Helping Students Succeed

Believing You can succeed

This post is part of the course I am taking at VCC – PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies. Assignment 2


  • Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty Paperback – May 5 2020 by Elizabeth F. Barkley (Author), Claire H. Major (Author)


Reading chapter 5 of the textbook, I learned a lot of concepts that will be helpful in my teaching practice. Then I came across a point that hit me personally: 

“Help students to expect to succeed.” 

This point may seem obvious to most, but for students that struggled through school, it is a big one. I struggled through my secondary school years. Being Dyslexic in the 70s German school system, combined with the mental health stigma connected with learning disabilities set me up for failure over and over. Teachers, parents and the administration were simply unprepared to deal with anyone not conforming to the norm. By about grade five or six I had internalized that I would fail in almost all ways. There were few subjects where I did not expect to fail or at least scrape by. 

Eventually, I did manage to graduate and entered my apprenticeship. Suddenly there was a new beginning. Everyone expected me to succeed, and I thrived. 

Remembering this, I decided to focus on helping my students to expect to succeed.  

Slide 1 

Currently, I am a substitute instructor in the Women In Trades and Technology Gateway program. Our program introduces students to different trades and helps them decide what they want to do as well as guiding them in how to land a job or succeed in the foundation program of their chosen trade. 

Slide 2 

Looking at Maslow’s pyramid of needs, our program covers some of the basic factors. 

  • We help with physiological needs like providing clothing and PPE 
  • The program is designed to provide a safe space for women. I realize that I can expand on this in the future. I will make a point of getting to know each student better. I can find out where their particular strengths and weaknesses lie, I will make sure that my students’ needs are met in the way I assume they are and I can learn to address them with their preferred name and pronouns. 
  • During the 12 week program, the classes grow together as a group. Especially during a time with a lot of online classes, this is aided by Facebook groups and group chats on Moodle. 
  • But it is on the self-esteem level, that I see the best chance of helping students to succeed 

Slide 3 

The text mentions the psychologist Carol Dweck’s research into the power of believing that you can succeed.  

After watching a video of her TED talk I feel inspired to expand on this in my teaching practice. 

By changing our feedback from pass or fail to pass or “not yet”, we can help to avoid the fixed mindset where students will internalize that they regularly fail. This growth mindset gives students a learning curve and it offers a path into the future.  

Slide 4 

Scientists measured the brain activity of students that are confronted with an error. 

On the left you see the students with the traditional “fixed” mindset, and you see no increased brain activity. These students are numb and resigned to failing. On the other side we have the students with the growth mindset who have learned that the error does not mean failure but an opportunity to grow. Here you see the increased brain activity. 

The fact that brain activity is most intense with a growth mindset, shows just how important it is that students believe in themselves and that they know that they can grow and change with hard work. 

Not only will this mindset ensure our student succeed in tests and school, but it will also encourage them along with helping them solve problems in the workplace. It will set them up for success for the rest of their lives. 

Slide 5 

We have a responsibility to help our students master the needed skills and have everything they need in order to succeed in their chosen field. And we should also help them develop life skills to succeed in their career. 

I am more excited than ever to give my students a way to experience what I did when they enter our program. To turn around the “fixed” failure mindset of my high school years and embracing the growth mindset that has brought me all the way to becoming a better instructor.  

I want my students to have that same success. 

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

[shareaholic app=”follow_buttons” id=”28689073″]

Sharing is caring ❤️
Scroll to Top