In a college classroom, students must make choices about how to feel, think, and behave. Do they feel stressed about that upcoming exam? Do they like their instructor and think she is competent? Do they check that text message during lecture? These feelings, thoughts, and behaviors have implications for how much students learn and where their educational trajectories will take them. The BRITElab explores the many factors that influence these student choices, including students’ beliefs and expectations and their interpretations of what their classmates and instructors believe and expect.
Here are some questions that interest us:
Technology in the Classroom
A lot of recent research suggests that multitasking with technology in class lead to worse enjoyment and worse performance. What can be done about it? Can students develop skills to reduce their multitasking? Should instructors ban technology in class and, if so, how could such policies be framed to gain student acceptance and compliance?
Stress and Performance
Students usually want to perform well on exams, but sometimes their desire to perform well leads to stress and anxiety, which can undermine performance. Many instructors try to help their students by advising them to just “calm down,” but is this really the best advice? Could a better strategy involve helping students reinterpret their anxiety, and their stress more broadly as helpful rather than harmful?
Metaphors to Teach By
How do students’ intuitive beliefs about the nature of teaching influence their academic behaviors and outcomes? One way that intuitive beliefs are conveyed is via metaphor, which both reflect and shape how people think about complex subjects (Flusberg et al., 2018). For example, when we describe a teacher as “molding impressionable students”, we imply that a teacher is like a sculptor. How do such metaphors reflect our academic attitudes and behaviors? Can we change academic attitudes and behaviors using metaphor?
Over forty years of research support the use of participation in higher education as a way to improve student engagement and academic outcomes. Given the importance of collaboration in both the classroom and the workplace, how should instructors work to develop their students as effective collaborators? Would reframing participation as collaboration improve students’ psychological and emotional well-being, academic outcomes, and long-term success? How can instructors define, teach, and assess participation in a way that emphasizes collaborative thinking?
During COVID-19, there has been a shift in teaching at all levels of schooling, elementary to graduate, from in-person to online classes. This has forced teachers and professors across the country to transition and adapt their curriculum and lectures for online learning. Do different online lecture formats cause students to feel closer and more connected to their professor and the class material? How can professors adjust their online classes to best support their students?
Athletes and Academics
Being a college athlete is incredibly hard work. In addition to juggling intense demands and time constraints, some college athletes face negative stereotypes about their academic motivation and abilities that can undermine their academic performance. How can we buffer student athletes against these stereotypes in ways that help them get the most out of their college experiences and perform to their full academic potential?
Humans have a fundamental need to feel accepted and valued by others. In college, students may look to their instructors for cues to their acceptance and potential belonging in a particular field and in college more broadly. Do students benefit when they perceive that their instructors care about them, both as learners and as multifaceted people whose lives extend beyond the classroom? How can college instructors demonstrate this broad care, particularly those teaching large courses who are limited in their ability to interact one-on-one students?
Students’ intelligence mindsets can help predict their success in the classroom. But determining a student’s mindset is not as simple as it seems. Carol Dweck famously developed the intelligence mindsets spectrum, which spans from fixed to growth mindset with mixed in the middle. How can teachers and parents predict students’ mindsets on the spectrum? Can students’ language be used to predict their mindset? Are there key words that pinpoint a particular mindset?