hembree, R. (1988).  Correlates, Causes, Effects, and Treatment of Test Anxiety. Review of Educational Research Spring 1988, Vol. 58, 1, pp. 47-77
  1. Cassady, J. C. & Johnson, R. E. (2002). Cognitive Test Anxiety and Academic Performance. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27, pp. 270-295.
  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

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Balancing Homework And Friends After School

School and social activities are high priorities for young people, but balancing the two can sometimes be challenging. If you think this occasionally applies to you, here’s some advice on how to solve the dilemma.

1. Do It Together

People differ when it comes to the surroundings that make them feel relaxed and comfortable. Some prefer spending a quiet night in with a book or a movie, while others usually need external stimulation to feel good; they enjoy loud places, meeting lots of people, and being the center of attention. However, most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes, sometimes preferring peace and quiet, sometimes bright lights and lively company.

But how does this relate to helping you with your homework? Well, depending on which end of the continuum you’re closest to, the solution to your problem with the homework-friends balance might be different.

If you generally prefer small groups, you might find it hard to choose between picking up a school book or calling a friend over or perhaps messaging them all day. Having one eye on your work and the other on your phone tends to be very distracting. So, do you perform your academic tasks or decide to have a fun time with your friends? Actually, there’s no need to always choose between the two. You can ask your friends to come to a study group with you. Just choose a quiet place, decide on a goal together (forty-five minutes of studying, fifteen minutes of free time, for example) and follow it. It helps to work together – you’re motivating as well as keeping an eye on each other. And after the homework’s done, you can continue to hang out.

Now, what about those who prefer to be among lots of people? Pretty much the same thing applies, except the surroundings are different. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone needs to be closeted away in a quiet room to make the most of their homework time. If you find it hard to concentrate this way, you might benefit from a different approach. Invite your friends to join you at a neighborhood coffee shop, or go to a popular park with a blanket and your books and get ready to work! You’ll be with your friends, and surrounded by the chatter and stimulation that simply doing your homework in your room doesn’t give you.[2] You’ll feel comfortable and much more able to focus on your work.

However, for most people, the ideal work environment depends largely on their current mood. If this describes you, you might sometimes prefer quiet surroundings, sometimes lively ones. You know yourself best, so find out what works best for you at any given time. Be honest with yourself, though. It’s important to do the work as well as socialize, so if you notice you’re frequently distracted while with your friends, you might want to try the other approach.

2. Do It As Soon As Possible

Whether you decide to do your homework with friends or alone, tackling it as soon as possible after you’ve dealt with the material in class can lower the time you’ll need to retain the content successfully. When new information is still fresh in your mind, it’s easier to recall the small details and hints your teacher gave you as well as the overall material. [3] So, doing your homework first is a smart move. It means you’ll finish it more quickly and have more time for your friends later on. That in itself should be motivation enough.

And here’s something else that may help. It’s been shown that studying, as well as homework, is best done in parts. [4] That means that though you should ideally start doing your homework as soon as possible, if you feel your eyelids getting heavy and your yawns getting the best of you, it’s probably time to hit the pause button. You can use this time to clear your head.  Listen to some music, make some coffee, exercise, or squeeze in a little quality time with your friends. The choice is up to you. However, the time you spend on your break should depend on the amount of time you’ve spent doing homework. If you only began half an hour ago, a break of ten minutes will do just fine. On the other hand, if you’ve been dealing with it for two hours straight, an hour off won’t be too much. This break helps you in two ways. Your brain will return to the task refreshed, yet still able to remember what you’ve been working on, and as a matter of fact, tasks you don’t finish from the get-go tend to be remembered more clearly than those you do! [5]  So, having a break is nothing to fear, as long as it doesn’t turn into a vacation.

Now that you know these little tricks, there’s nothing stopping you from leading a fulfilling academic AND social life. So, enough procrastination and off you go!

by Jelena Jegdić

References:

  1. Jung, C.G. (1987), C.G. Jung Speaking
  2. Geen, R. G. (1984). Preferred stimulation levels in introverts and extroverts: Effects on arousal and performanceJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(6), 1303-1312.
  3. Edwards, C.D. (1999), How to Handle a Hard-to-Handle Kid: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding and Changing Problem Behaviors
  4. Mace, C.A. (1963), Psychology of study
  5. Zeigarnik, B. (1967). On finished and unfinished tasks. In W. D. Ellis (Ed.), A sourcebook of Gestalt psychology

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