Explore Strategies - Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students don’t know how to do research.

Students get frustrated with the research process and decrease their efforts.

Students often don’t recognize the amount of planning required for a research project. If they procrastinate and leave your research assignment for the last minute, they may become frustrated when they don’t find what they are looking for, or when the process takes longer than they estimated (e.g., they realize they would need interlibrary loan). These situations lead to frustration and feeling overwhelmed. This experience, coupled with the realization they might not be successful, could make them decide to withdraw effort.

Strategies:

Scaffold assignments.

Discuss the nature of research.

Encourage students to seek help early.

Scaffold assignments.

Especially for students new to university level research, it is helpful to have a structure guiding their efforts. As an example, because students tend to procrastinate on certain kinds of assignments, break them up so that they must turn in key components early on. For instance, requiring a literature review early on forces students to search early enough that they have time to do Interlibrary Loan if needed. As students become familiar with the process and are able to plan a timeline accurately, you can start removing the scaffolding.

Discuss the nature of research.

Explain to students that research is not linear. Especially for novices, it is hard to estimate the time investment. Let students know they are likely underestimating it. Roadblocks will happen, and it is important to plan for them. At the same time, these roadblocks will lead to frustration, but that too is part of the process. Explain to students the importance of persevering in the face of setbacks, and the learning that can happen from those, which will ultimately lead to a better final product. Tell them personal stories to underscore these points.

Encourage students to seek help early.

Let students know all the opportunities for help that are available to them if they take advantage of them early enough. Tell them what kind of help you and/or the TAs will be able to provide and when. In addition, let students know reference librarians are specifically available to help them with their research and that there are several ways of contacting them including email and Instant Messenger.

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learning principles

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning. MORE>
  2. How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know. MORE>
  3. Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn. MORE>
  4. To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned. MORE>
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning. MORE>
  6. Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning. MORE>
  7. To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning. MORE>