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Expert Offers a Simple, Goal-Focused Method to Help Students Succeed

Phychology Professor Offers Method on How to Help Students Succeed

Encouraging students to succeed through positive words and thinking may be tough to nail at first, but there are plenty of methods teachers can use to inspire students in and out of the classroom.

In an article on, writer Linda Flanagan offers her advice on how to help students succeed. One way is to encourage students to understand their obstacles and to formulate a plan.

According to Flanagan, "for 20 years, psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen of New York University and the University of Hamburg has been examining positive thinking and her conclusion is clear. All that positive thinking can trick the dreamer into believing she’s already done the work to get to the desired goal, squelching the motivation to actually go after it."

“Positive thinking alone is not enough,” Oettingen said, according to Flanagan. "Indeed, fantasizing about success without an anchor in reality can actually diminish the likelihood of a better outcome. “[Positive thinking] has to be done in the right way and in the right form.”

According to Flanagan,"what does contribute to success, she says, is the conscious adoption of a nuanced kind of optimism, one that takes into account the real-life barriers to success. In her recent book Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, Oettingen shares a simple cognitive tool that can help children and adults stay motivated to achieve a goal. She calls it 'WOOP,' for wish, outcome, obstacle, and plan, a more digestible label than the social-science term 'mental contrasting with implementation intention.'”

Flanagan then gives an example of this method:

"Wish: An 11th grader, say, wants to get an A in Honors English. This is his wish.

Outcome: Next, he thinks about what would happen if he achieved this goal, his desired outcome. Perhaps his teacher would recommend him for AP English, boosting his college options. His parents might stop nagging him about getting his assignments done, improving his relationships at home.

Obstacle: The 11th grader now has to engage in mental contrasting, and think about the internal obstacles that get in the way of achieving the goal. Maybe he feels tired and skips English homework when basketball practice goes late, and he’s unmotivated to diagram sentences. Perhaps he procrastinates on longer papers because he’s anxious about starting, and ends up handing in a rushed and sloppy report.

Plan: The final leg of the technique is to create a plan that sets up the obstacle and proposed action in a simple statement: 'if obstacle x, then I will perform behavior y'. The 11th grader might come up with something like this: 'If I feel tired after basketball practice, then I will sit down and do at least half of the sentences for my English homework.' Or, 'If I get anxious about my research paper, then I will start work on it for 30 minutes.' He might even find an opportunity to form a preventive 'if-then' plan: 'if basketball practice starts late, then I will use the time to work on my research paper.'"

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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