Thinking Outside of the Classroom

TOCThroughout the year, Mass Mentoring Partnership has had the pleasure to work with Michael Delman and Kelly Robinson from Thinking Outside the Classroom (soon to be Booksmart and Beyond), an executive functioning coaching service operating in Boston, Rhode Island, and soon, Chicago. Michael and Kelly have donated their time and expertise by providing free workshops to over 60 program staff and mentors from MMP’s partner program network. Nate Baum, Manager of Training and Technical Assistance, highlights some of the important information covered during Thinking Outside the Classroom trainings!

  • There are cycles of learning that promote motivation, but also cycles that can decrease motivation.Negative results (i.e. a bad grade) can cause young people to lose confidence or be angry at the system, which can then cause them to feel less motivated to complete a certain academic task later. Positive results help young people understand that growth and change take effort. This understanding will help refine their efforts, and thus yield better results and generate further motivation. Mentors can play an incredible role in working with mentees to help them experience even small successes, which are vital to promoting this cycle of positive growth.
  • Understanding the stage a person is functioning at is integral in nurturing a positive attitude towards school. A wonderful framework that Michael and Kelly use is called the Transtheoretical Model of Changedeveloped by James Prochaska. This model states that there are six stages to where someone might be in regards to initiating a task or change in behavior.
    • Precontemplation: I won’t / “No way will I do or can do Algebra.”
    • Contemplation: I may / “I maybe could do Algebra.”
    • Preparation: I will / “I will do my algebra, at least soon!”
    • Action: I am / “I am doing my algebra!”
    • Maintenance: Forever / “I still am doing my Algebra”
    • Generalization: I do / “I always do my Algebra”
      • It is important to recognize, through observation of verbal language and body language of young people, where they might fall in their willingness to change or move forward with a task. How you approach someone who is in the preparationstage to engage in a task will be very different from how you work with someone in pre-contemplation  If you use the wrong approach, you won’t get very far with a mentee, and might even cause them a further decrease in motivation!
    • In the first training module, Kelly and Michael shared a number of strategies to help move mentees from pre-contemplation (No Way!) to Contemplation (I may!). Here are some key take-aways:
      • Instead of giving orders or “should-ing”, try to announce what you’ll do. (i.e. “Let me show you one way to solve an algebra problem)
      • Create a sense of curiosity by making the activity a game or wager. (i.e. “I will bet you a dollar that you can do the first step in solving the algebra problem / I dare you to be me that you can’t do step one!”)
      • Share news or information related to the domain (i.e. “Hey check out this cool on-line algebra tool”).
      • Empathize and relate. (i.e. I bet algebra does feel super frustrating).
      • Normalize their experience with the event but also challenge them. (i.e. “A lot of folks struggle with algebra, it can be very challenging”).
    • In the second training module, Michael and Kelly discussed strategies to help move mentees from contemplation (I may) to Preparation (Soon). Participants actively work through a Decisional Balance sheetthat can be helpful for anyone thinking through why they might initiative a change or initiate activity. Participants also go through an Immunity to Change (ITC) map. These steps can help a young person contemplating change or action to think through the pros and cons of engaging in a behavior to start preparing to initiate it. The decisional balance sheet can be an especially accessible tool for mentors to use with mentees who might be in this stage of contemplation.
    • Michael and Kelly also included tools for improved academic engagement:
      • Fast Break - A process to help young people plan out their homework and independent projects that includes breaks!
      • DKDK- study strategy in which a young person highlights materials according to whether they know it very well (green highlighter), kind of know it (yellow highlighter), or don’t know it at all (red highlighted) to help them plan out how they will best implement their studying.
      • Quizlet– Can find and easily develop flash cards, quizzes on a range of topics.
      • ShmoopEssay Lab – Has an awesome amount of learning guides to books, literature, and Test prep and has some great tools to support writing and essays.