Category Archives: Fall 2022 Issue 1

Increasing Motivation through Behavioral Activation

by Anna Bentley

Behavioral activation is a common approach to treating depression that involves improving mood by engaging in pleasurable or rewarding activities. These behaviors disrupt the cycle of inactivity that fuels and prolongs depression. Behavioral activation strategies can vary for everyone, but may include things like writing in a journal, going out for coffee, hiking, or watching a movie with a friend.

You don’t need to be experiencing depression to benefit from behavioral activation. The same strategies that improve our mood also help prevent burnout and increase productivity at work or school when we’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or unmotivated. Here are the steps to practice this approach:

  1. Identify activities that bring you pleasure. There are several activity lists online that can be used for inspiration, or you can make your own list from scratch. If using a pre-made list, start by highlighting the activities you really enjoy and that reliably bring you pleasure. Cross off the things that aren’t for you.
  2. Rate the activities you identified by how easy they are to complete and how rewarding they are. This worksheet can help you complete this. For me, I found that sitting down for a fresh cup of coffee is very easy for me to complete but has short-lived rewards, while going on a long hike is highly rewarding yet more difficult to complete.
  3. Schedule activities that will give you positive experiences in your day. Here’s another tool you can use to schedule these activities, or you can use our weekly calendar. Start with simple activities that are easiest to integrate into your day, and build from there. You might start by just adding one rewarding activity in the morning, building that routine, and then adding more activities over time.

A core principle behind why behavioral activation works is that action often precedes emotion. Sometimes at work or at school, we want to wait until we’re motivated before we start a project. However, the action of engaging in a rewarding activity can give us the energy we need to fuel our work. Maybe you’ve had an experience where you found yourself more vibrant and energized once you got going on a project, even though you were initially reluctant to start.

Next time you notice a lack of motivation or the temptation to procrastinate, I invite you to consider how you can bring pleasure into the experience. Here are a few rewarding activities that I sometimes schedule into my day while I’m working on campus:

  • Start the day with a fresh cup of coffee, and take a minute to really savor it before starting my work.
  • Write down my intention for the day as soon as I get into the office.
  • Listen to a special Spotify playlist whenever I’m completing a repetitive task.
  • Have walking meetings with my colleagues when possible.
  • Go on a short walk around campus during my lunch break. Sometimes I like to visit a building I’ve never been inside before, or I like to take pictures of beautiful things I discover on campus, like trees, flowers, and artwork.
  • Send an email to campus partners I haven’t spoken with for a while, just to say hello.
  • Doodle in my notebook between back-to-back meetings for a quick mental reset.

Intentionally integrating these pleasurable and rewarding activities into my day gives me the boost of energy I need when I’m feeling unmotivated. What activities bring you energy, help clear your mind, or inspire inspiration? What would it look like to schedule those activities into your work? Share your ideas with us in the comments!

Benefits of SI for Students Retaking Courses

by Chris Gasser

As many of you know, Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an academic support program that offers peer-led, collaborative, group, study tables for historically challenging courses. In Fall 2021, SI underwent a significant expansion, which allowed us to do some pretty cool analyses, focusing on students who were retaking courses.


A common criticism of SI data is that the program is based on an opt-in model, which means that our impact data is always subject to self-selection bias. The criticism suggests that it is possible that only the most successful students may opt in to SI, skewing impact data in favor of SI. In an effort to better understand SI’s impact while trying to account for this possibility, I performed an analysis of students retaking courses. By focusing only on a retaking population, I hoped to minimize any effect from the most successful students, assuming that retaking a course demonstrated a certain level of academic difficulty.


For all SI supported courses in AY 21-22, I pulled the course grades for all students enrolled in the courses. I then pulled the most recent course grade for anyone who had previously taken the course at OSU and received a course grade. This gave me a list of 1,949 students who were retaking courses that SI supported in AY 21-22. Of those 1949, 1382 had previously earned an A-F course grade, and 567 had previously earned a W grade. I focused on these two populations in the analysis.


Here are a few of the key results from the analysis of students retaking courses.

Among students who previously earned a course grade, students who completed SI earned a higher course grade than students who did not participate in SI.

Line graph showing both groups starting at 0.71 for their previously earned course grade average. Students who completed SI earned a course grade of 2.29, while students who did not participate earned a 1.77 average.

