Safe space for Failure

Triadic Reciprocal Causation

This was the last project in my old role in student academic development.

Discussions about resilience of students and the rise of mental health issues have been on the agenda for some years now. When I was approached to develop a concept for students who were permitted to repeat a year and hopefully get back onto an honours track degree route, I began to search for a model that would scaffold my pedagogy. Considering that my credo is to help our students to help themselves, and I seek to find strategies that are easy to ‘take away’ and adapt to their needs, as well as impacting across and beyond the students’ life cycle, I did not want a deficit model.

‘So back to basics.’; I thought. And one sunny Sunday afternoon—in the park with my coffee and pastries (hey this is important background information for creating a successful work environment)—I read for the first time in a decade a textbook again. It’s been a long time since I engaged with social and developmental psychology, was happy to find—or rediscover—a model created by one of my all-time-favourites: Bandura … the triadic reciprocal causation.

This model considers: personal characteristics, behaviour patterns, and environmental factors.

adapted from Snowman, McCown & Biehler (2009)

I particularly like that there is an emphasis on meta-cognitive knowledge, highlighting the importance of analysing, planning and monitoring ones behaviour. This affords the learner agency of the learning process and initiates control and ownership of this learning process. Incidentally, some of the attributes of creative learning and teaching (Jeffrey & Woods, 2009) I used during my postgraduate research.

During my time working with students in the School of Health and Life Sciences (Glasgow Caledonian University) I had the impression that students who engage in regular reflective writing activities, displayed much stronger academic practice (criticality, writing style, analysis) than students who did not engage in reflective writing activities. There is a limited body of research supporting this experience. I coached the students through the writing process, which took one, one-to-one meeting, and then reading and commenting on their scripts. There were only a couple of students I had to call in for a second meeting. The importance for the goal setting part of the reflective writing was to set skill-based goals rather than task-based goals.
So for instance, if a student would write: I am going to attend every lecture. You, and I, and the student knows this is not going to happen. A skill-based goal would be, I will obtain notes from all lectures, and identify questions to either ask in tutorials, labs, or my peers to help me understand the subject matter. This also introduced elements of self-observation and -evaluation.

The next point I thought would be significant in my approach was how students develop their concept of self-efficacy, and what I could do to have a positive impact on this perception. Self-efficacy is a crucial part of learner identities, and I used this to measure the development of the students’ progress throughout the year. More details will follow after the final analysis but so far there seems to have been a positive impact from this approach. So much so that talks have been given as various college committees to see if this could be translated and scaled up to different cohorts. The social and physical environment: was addressed by setting up institutional structures and processes, as well as strong communication from senior academics in the school, as well as introducing peer-coaching to create an environment of support.

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