Joe Doctor Colloquium Explores Motivation

Rifat Salam, Social Sciences and Human Services

“Motivating Students, Motivating Us” was the theme of this year’s annual Joe Doctor Colloquium. Sixty-four faculty members, both part- and full-time attended the event, held on May 2, 2012. Presentations and breakout discussion sessions focused on ways to enhance students’ motivation. 


Motivation Through Feedback


Feedback can increase students’ motivation and performance, according to guest speaker, Dr. John Hudesman. Dr. Hudesman, a researcher at the Center for the Advanced Study in Education at the CUNY Graduate Center, began his presentation, “Using Self-Regulated Learning to Enhance Student Performance,” with an anecdote about his experience with his daughter at a shooting range. He had no interest in shooting and he began with “terrible results.” Yet he persisted and improved incrementally, until he saw his bullets hit near the center. His daughter, whose idea it was to go shooting, showed no improvement and lost interest in the activity. The “moral” of this story was that he persisted, using the feedback of the target results and that as he noted improvement, it spurred him to keep doing the activity and to improve his performance. When an individual is succeeding, they will want to keep working at the task.


How can Dr. Hudesman’s experience at the shooting range be applied to the classroom? In his research on the phenomenon of self-regulation, Dr. Hudesman discovered the importance of frequent and accurate feedback, for example, through the use of multiple quizzes graded quickly. These quiz grades provided students with an understanding of what they know and what they need to improve upon. “Create concrete activities in which students can demonstrate their use of feedback to improve their performance,” according to Dr. Hudesman.


Dr. Hudesman discussed techniques for feedback in math classes where students were asked to make a judgment about how confident they were that they could solve a problem before they attempted it. He found that the least prepared students were the most confident and it was important for them to gain a realistic understanding of their ability in order to obtain mastery. The strategies employed included the use of a “self-reflection” form and the ability to do repeated revisions. Students who engaged in this process became more engaged and demonstrated better outcomes. “Instructors need to demonstrate to students what they don’t know and what they need to do to improve. Then instructors should give students the opportunity to improve,” Dr. Hudesman explained.


The Odyssey Project and Student Motivation


“Determined to ‘Do School’: Motivating Young Women of Color in the Community College Experience,” was the theme of the presentation given by Prof. Lisa Rose, Social Sciences, and Prof. Precious Sellars-Mulhern, Counseling and Advisement Center. Their presentation was sponsored through the Odyssey Project which conducted research on young women (aged 18-24) of color at BMCC, Hostos Community College, and LaGuardia Community College. Their findings uncovered a phenomenon they called “progress stagnation” in which the biggest hurdle for these students is to stay in college past their freshman year. The findings of the research project, funded by the New York Community Trust, have led to the funding of Freshman Academies, to be instituted in fall of 2012.


Prof. Rose and Prof. Sellars-Mulhern began with an overview of the literature on student engagement. This literature emphasized the importance of student involvement in the college environment. However, the findings of the Odyssey Project revealed that young women of color showed a resistance to social activities on campus, expressing a desire to “do it alone” while at the same time, not having the discipline and tools to manage the college experience on their own. The student respondents repeatedly showed their attempts to go it alone and “do school” rather than socialize. 


“It is important to address the contradictions between student engagement and promoting self-determination,” according to Prof. Rose. Odyssey Project findings showed that most students resisted socialization because they viewed it as being akin to high school. They wanted to avoid what they viewed as the “clique-ishness” of high school and stated that they were in college to “do school” and not make friends. What this suggests is the need to find a way to reconcile autonomy and engagement and find classroom strategies that promote both.


Breakout sessions gave attendees opportunities to continue the discussion. Presenters facilitated the breakout sessions. At the session facilitated by Prof. Rose, faculty discussed strategies such as peer review and collaborative learning to promote both individual responsibility and cooperative engagement. 


Joe Doctor Colloquium was organized by the Faculty Development Committee with the support of the Office of the President and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Michael Gillespie. The members of the Faculty Development Committee are: Francesco Crocco, English (Chair); Kanu Nagra, Library; Jacqueline Nichols, Nursing; Mahatapa Palit, Business Management; Rifat Salam, Social Sciences (Secretary); Jocelyn Samuel, Business Management; Claire Wladis, Mathematics (Volunteer).