Author Archives: lautenba

Just Do It? Why Motivation Isn’t That Easy & How You Can Help Students Get Things Done

by Anika Lautenbach

Motivation has been a common topic of conversation the last year and a half, and understandably so. Many students felt less motivated learning remotely and that their motivation would return once they were back in-person. However, it may not be that simple. A student may feel motivated to complete course work but may find it difficult to study for exams; they may find it easy to motivate themselves to connect with peers but find it challenging to connect with instructors. Given motivation is complex and contextual, I wanted to provide an overview of how we in the Academic Success Center (ASC) talk about motivation with students and share tools you can use to support students.

Encourage Self-Awareness

I hear many students talk about motivation as something that is out of their control. They see it as something they have to wait for, or they see it as a fixed trait; they are either someone who is easily motivated, or they’re not. When talking with students, I encourage them to see motivation as a skill that can be better understood and improved. Understanding themselves and how they respond to the task they need to complete can help them tap into strategies for getting work done. As with many of the skills we chat about at the ASC, developing successful motivation techniques take time and practice.

Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Given motivation can shift depending on the context and task, it may help to start a conversation with the following questions when helping students develop self-awareness around their motivation:

  • What about this task feels challenging? Does it feel too large? Do they need resources? Are they uninterested in the subject? Knowing what feels challenging can help you ask better follow-up questions.
  • When you’ve felt unmotivated in the past, what has helped you start working on things? Tapping into previous strategies can help students realize they are capable of getting work done.
  • How could you reward yourself for finishing this task? Sometimes having something to look forward to can provide incentive.

You can also support them by introducing ASC worksheets. After your initial conversation, you could introduce Motivation Techniques and ask them what they think could work for them, depending on the situation.

Thumbnail of procrastination worksheetThumbnail of motivation worksheet

To help with developing self-awareness, you could share the 6 Reasons People Procrastinate. This could be especially helpful for students who aren’t sure why they aren’t feeling motivated and want to read more about the research behind procrastination.

Help Students Identify What They Can Control

One important note is that motivation often depends on our environment. We each face countless distractions in our work spaces – our phones, friends or family, that Netflix show we would rather be binging. One strategy for motivation can be setting up an environment that feels more productive. As you’re working with students, consider asking them some of the following questions:

  • Where do you do your best work?
  • Is there anything you can do to make your environment more productive?
  • How long can you typically focus before you need to take a break?

Besides adjusting their environment, students can also control the way they break down tasks and how they use their time. Students may have a hard time starting a task if it feels overwhelming or if they don’t have much time. One strategy we discuss with students is the “ten-minute rule.” We recommend students tell themselves, “I’m just going to work on this for ten minutes.” Once a task is started, people often keep going – motivation builds as we work on things, rather than striking like lightning. If they only have ten minutes, they’ve still gotten something done which could motivate them to keep chipping away at the task later.

Let Them Know They’re Not Alone

As I mentioned before, we talk to students about motivation a lot. They may feel like everyone else is able to get stuff done while they struggle, but they are definitely not alone in the challenge of motivation.

As you support students, consider sharing your own stories and techniques, while also noting that the strategies that work for you may be different from what works for them, and this is ok. Being able to normalize different approaches and validate their ability to seek support is so important.

In addition, sometimes talking to fellow students about motivation can be a helpful step. Students can drop by the Academic Success Center in Waldo 125 M-F 9 AM to 5 PM to talk with an ASC Strategists. Strategists are also available via live chat on our website and via email, phone, or text message.

I know how challenging it can be to talk about motivation, and I hope these tools and strategies are helpful as you support students.

Preparing for Mentorship: Building a Successful Relationship

By Anika Lautenbach

The CEOAS Academic Mentoring Program (AMP), co-coordinated by Robert Allan and Erin Lieuallen, provides opportunities for undergraduate mentees to work with graduate mentors. Graduate students volunteer to mentor undergraduate students and provide support and guidance as they navigate topics like their area of study, graduate programs, and career planning.

