The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Program encourages students to overcome academic anxiety

English professor Michael Schofield recalled an analogy made by Director of Counseling Mark Stevens where he took out a folded up dollar bill.

‘You look at it, and all you see is a figure on it,’ said Schofield. ‘Unfolding it, you find it’s a $20 bill; and the point is that we don’t know the value of ourselves once we’ve been crumpled by education.’

On Tuesday, several faculty members attended a session on student counseling held by Stevens. The ‘Joy of Learning’ presentation aimed at doing just that: re-teaching students the love for learning they once had.

In one of the Stevens’ slides on the projector, a chart highlights that after the fifth grade a student’s interest level in learning declines swiftly.

Director of Faculty Development Kiren Dosanjih Zucker explained how Stevens held the first session on his Experience Confidence and Enjoyment in Learning (Ex.C.E.L.) Program in September 2007.

‘This year we have participants who could share about their experiences thus far,’ Zucker said.

Automation student Arvind Dutta told of his battle of self-doubt.

‘It’s the fear of humiliation,’ said Dutta, ‘(and) getting knocked down in front of everybody else.’

He shared how the Ex.C.E.L. Program helped, ‘Being comforted allows students to do wonders they’ve never done before.’

In a control-based study, classes that implemented Stevens’ Ex.C.E.L. Program had 89 percent passing grades, while those who didn’t had 72 percent. Stevens hopes to take his program to the next level where professors encourage their students on a permanent basis.

‘We should be reducing shame and increasing confidence so students are willing to go and ask for help,’ Stevens said.

He mentioned how when a person doesn’t know the answer they’ll give that ‘glazed dying nod’ because they don’t want to hurt the teacher’s feelings ‘mdash; admit that they don’t understand what’s being taught.

Stevens visits people two months into the program and professors remark at the difference.

To help better explain it, English professor Michael Schofield told about an anonymous survey he gave his class.

‘I wanted their visceral, emotional reaction to the class,’ Schofield explained. ‘Looking over it, I noticed they initially planned to tune you out before entering the class’mdash;or even skipping out when a guest speaker is scheduled.’

A key point with the Ex.C.E.L. interventions is to increase self-reflection on past academic experiences influencing their attitudes, and creating a persistent thirst for knowledge.

‘What are the obstacles in the way of enjoying the learning process?’ asked Stevens. ‘I’m talking about learning skill in a more holistic way.’

Leyla Kazvin, who graduated in spring 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history, said that she had thought of quitting after her first two years at CSUN.

‘After these academic sessions, I found out it was just fear,’ she said as her ears reddened as she spoke.

‘A lot of students don’t know psychologists and counselors are here to help.’

Some professors, like Jennifer Romack from kinesiology department, distribute forms to their student to find out the best class they’ve ever taken and the best learning experience from it.

‘Students come in with attitudes that are detrimental to the learning process,’ reflected Stevens. He explained how people are afflicted with shame over their reading and writing skills from as far back as third grade elementary school. ‘They say, ‘I can’t read well.”

Stevens said it is important to take a proud learning experience the student had and show that it’s attainable, and that failing is part of understanding.

Usually when students are confronted by the teacher with a sardonic question such as, ‘You don’t know this?’ they quit asking questions altogether.

‘Let them know they’re being seen and being felt,’ Zucker said.

The Ex.C.E.L. Program is free to enrolled students and workshops are held in Bayramian Hall. It promises to be a strong academic support group that ‘goes the distance.’

One exercise Stevens mentioned was challenging students not to flip through a reading assignment, assessing how much they have to read, but rather approach it one page at a time ‘like a road trip.’

Appointments with Ex.C.E.L. counselors can be made at (818) 677-2366.

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