3 phrases that discourage students

Daily Briefing

3 phrases that discourage students

You may not realize how students react to certain phrases that educators consider normal, write Gary Chapin, a senior associate at the Center for Collaborative Education, and his teenage daughter, Sarah Chapin, in an article for Education Week.

Though educators and administrators have good intentions when they say these things, students sometimes interpret them in a different way than they were intended. Or the statements might overlook some realities of life for today’s busy students.

Based on the experiences of Sarah and her peers, the Chapins identify a list of phrases to avoid, including these three:

“Just work harder.”

This phrase diminishes the amount of effort students have already put into their work, the authors write. Their argument echoes that of other experts.

“When told to ‘try harder,’ adolescents may read between the lines and wonder [why] other people don’t have to work so hard,” says David Yeager, an associate psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. This stress can lead students to believe they’re not cut out for college.

Higher ed leaders can help students break a self-defeating attitude by encouraging them to see early setbacks as challenges to overcome, rather than evidence of whether they belong or not.

“Late is late.”

Arbitrary deadlines do more harm than good—and learning doesn’t always happen on a strict schedule, the Chapins argue. If your students miss multiple deadlines and struggle to keep up in class, that might be a warning sign that outside factors are limiting their ability to do well.

Instead, treat a student’s early setbacks or failures as a learning opportunity. College can be an ideal space for students to make their own mistakes. Students who struggle or even fail will likely come away from the experience knowing more about themselves.

“Wait until you get into the real world.”

Yes, life as a college student is different from life as a working professional. But you do students a disservice when you suggest their world isn’t as important or real as the one they’ll face after graduation.

A more productive way to prepare students for post-grad life is to help them connect the dots between their coursework and their career goals. Experiential learning opportunities like service projects or internships help students explore their academic interests in the work place (Gary Chapin/Sarah Chapin, Education Week, 6/27/18).

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