How Mentors Help At-Risk Students Find Confidence in Themselves and in School
Every school has some population of at-risk students. These students often struggle to maintain passing grades, have truancy records and discipline problems, and are indeed at-risk of losing enrollment in their current schools. Importantly, at-risk students also often have difficult home lives and may experience one-parent households, difficulties associated with poverty, inconsistent adult role models, and insufficient quality time and care from adults.
In their paper, “Making a difference with at-risk students: The benefits of a mentoring program in middle school,” authors Suzanne F. Lindt and Cody Blair note that over the past 20 years, mentoring programs have been increasingly used as a way to support at-risk students. Mentoring programs such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, TEAMmates, Study Buddies, and The Mentoring Project have been shown to not only support students’ socio-emotional wellbeing, but also their academic standing. Lindt and Blair remark, for example, that previous studies have shown that mentored students felt more confident about schoolwork and were significantly less likely to be truant compared to their non-mentored peers (35).
When it comes to speaking in front of the class, some students shine and others find the experience dreadful. For authors Craig O. Stewart et al., the level of comfort that students have with public speaking is not simply a matter of preparation and student demeanor. Rather it is largely a matter of whether students perceive public speaking as a skill that can be developed or a “gift” that students either have or don’t have.
Using Humorous Examples During Instruction Hampers Student Learning
During each lesson, teachers face two pressing tasks: (1) teaching students content in a way that will help them best understand and recall that information, and (2) keeping students’ attention. To accomplish this, many teachers may choose to incorporate humor into their lessons, using funny examples to illustrate a point. However, in their paper, “Humor in the classroom: the effects of integrated humor on student learning,” authors San Bolkan et al. argue that using humorous examples to explain content to students actually hampers students’ ability to recall information from the lesson (154).
Classroom remote devices. Smartphones connected to education apps. As clicker technology becomes more widely available, teachers’ use of clickers (devices that can collect student responses in real-time) is becoming increasingly common in both K-12 and university classrooms. While teachers use clickers across a range of subjects, authors Cui Liu et al. argue that there are common themes when it comes to the effectiveness of those clickers on student learning.
For their paper, “The Effects of Clickers with Different Teaching Strategies,” Cui Liu et al. analyzed 128 peer-reviewed articles about the use of clickers in the classroom to gain a better understanding of the types of teaching methods (using clickers) that produced positive outcomes on student learning. The authors note that thus far the majority of research on clickers has been conducted in college classrooms. The 128 papers chosen for their literature review reflect that high number, with 113 of the studies taking place in college classrooms, 6 at the secondary level, 2 at the elementary school and 7 in other types of education environments (607).
It’s not interesting. It’s not relevant. Too often teachers hear these phrases from students in science and mathematics classes. In their article, “The impact of college- and university-run high school summer programs on students’ end of high school STEM career aspirations,” Joseph A. Kitchen et al. argue that in order to inspire students to not only find interest in STEM content, but to ultimately choose STEM career paths, it is essential for STEM classes and programs to keep content relevant. The authors show that instructors can significantly and positively alter students’ perceptions of STEM subjects by engaging students with real-world applications and actual professionals in STEM fields (13).
The authors note that it is during high school when many students start seriously considering their future career paths. Given that high school students’ aspirations are still malleable, it is also a prime time for STEM instructors to promote not just present understanding of STEM subjects, but students’ future trajectory for STEM career choices (12).
The college years are an exciting time in a student’s life, as they present opportunities for transition, growth, and learning. However, authors Ronny Bruffaerts et al. remark that the college years are also a “peak period for the first onset of a broad range of mental disorders” (97). Indeed, previous studies have revealed that up to 50% of college students may have one or more common mental health problems (97). These students are twice as likely to drop out of college without earning a degree, compared to their peers who do not have mental disorders (97).
In their paper, “Mental health problems in college freshmen: Prevalence and academic functioning,” Bruffaerts et al. examine the pervasiveness of mental health problems in college freshmen and how those mental health problems affect student academic functioning.
Should Students Take Notes on Laptops? Research Says ‘No’.
Given the ubiquity of mobile technologies in today’s society, many teachers are interested in incorporating devices into the classroom setting. This may be through direct use of technology in a lesson plan or by simply allowing students to take notes on laptops in class. In their paper, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,” Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer note that although students believe that their use of laptops in class is beneficial overall, students on laptops are generally not on task during lectures (1159). Moreover, students who use laptops in class have decreased academic performance (due to multi-tasking and internet browsing) and actually report being less satisfied with their education than students who do not use laptops in class (1159).
In this paper, Mueller and Oppenheimer posit that, “even when distractions are controlled for, laptop use might impair performance by affecting the manner and quality of in-class note taking” (1159). In particular, laptop use has been linked to verbatim note-taking, since students can type faster than they can write (1160). Compared to students who paraphrase notes, students who type verbatim notes have poorer academic performance.
The Effect of Social Networking on Academic Achievement
Twitter. Instagram. Facebook. The amount of time that students spend social networking has become a concern for parents, teachers, and even for students themselves. In their paper, “Effect of online social networking on student academic performance,” Jomon Aliyas Paul et al. explain that, in particular, students’ time spent on online social networking (OSN) both in and out of the classroom negatively effects their academic performance. The authors begin their paper with a walk through a typical undergraduate classroom, where at least half of the students have laptops out and most of the students have smart phones by their side. While these students claim to be taking notes, one could observe that they are often online, and are very often on Facebook. The authors explain that this kind of behavior is not only distracting for the offenders—noting that they tend to ask more questions about things the professor has covered earlier—but it is also distracting to other students in class. The readers are asked to think about several questions, namely whether technology should be allowed in classrooms if it is not an essential part of the lesson (2117).