Over the past couple years, Clare and I have facilitated a foundational training that prompts mentors to think about what they can do to support their mentee and have a successful relationship. This year, Robert and Erin wanted to provide space for mentees to prepare for mentorship as well. This was a great opportunity to think collaboratively with mentors and mentees about what it means to create an effective mentoring relationship.

We liked the idea of creating more intentionality around the mentorship process and helping others think about the type of mentoring relationship they wanted. Ultimately that became the common thread for in both training sessions: how can we support mentors and mentees in preparing for their work together so the approach to the mentorship relationship can be intentional and individualized?

Preparation for Mentors

When we first connected with Robert, he was interested in providing mentor training that would equip mentors with a “toolkit” of skills to use in their work with mentees. He observed that while “many understand the idea of mentoring and believe it is important…most have not had any formal training that provides a foundation of knowledge to guide their support.” In training mentors, our goal was to name and validate foundational skills they use in other contexts and build off those existing skills and knowledge. We also wanted to help mentors individualize their approach to the specific student and situation.

To prepare CEOAS mentors for their roles, Robert asked them to first complete Unit 1 of the Peer Educator Training. This unit provides the foundational elements for working with someone, including listening and being present, asking questions and prompting thinking, seeking clarification, validating others, and building self-awareness. We built on this foundation with additional training.

During the training, we asked mentors to consider their experiences being supported by another person and what worked about that relationship. This gave them a chance to hear from each other about the range of experiences and how relationships look different depending on the needs and strengths of people in that partnership. This was important for shifting thinking from a default position about mentorship toward a position of learning about their mentee and what will work for them. We also normalized taking time to build trust and encouraged mentors and mentees to have conversations about the mentoring relationship and their expectations.

While those talking points are fairly common in trainings that we have done with mentors, we don’t usually have the chance to talk with mentees as well.

Preparation for Mentees

This dual-training approach of working with mentors and mentees gave us an opportunity to synchronize expectations and communication practices. Erin described a key aspect of the training: “mentees benefited from having a clearer set of expectations for the program as well as the opportunity for guided or self-reflection of what they would like to gain from mentorship.”

In the session, we wanted to hear what “mentorship” meant to mentees and what they hoped to get out of their experience. Just as we had with mentors, we acknowledged that there was no “one-size-fits-all approach” to mentorship—establishing the expectation of mentors and mentees building the relationship together. Clare and I shared our experiences with mentorship, including the great support and tools mentorship can offer, as well as limitations of that support. Through this session, we helped mentees see that mentors are just one piece of their support network.

Toward the end of our session, we asked mentees to prepare for their first meeting, reflect on questions they had for mentors, and consider what to share about themselves. We were excited to see the range of topics within the Zoom chat. This mentee-focused session gave mentees their own set of tools for working with their mentor and sharing the type of support they were looking for in that relationship.

Looking Forward

It’s been a great opportunity working with CEOAS and thinking about the mentoring relationship. We’ve especially appreciated Robert and Erin’s focus on being intentional and building the conversational skills for successful mentoring. We’re looking forward to learning how these skill sessions impact the mentorship currently taking place in the AMP program.

Experience as an Online Student

by Anika Lautenbach

This is my second year in the Adult & Higher Education master’s program here at OSU, which transitioned from being hybrid to completely online a couple years ago. Through this experience, I have developed awareness of what instructors do that help me feel more engaged and supported and better able to succeed as an online student. I’d like to share a few of those insights with you.

Instructor Presence

The first thing I notice when I start a new class is whether the instructor has introduced themselves. My preference is an introductory video, though a voice recording and/or photo can be effective too. What I like about the video is that it allows me to imagine my instructor when I read their comments, announcements, and feedback. It humanizes that interaction for me and makes me more likely to reach out for connection and support.

My favorite instructor posted video announcements every week. It was fun to see him and get a sense of what we could expect from the upcoming week. It also helped me develop more flexibility with my expectations, since I felt like I knew him and could trust that he was doing everything he could to support our learning.

Conversations Early in the Term

As a student, I often think about what I can do to feel more connected to and engaged with what I’m learning. It helps to meet with my instructors at least once during the term – typically when the term starts. This often includes brief introductions and a conversation about how classes are going for me, what I’m excited or nervous about regarding this particular class, and what I need to be successful. Having this initial conversation makes me feel more comfortable reaching out later, especially if instructors create space for a meet-and-greet early in the term.