When looking at the first grade that students earned, both students who later completed SI (attended 4+ times) and students who did not use SI earned the same course average of .71 in their previous attempt at the class. This was a good indication that there was similarity between the groups. When looking at their subsequent grades, students who did not participate in SI earned a new average of 1.77. For students who did complete SI, their new average was 2.29—a difference of .52 grade points, or a half of a grade point higher than the average for students who did not participate in SI.

SI made a meaningful impact on the number of students passing the course

While SI helps students earn higher course grades, the boxplots tell an interesting story: in both analyses the SI 4+ 25% quartile ends at 1.7 (C-), which is the mean of the No SI groups. Not only do we see students in SI earning higher average (mean and median) course grades, we also see a much lower number of students below that 1.7 threshold. This provides evidence that SI both helps students earn higher course grades and increases the number of students who pass the class.

Boxplot showing students who participated in SI, and had previously earned a grade A-F, had a higher median course grade and a more narrow distribution most noticeable on the lower tail- suggesting a greater effect at lower course points.   Boxplot showing Si complete students who had previously earned a W, had a higher median course grades and a more narrow distribution most noticeable on the lower tail- suggesting a greater effect at lower course points.

Among students who previously earned a W, students who completed SI earned a higher course grade than students who did not participate in SIBar graph comparing subsequent course grade average for students who previously earned a W.  SI 4+ students earned a course grade average .49 grade points higher than their non-SI peers.

A common idea on campus is that students who earn a W grade should not be included in analyses with students who earn a D/F, because students may withdraw from a course for reasons outside of academic difficulty. Separating this group out, we still see a similar effect in mean course grade: for students who completed SI, an average grade increase of .49 higher than students who did not participate.

Discussion/ Conclusions

Focusing on this narrow population allows us to compare data among students who may have more in common while also avoiding any skewing effect of our highest achieving students. What we see is strong evidence for the efficacy of the SI program, especially for students retaking courses. The effect on students’ course grades was even more pronounced in this analysis than a separate analysis for students not retaking the course, which prompts me to think more about how we get students retaking courses in to SI early. It also makes me wonder if we might better support our students retaking courses through building out a more robust support structure (of which, SI could be a part). There is more to this report than I can share here, and I would love to chat with you in more detail about my process and findings. If you’re interested in hearing more, interested in new ways to assess student success, or interested in thinking about how we better support our retaking students, please reach out. I’d love to chat (

Onboarding Student Employees

by Clare Creighton

September is a common time for onboarding student employees, and across the Academic Success Center and Writing Center, we brought on 37 new student employees this fall. In the next few months, we’ll be reflecting on the training we delivered, assessing the experience for student staff, and identifying any changes for the next round. We asked some of our new employees what they appreciated in their onboarding experience, and this is what they shared with us:

  1. It was emphasized to us that the best way to learn is by doing. I was relieved to know I don’t have to be any sort of expert before starting my job!
  2. I have really enjoyed that you guys have created a safe space for us to learn how to do something new without judgement. I feel like I can learn better and quicker in an environment that doesn’t punish me for making a mistake, especially when I’m learning something new.
  3. The time we spent to get to know the other student staff members—community and support for each other was and continues to be part of the ASC’s core values!
  4. I loved the emphasis on validation and praise, and how our jobs not only revolve around the writing process, but also around instilling confidence in the writer and their abilities.
  5. I appreciated that I was able to interact and train with returning [peer leaders] since it allowed me to start getting to know everyone and not feel isolated on my first day of leading tables.
  6. I liked that our training incorporated both individual work from canvas and group sessions over zoom and in person. This gave me the chance to get comfortable with the material on my own, and then help build a community with my coworkers.
  7. The room to make mistakes I had while onboarding for coaching contributes to the majority of the skills I use in coaching today!
  8. I have really appreciated the support and encouragement along the way. Putting in the effort to at least know all our names and check in every now and then when we’re in between tables is a great way to make us feel like an actual person, not just an employee!
  9. The training for my position was done in a way that allowed me to connect with, practice, and discuss with other students as we all learned from each other and together.
  10. I appreciated how training established early on that everyone is a writer, and that the most important thing a consultant can do is encourage. I found the focus on empowerment to be a very refreshing and reassuring framework.

