I am a little busy at the moment. I have 6 kids, I’m a stay at home mom and I work online for the BYUI Pathway program. I am also working on my master’s degree online through Boise State. In the midst of all of this I was directed by a friend to take a free online class called Learning How to Learn through Coursera. The science of learning is a hobby of mine, so I was intrigued. I somehow squeezed in the time to take the whole class. I learned a lot about how learning takes place and how to optimize my learning.
One of the best ideas I gleaned from the course was to “focus on the process not the product.” This means that when you take a class you should focus on putting in the time to work on the class, rather than focusing on the assignments that need to be done. For example, if you are in a 3-credit hour class you could focus on putting in 9 hours of study time each week. During those 9 hours you will work on your reading, completing your assignments, participating in your class discussion board, and study for tests and quizzes. Instead of focusing on getting your assignments done you focus on the time you need to work on your class. It is easier for your brain to focus on putting in a certain number of hours, than to focus on getting a huge assignment done or a large number of assignments done. Focusing on the process and not the product helps reduce your stress and allows your brain to relax and get to work.
In the past when I have students in my class who are behind on their assignments I have tried to help them get those assignments done by checking on their progress. This semester I decided to try and help one of my struggling students focus on the process and not the product. It worked so well, that I wanted to share my idea. This is how I did it.
My student, we’ll call her Sarah, is very busy homeschooling her children and was having a hard time getting her assignments done. About half way through the semester I emailed Sarah. This was our conversation:
Sister Goodwill: "Why did you start Pathway originally?"
Sarah: "I think I started Pathway because I never completed my degree at BYU and have always regretted that. Sometimes I see other women with their education and expertise and I wish that I could be good at something too. I felt like my lack of education was limiting me; like I could be so much more.
"Now that I'm in the Pathway Program I've had to learn to manage my time better. It's helped me to be a better homeschool teacher. Plus, I love the challenge of learning and expanding.
"I still want to try to finish Pathway this semester."
SG: "I can see that the reason you started Pathway is something you still really want. That's wonderful! I am willing to work with you and help you through this. You just need to be willing to dedicate a certain amount of time each day to work on Pathway. How many hours each day can you give me?"
Sarah: "Thank you for helping me. I can give you 2 1/2 hours a day."
SG: "That's perfect! Okay, please answer these questions for me:
- "What time will you do your 2 1/2 hours? (You can do them on different times each day, I just need to tell me when you will do them, ex: Monday 7:00 AM-9:30 AM, Tuesday, 7:00 AM-8:00 AM and 7:00 PM-8:30 PM, etc.)
- "Starting tomorrow I want you to send me an email each day and tell me 1.) How many hours you worked and 2.) What you did during those hours. Got it?
"I look forward to getting your email tomorrow!"
Sarah: "I will study for GS class on Monday-Saturday from 4:30am-7:00am.
"Today I studied for 4 hours on 'What Is Truth' talk by Elder Uchtdorf, and learning about research tools."
SG: "Great Sarah! I love studying in the morning, I get the best things done then. Make sure you also spend about 10 minutes each day on the discussion board. You're doing great! I look forward to your email today."
Sarah reported to me for about 3 days via email and then I made a Google Sheet for her to report on.
Sarah updates the Google Sheet each day and I make comments on her progress. Since we started focusing on the process (the hours put in) rather than on the product (getting her assignments done) Sarah has been getting all of her assignments done on time. She’s even answering questions on the discussion board and doing more than the minimum requirement.
As an instructor I often think about how I can help my struggling students. They are each different with their own problems and personalities. I know that Heavenly Father loves them and is aware of their personal struggles. He can help us, as instructors, know what will help them, how we can show them we love them, and care what they are doing in our classes. My hope is that through this post you will have another idea of how you can help one of the struggling students in your class.