Contributions to Discussions

Online students are typically asked to complete many discussion board posts and responses. When you’re taking a class in a physical classroom, the instructor typically responds when students share their thoughts and perspectives. It helps when instructors do this online as well. As a student, I feel supported when an instructor comments on my posts, whether they are praising something I said or challenging me to think deeper. I look forward to reading my instructor’s perspective – it makes me feel like the instructor is there with us. I also appreciate that it models effective discourse for the class—so students see positive forms of engagement and how replies keep the conversation going.

Transparent Communication

It also really helps me when instructors are transparent with their communication throughout the term, like letting us know if it might take longer to respond to emails or other requests. If a busy time of term comes up, a brief announcement about availability lets us know the instructor is still here—they just need more time to get feedback to us.

Invitations to Engage

Finally, I appreciate when instructors provide feedback that ends with an invitation to share questions and keep talking about assignments. I try to respond to instructor feedback on assignments. I’m not sure if students always realize they can do this—that it creates connection and supports how much they learn from assignments. The instructor invitation reminds me that the feedback is a starting point and a way to begin an engaging conversation.

Additional Perspectives on Supporting Remote & Online Learning

I recognize that creating community and connection online can be challenging, and that it is even harder now given the conditions that have caused so many of us to learn and work remotely. Thanks for everything you’re doing to support students as they meet the challenge of remote and online learning.

For additional perspectives from undergraduate students, check out our Student Staff Picks: Instructor Support.

How Grief and Trauma Impact Learning

by Anika Lautenbach and Sarah Norek

This year students have been asked to adapt to myriad changes and uncertainty. Throughout these transitions, students have experienced collective grief and trauma, while also balancing the needs of family, work, school, and other commitments. We know none of this is easy, and we want to share some key ideas about grief and trauma and how they show up in learning contexts.

Grief & Trauma

This summer, Chris and Anika attended a Trauma-Informed Care workshop presented by the Oregon Family Support Network. This workshop emphasized how trauma impacts the brain in many ways—affecting problem-solving, reasoning and learning, and perception of time and the world around us. Trauma can also cause disassociation—feeling separate from self and surroundings—and can trigger fight, flight, and freeze reactions. These are extremely challenging states to learn in, and these are states that our students (and our colleagues and ourselves) are experiencing regularly (Canaga, 2020).

Additionally, Sarah and Clare, partnered with CAPS to design a webinar and Canvas module Learning During Times of Stress. The webinar and module content help students identify and understand feelings of loss, anxiety, fatigue and overwhelm, and provide them with strategies to navigate the experience while taking care of themselves. We learned a lot from our colleagues Emi Brown and Bonnie Hemrick about the symptoms of grief and how these symptoms manifest in our daily lives.

When we experience grief and overwhelm and fatigue, it isn’t uncommon to see changes in our sleeping and eating patterns or to have difficulty with focus or memory. In addition, we may either feel like disengaging or wanting to be even closer to those with whom we find comfort. You may also have heard of anticipatory grief—thinking ahead to loss—in response to something that hadn’t happened yet. Not surprisingly, all of these feelings and experiences can impact a student’s ability to focus and learn.

In a 2020 Healthy Minds Study, 30.5% of students reported that their mental health conditions negatively impacted their academic performance. 31.1% of students reported that anxiety impaired their academics. You can read more about the impact of COVID-19 on college student well-being here.

Even though only 31% of students actively identify the impact of anxiety on academics, many more students may report symptoms associated with anxiety. How students describe their experiences may vary, and students may be experiencing the impact of trauma, grief, or anxiety, even if they use different language when describing their experiences.

Student Experiences

During spring term, students often shared their feelings of frustration, sadness, worry, and fatigue. Students offered that they were feeling overwhelmed by coursework, that things which had previously been easy were now difficult, and that it was difficult to focus and stay motivated. At the same time, they were worried for loved ones, experiencing job losses, and navigating new responsibilities within living spaces. All of these experiences are likely amplified by pandemic’s disparate impacts on marginalized communities, as well as the continued racial injustice and violence.

