When you’re learning a new thing, there will always be times when you don’t feel 100% comfortable doing it. Interpersonal conflict is an inevitable part of growing up, and it’s something we have to deal with in our writing classes too. In fact, one of the primary tasks the instructor will set for us is to address interpersonal conflict in our paper. That’s right – we’re going to have to learn to resolve our differences and negotiate our differences in order to produce a successful piece of writing.
Here’s the thing: when we’re learning new things, we’re not always comfortable with trying out new behaviors or practicing the ones we already know. Even the simple task of writing a paper can feel more challenging than it seems. When we’re confronted with something we’re not familiar with and need to learn how to do, it can feel overwhelming. That’s why we often end up just practicing the easy stuff or copying down what we’ve learned from someone else. Unfortunately, when we don’t put our best foot forward, we risk making mistakes. That can lead to a loss of confidence, and even if the task at hand is something we’re completely confident in, the sheer anxiety of messing up can make it really hard to perform at our best.
Here are some tips on how to help your students overcome their anxieties when tackling this assignment. Keep reading for more information on how to use interpersonal conflict effectively in a class setting.
Set the Tone At the Start
When you’re setting up a new class, it’s important to establish the right tone from the start. You don’t want to create an atmosphere where everyone is afraid to address a disagreement, so make sure you’re OK with dealing with difficult conversations. If you can’t have an open conversation about difficult issues in your class, then perhaps it’s time to find a different instructor. Even if you have the most well-meaning professor in the world, if they can’t handle disagreement and conflict, then they’re not the right fit for your class.
Don’t Be Intimidating
Try not to be intimidating to your students either. You don’t want to make them feel like you’re yelling at them or that you’re looking down on them, especially if you’re trying to teach them something new. Keep your voice down, and make sure they feel comfortable enough to raise their hands and ask questions. You can also put yourself in their shoes for a moment and ask yourself – if you were in their place, how would you feel? A lot of anxiety can be avoided if we take the time to remember other people may feel bad or intimidated too.
Set Clear Goals
A big part of learning anything new is sticking to it. Even when you learn something new that you think is pretty cool, if you don’t apply it in real life, then it’s not really beneficial. Set clear goals for your students at the beginning of the semester and follow them through. It’s important to teach your students to set their own goals and work hard to achieve them. You can also help by setting specific, measurable goals that will allow them to reflect upon their learning experience and see how much they’ve improved. This will boost their confidence and enable them to keep going even when faced with challenges. Some examples of measurable goals might include:
- Writing a certain number of pages per week
- Handling a certain number of conflicts in an ethical manner
- Submitting a certain number of final drafts
- Participating in class discussions
- Reviewing literature on a weekly basis
- Attending all class sessions
- Completing all assignments on time
Make Sure Everyone In The Classroom Is On The Same Page
It’s important to make sure everyone in the classroom is on the same page, so the conversation isn’t difficult to follow. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to review the goals set by the previous week, as well as any new ones you and the instructor may have agreed upon. This will help everyone follow along, and ensure there aren’t any misunderstandings. The last thing you want is to have a bunch of red strings across your screen because one of your students was speaking without you catching their meaning. By taking the time to review what was discussed last week, you’re able to jump back into the conversation easily and avoid any awkward misunderstandings. It also prevents students from raising their hands in the middle of class, asking questions that have already been answered. You can get a little more detailed with your reviews by including screenshots of relevant teaching materials or outlining what will be covered throughout the week. This way, everyone knows exactly what is going on and there are no questions about what was covered last week versus this week.
Use Multiple Methods To Help Students Learn
Helpful, experienced instructors know how to use various methods to engage their students. One of the best things you can do for your students is to adopt a variety of teaching techniques and styles. Giving them different methods, in different situations, will help them grow as independent thinkers and problem solvers. You don’t have to be Einstein to teach Einstein’s theory of relativity – you just have to be willing to try new things.
Keep Track Of What Has Been Learned
Another important aspect of education is to keep track of what has been learned. To that end, you should develop a resource section at the end of each week, where you list the key learnings from that week. This will help students reflect back upon the material and see how much they’ve retained. It’s also a nice review tool for the instructor, as they can look back and see how much each student understands, applying what has been learned. The more you can do to make the learning experience authentic and valuable, the better. Creating a space where your students can learn to be critical thinkers and problem solvers will foster an environment conducive to long-term learning.
Use Available Helps
If you’re teaching a course for which there is already a resource available, such as a textbook or course guide, then you have the opportunity to truly enrich the students’ experience and add value. When a student is struggling with a concept, having the opportunity to go over that material with a more experienced educator can be extremely beneficial. Even better, if you can find a way to do so in a way that is not overly-simplifying the material or using too many technical terms, then you’ll increase the chance of the student actually understanding and retaining what they are learning. In a nutshell, if you can make the most of what is already available, you’ll drastically cut down the amount of work needed to get the class up and running. Not only that, but you’ll greatly increase the chance of the student having a good experience and coming back for more.
If you truly want your students to learn and grow, be present in the learning process. A lot of professors get so wrapped up in what they’re doing that they forget about their students. You should never, ever, get so engrossed in your topic that you forget about your students. Be mindful of your tone and ensure that they feel comfortable enough to ask questions. If they don’t feel like they’re getting enough help, then it may be time to look for a new teacher. Most importantly, be there for them. Be available to give advice or suggestions, or help them solve a problem. In teaching, as in life, we get so caught up in our own world that we sometimes forget to be there for others. Make sure you’re always thinking about your students, trying to give them the best experience possible. The more engaged you are in the process, the more they will learn and remember.