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Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

SIP 6.11 Sustaining resilience in the race to the semester finish line.

April 5, 2018

MSU Denver classSIP 6.11 Sustaining resilience in the race to the semester finish line.

No matter when the semester break occurs or the length of the respite, the last weeks of a semester regularly fill with malaise, procrastination, anxiety and exhaustion. When the weather is inviting, attendance and productivity wane as students (and faculty) prefer to be outdoors more than indoors. You might find yourself pleading with students to “show up” and “turn in something, anything,” to pass the course. In many courses, the remaining weeks of term include a major project or exam that not only proves student mastery of content but also establishes whether the student passes or fails. Meanwhile, the cycles of life speed up. Soon-to-be graduates are processing what life will be like after school, planning the next phases of their adult lives. Upperclassmen are rushing from advising appointments to the career center to the financial-aid office in hopes of ensuring that they’re on track to graduate. Some students are interviewing for summer jobs. Faculty are counting down class sessions and tallying up grades. We are all balancing full lives with additional seasonal obligations and planning for what’s next.

All these stressors produce feelings of resistance. We might imagine giving up. This is the time for persistence. Our students and ourselves will sustain a successful and engaging learning environment by approaching the final push more as the last step. To do so, we often require small reminders that we are capable. Overturn those negative perspectives by taking inventory of the semester’s training and skill-building. Remind students and yourself that the majority of the tough work – the foundational learning – has been accomplished. Time now to muster our academic resiliency.

Try this:

  • Ask students about their stress levels. Reserve five minutes at the start or end of a class period to talk to students about the importance of preparing now for the rush of papers and exams. Ask them how they’re feeling about your upcoming project or exam – and make planning discussions part of your day’s lesson plan. Hold student office hours. Suggest that students make appointments at MSU Denver’s Tutoring Center or Writing Center, and reward extra credit for seeking assistance.
  • Show more empathy. Remember that every student and co-worker is a person with a life beyond campus. When a student complains about an assignment or mentions feeling stressed, acknowledge their feelings. Students frequently believe that an entire semester’s learning is at stake. Perhaps for some, this is true. For many, the majority of the learning is finished. Remember that colleagues are also completing end-of-year projects, attending department events and grading, grading, grading. Active listening and providing perspective lessen the pulls of anxiety.
  • Reassure students and yourself that perfection is unrealistic and unnecessary. Discuss self-efficacy in terms of doability and quality over quantity.
  • Encourage wellness. Warn students of the dangers of pulling all-nighters and of bingeing on caffeinated drinks and junk foods. See more tips in SIP 5.15 Helping Students Practice Self-Care.   
  • Bring your class to one of 12 MSU Denver Healthy Pursuits weekly, free, on-campus mindfulness classes.
  • Draw strength from the community. End-of-semester events are designed to break the monotony of work through socialization. Announce events to students. Take time to join in these upcoming campus events:
    • The Health Center at Auraria is hosting the workshop “Yoga Psychology: Management of Emotions and Anxieties,” April 11, 12:30-2 p.m., Tivoli 444.
    • Auraria hosts the annual Spring Fling on April 18 and 19.
    • MSU Denver’s Student Academic Success Center and Auraria Library are bringing doggies – yes, doggies! – to campus for Paws and Relax, May 1, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Auraria Library.
    • MSU Denver Faculty and Staff Appreciation BBQ, May 1, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 9th Park
    • MSU Denver’s Office of Student Activities is offering MSU Denver students free breakfast and lunch and free green books and scantrons, May 7 and 8, Tivoli Multicultural Lounge.

Still Thirsty? Take another SIP of Sustaining Resilience in the Race to the Semester Finish Line.

Cassidy, S. (Nov. 18, 2016) “The Academic Resilience Scale (ARS-30): A New Multidimensional Construct Measure,” Frontiers in 

Cassidy, S. (Nov. 27, 2015) “Resilience Building in Students: The Role of Academic Self-Efficacy,” Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1781. Retrieved from

Duckworth, A.  (2013) “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” TED Talks Education (video). Retrieved from

Eisenberg, D., Lipson, S.K., & Posselt, J. (2016). “Promoting Resilience, Retention and Mental Health.” New Directions for Student Services, 2016(156), 87-95. doi:10.1002/ss.20194 

Visit The Well at for more great ideas and resources for Strong Instructional Practices in your higher-education classroom!

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