From the Spring Student Experience Survey and from the Fall Survey conducted in September, we know students continue to experience concerns about mental and physical health and the well-being of their family and friends. In addition, students have expressed concerns about academics, finances, and responsibilities like work and caregiving. If you’d like to learn more about the survey findings, please consider registering for the FYI Friday Session, or contact Clare Creighton for access to the report.

We’ve learned a lot from workshops, collaborations, and  students. While students may find remote and online learning a little more familiar this term, we know that they’re still adapting and facing trauma, grief, and overwhelm that make learning difficult. We’d encourage everyone to keep this in mind while also being active in reaching out to students, checking how they’re doing, and engaging in supportive conversations.

Canaga, S. (2020). OSU Trauma Informed Care [Webinar]. Oregon Family Support Network.

The Impact of COVID-19 on College Students’ Well-Being (2020). Healthy Minds Network and American College Health Association.

Student Staff Picks: Tools for Finals Prep

As we head into the last few weeks of the terms, students are preparing  for final exams. While the study process and exams might look different this term, there are still many tools to help students prepare. Here are recommendations from our student staff based on what works for them and what they share with students who access ASC programs. Click on the visual to see the full-size version of each tool.

Term at a Glance

Term at a Glance

Maria, ASC Strategist

One of my favorite tools is the Term at a Glance worksheet. It allows me to visualize my midterms, final exams, quizzes, and large projects all in one place. It also prompts me to start on projects earlier, rather than putting them off until the last minute. Especially now, with the days of the week blurring together, being able to see when important projects and essays are due helps me to stay on track. I feel accomplished when I can cross off assignments that I have completed.

Finals Survival Guide

Finals Survival Guide

Hana, ASC Strategist

The Finals Survival Guide is incredibly useful for getting a head start on finals. Inside the packet, there is a large calendar [with] weeks leading up to final exams, so students can break down everything they need to do in order to feel fully prepared and confident going into finals. Along with the calendar, there are study tips and advice for how students can succeed in the last phases of their classes.

7 Day Study Plan

7 Day Study Plan

Theresa, Academic Coach

My favorite resource is the 7 Day Study Plan. It breaks studying into manageable chunks, so students can make tangible progress while not being overwhelmed. The best part about this worksheet is that it shows what to do each day and how to do it. It also has a page where students can think about what they need to study and how they can create the best study environment. All in all, it is a great starting point for students when it comes to test preparation!

Aarya, ASC Strategist

This tool can be used to plan for exams across various classes. I have been able to utilize it within STEM courses, writing-intensive courses, hybrid courses, and more. This worksheet has been especially helpful in the online learning environment because I can organize what materials I need, what I know, and what I need to know for an exam. The checklist feature is also helpful for keeping me accountable as I study throughout the seven day period.

Test Autopsy

Test Autopsy

Hana, ASC Strategist

The test autopsy worksheet is great for students who may not have done as well on a test as they would have liked. It creates a structured approach to evaluating their performance on a test. Instead of taking the grade they received as a testament of their entire understanding of a subject, the student can review each question to identify why they didn’t get an answer right. This allows the student to see exactly which areas they could put more energy and time into studying.

Studying Checklist

Studying Checklist

Hoan, ASC Strategist

My favorite tool to use when preparing for exams is the Studying Checklist. This worksheet is great for summarizing important concepts and ensuring  all of the topics will be mastered prior to the exam. It’s a great tool for students who have several challenging courses to keep up with. Seeing a broad overview of concepts will help students think about how to set up their study schedule. With this worksheet, students can plan their studying time based on the levels of learning needed for each concept: remembering, understanding, applying, and mastering.

Emergency Studying

Emergency Studying

Bo, ASC Strategist

My go to tool for studying is the Emergency Studying worksheet. I find that the term gets busy fast. [W]hen it comes to studying, I want to figure out the best use of my time. This tool helps me focus on what’s most important. [I]n doing so, I am able to create a study guide [and] a plan for how much time to spend studying each day leading up to the test. I’ve found that the Emergency Studying worksheet is beneficial no matter how much time I have before a test.