Do you onboard student staff in your role? We enjoy conversation about training and supporting student employees and would love to exchange ideas with you. We’re also eager to make folks aware of the open source online training modules “Introduction to Student-Centered Peer Education” that we use in training. Email Clare Creighton to start a conversation.

ASC & Writing Center Staff Picks

The middle of the term can be a challenging time for students—especially as midterms begin and schedules get even busier than they already were. We asked ASC & Writing Center staff to respond to the following prompt: “As we approach the middle of the term, what is a support strategy, Learning Corner resource, or campus resource that you feel students could benefit from during weeks 4-6 of the term, and why?”


As your students prepare for midterms and weekly quizzes, consider helping them recognize the range of active studying techniques they can use beyond re-reading notes. Re-reading helps learners practice memorization, but leaves them vulnerable to forgetting key concepts without notes in hand. On exams, students are challenged by recall. In order to recall information effectively, it’s important that learners use many different ways of practicing that information. Help students use their notes in new ways (e.g., build models, make drawings, explain to their friends). New engagement practices critical thinking and helps students retain information longer—valuable for any cumulative finals they may have!


The middle of the term is a great time for students to reflect, recalibrate, and get organized. Some of those larger assignments will be due within the coming weeks, so now’s the perfect time for backwards planning and making time to complete projects without waiting until the last minute. Procrastination can creep in as assignments and exams ramp up, and getting organized can help students stay motivated and on track. Our weekly to-do list, weekly calendar, and term-at-a-glance are popular tools that can be used to map out sub-goals and smaller deadlines for large projects or prep for exams without cramming.

Chris E.

I would be remiss if I didn’t choose the Writing Center as a resource that’s especially useful. During weeks 4-6, when students might start big writing projects, the Undergrad Research & Writing Studio in the Valley Library offers space for students to write among a community of writers with writing consultant support. Students can spend time in the Studio writing, reading, or researching, and then call a consultant over for a quick consultation—no appointment needed. Students who make the Studio their home base for writing will benefit as they’ll be advancing writing projects while also building successful project habits.

Chris G.

Weeks 4-6 are a good time to remind students about tutoring resources which can help clear up misconceptions about course material so far. We know that students commonly overestimate their knowledge at the beginning of the term, and weeks 4-6 are often weeks when students realize they need help. We can assure them that it’s not too late, especially if the end of the class is point and concept heavy. Some potential tutoring resources are the Mole Hole, Worm Hole, Econ Tutoring Lab, Math and Statistics Learning Center, and there is still room in some SI Study Tables!


Week 5 is half-way through the term and a great chance to recalibrate how we’re using time and for what. Completing the time-log worksheet can shed light on where students’ time is going and open up possibilities for what to do next. Need to spend more time studying or missing routine self-care? Students can work with a coach to build that into their schedule. Need to adjust their work schedule or family commitments? The insights from the time log sheet can be a starting point for those conversations.


The middle of the term can be hectic and is a great time to check in on how students are feeling and if they’re making time for study and for relaxation. Break Ideas from the ASC shares fun ways to take a break. I share this visual and invite students or student staff to share their favorite break activities and plan for times when breaks would be most useful in the upcoming week. I also share how I enjoy taking breaks—particularly my love of Tetris 99 and how satisfying it is to watch all the little tetrominoes fall into place.


As the weeks fly by, I think it can be helpful to connect with students about resources that can support their health and well-being. Juggling everything can be stressful, and studying and concentration take a lot of energy. Remind folks about, or introduce them to, the Basic Needs Center’s Healthy Beaver Bags (one of several food resources the BNC helps students access). Students can pick up a bag of groceries each Friday with a recipe to try! There’s nourishment and adventures in cooking and opportunity to meet the great folks in the BNC!


Did you know the Mind Spa in CAPS has a plethora of resources, including a higher-end massage chair, biofeedback programs, a Buddha board, and a robust set of anytime online resources for those attending virtually? Any member of the OSU community can schedule time there. We all do better work when we are recharged and refreshed, and with all the options in the Mind Spa, there’s something for everyone! Students might consider signing up for an appointment as a study break, to settle in before a midterm, or to relax for a good night’s sleep.