I’m Getting Back in the Habit.

I just read an article about how to establish a habit.  The link is posted below.  I started thinking about this blog and when I made the last entry-last June.  OK, so I took the summer off-fine, but now it’s almost October.  It’s time to oil up the gears and bring back my blogging habit.

Taking the advice of the linked article, I will start out small.  This means, posting twice a month starting today.  Keep it small and doable.  That’s the ticket.

By the way, I think this article can be helpful for our students as well many of whom set unrealistic goals and then give up when they don’t accomplish them.  Like the turtle…slow and steady wins the race.  Hope this article helps you start a new habit or rekindle one.

How do you build a habit?

A wonderful ending

Last week my co-instructor and I finished our last college success class for a group of students who just completed their first semester here at BCC.  What makes this group unique is that all of them have earned GEDs.  They also have the other more typical  barriers our students face:  most are parents, all work, and  all have numerous challenges academically and personally.

In our final  class, they did a power point presentation called “My 32 Day Commitment”. Essentially, each student had to choose a short-term goal for the semester and spend 32 days taking a specific action to accomplish the goal.  Why 32 days?  Typically that’s how long it takes to develop a new habit and most of their goals were about developing new study habits to help them finish the semester.

This is an especially challenging project for a number of reasons one of which is knowing how to effectively choose a goal that was specific,  dated, measurable, and related to their education.  Over the semester we spent a good deal of time refining their goals.  In the end, what was most important was not so much the precision of the goal, but the fact that they were actually paying attention to school, in general.  Setting that intention helped all of them to finish and finish well.

One of the best parts of the presentations is listening to students talk about their experiences and the lessons they have learned over the semester:

My successes all started when I received my GED.I realized that I could do any thing I put my mind to. Here at bcc my success has been passing writing                 

I learned to be able  to get up enough courage to believe in myself and get my life in order.so that I could create a better future for myself and family.

My successes were completing and passing the quizzes. I felt successful when I realized I could accomplish whatever I put my mind to. 

™ I learned to get over my anxiety for writing and personal things outside of school.  I am no longer as anxious about writing and I completed this semester.  

One student added this song to her presentation.  I think it sums up her experience very well.

The Climb

They have climbed and will continue to do so.  Good luck to all my students.



Developmental_Education_TOOLKIT.pdf (application/pdf Object)

This  pfd is a comprehensive view of developmental education that came out of Community Colleges Bridges to Opportunity Project.  It includes trends in DE.  It’s more than you may want to read, but take a look at the chart that shows how much states spend on dev. ed. (p. 11)

Developmental_Education_TOOLKIT.pdf (application/pdf Object).






Good Advice from a BCC Student

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing David Hebert wh0 started BCC last spring when he enrolled in Project Link.  Project Link is a transitions program for students, like David, who have earned a GED.

David is now in his second semester and is enrolled full-time as a BCC student.  Click on the link to hear about his experience and his advise to other students coming into college via Project Link or any other non-traditional path



Interview with David Hebert.


Getting Back On Course

We have three weeks left in our semester.  Attendance in the college success course that I co- teach has fallen off.  Students have a host of life issues that are an all too common occurrence in their lives; this is the time in the semester where those things rear their unruly heads.  It’s a challenge for us, as instructors, to know how to address this problem.  This is how we handled it today.

A core goal of our class involves teaching students how to stay on course despite their complicated lives.  When we met today, we asked them to take a minute to reflect on the ways that they have gotten “off course”. To help guide their answer, we used the list of “success behaviors” that they had compiled and agreed upon at the beginning of the semester.  This list became our class contract and included things like “Come to every class”, “Get homework done on time”, “Ask for help”.  We asked them to concentrate on how they will get themselves back on course rather than focusing on the reasons why.

Students shared their answers with each other.  They got honest with themselves and with the rest of the class.  Several of them acknowledged that their attendance was poor, or that they weren’t getting assignments in on time.  These aren’t surprising responses.  What is surprising is that by not allowing them to focus on the excuses, they were able to come up with what they needed to do to get back on track.  They focused on the “now what” not the “why not”.

Now they have a few short weeks to get themselves back on course.  This doesn’t mean that it will happen for all of them, but as the saying goes “awareness is the first step” and, by the way, only one student missed class today.


It’s How You Think About Math



I just read an article in the  May 2011 issue of  Journal of Developmental Education It’s written by Barbara Bonham and Hunter Boylan, two major authorities in developmental education, and is entitled Developmental Mathematics: Challenges, Promising Practices, and Recent Initiatives (2011).  They talked about the importance not only of the cognitive skills needed to do well in math, but the affective skills needed as well. 


What is meant by affective skills?  Essentially affective skills include how one thinks about math. Do I believe, for instance, that I will be successful in math?  Many of our students believe the opposite.  Likely, this belief has been learned through past experience.  This negative perception influences a student’s motivation, persistence, success as well as the kind of tasks he/she chooses. 


In educational psychology, this is known as self-efficacy or people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce a certain outcome and to exercise influence over the events that affect their lives (Bandura, 1994). 


In simple terms,positive self-efficacy is the belief that we have the ability to do well in in the tasks we perform and that we have an impact in our lives. 


In thinking about math, in particular, many students don’t have feelings of positive  self-efficacy.  They doubt their ability to be successful and think that they really can’t do anything to change this.  This belief is often learned through their  past experiences with math including what they’ve heard from teachers, parents, media as well as their past failures in math.


So…what can be done to help students increase a student’s self-efficacy in math?  How can we help students believe in their ability to “do math”?  This is the million dollar question.


One thing that could and does help is to set up the learning environment such that students experience success as soon as possible.  This might mean giving quizzes more frequently, allowing students to progress in a self-paced way, or by contextualizing math so that it makes more sense to students   


Providing opportunities for success in math, no matter how it’s done, will likely increase a student’s motivation, persistence, grades, and overall attitude. In the end, changing the way a student thinks about math can really make a difference.


Bandura, A. (1997).  Self-efficacy:The exercise of self-control, NY:W.H. Freeman and Company

Returning to Math

I asked my work study assistant, Lisa, to write her thoughts about returning to school after a long break and, in particular, how she is doing in her math classes.  I asked her to focus on math because it can be such a stumbling block for all students, especially those who have been away from it  for a long time.

Her thoughts are below.  She also talks about her attitude towards  the label “non-traditional” as a description of students who are “older” than the traditional age student.

Thanks, Lisa!

I’ve been out of the school system for approximately 22 yrs.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to further my education; it was due to the fact that I was a single mother. Raising my son was my number one priority during those 22 years, and I didn’t want to “take away” from my son the benefits of having his mother there for him, when he needed me the most.

 Upon re-entering the school environment, I found things to be a lot different than I remember them to be. To begin with, I was labeled as a “non-traditional” student, which I personally find to be another of society’s forms of “labeling.” With today’s society having to “label” individuals, I find it unnecessary and unneeded.  With all the issues in society, “labeling” an individual, for whatever reason, not only adds to them, and also gives reason for the younger generations to feed into society’s negative concepts.

After my initial shock of being “labeled”, and after filling out the necessary forms and information to pay for my tuition and books,   I did my placement assessment as required by the college.  It was then that I learned that I had placed substantially low in my math placement test score. This was very surprising to me, as math was my best subject in high school. Not to mention that in the 22 years that I had held a job in a supervisory position, I had continually used math in my job requirements. So, per the requirements of the college, I enrolled in a self-paced math module, so that I could relearn the math that apparently I had forgotten over the years. Anxiously, I began attending the class where with some great assistance from my teacher, I refreshed my knowledge of the math that I haven’t been using throughout the years.


  Thanks to the patience and guidance of the teacher, the math that I had forgotten so long ago, continuously came flooding back with great understanding.  I still struggle with some math problems and concepts, but I am regaining the understanding of it. With the assistance of several supports here at the college including math tutoring, the TRIO program, and extra help from my teacher, I know that I’ll succeed and eventually have the full understanding of the required math for the college so that I may complete my degree. I would sincerely like to thank Peggy Williams for her outstanding assistance and extra help in the understanding of the concepts of math.

 Sometimes it is hard for society, the community, and even the college to understand that the people who wait numerous years to continue their education aren’t lazy individuals. They’re people that have different priorities in life to deal with at the time- whether it is raising children, lack of money to pay for college or even health. Whatever the reasons may be, “non-traditional” students may need the extra assistance to regain any or all information, including math, which they may have forgotten or “lost” over those years. It doesn’t matter the age of an individual when entering college, what matters is the goals that they have set for themselves in order to be a productive member of society.  




It’s Time for Employers to Get on Board



Compared to other nations,U.S. falls from 12th to 15th  place  in young adults who finish college (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2011.    http://ourtimes.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/oecd-education-rankings/)

Lumina President Jamie Merisotis told business leaders at the Committee for Economic Development that employers must become active participants in creating policy change that will address the need for young adults to complete college.

Click the link below to hear his address.