Thoughts from Counselors

The Battle Against Boredom

by Brandi Willis Schreiber

“Boredom is the conviction that you can’t change … the shriek of unused capacities.” – Saul Bellow

In our offices and during tutoring, we often hear students say, “This class is boring” or “I am so bored with this material.”  Although saying that something is “boring” is common, boredom with academics can often lead to more severe consequences, including low grades, missed classes, ineffective tutoring sessions, stagnation in a degree plan, or even depression.  It’s important for students and tutors to know that there are things they can do to change this mindset of boredom into a mindset of mastery.

The first step that students can take to eliminate this feeling of boredom is to realign their thinking about the material or the class.  The material is important because the class is necessary for their particular degree plan or future career, so its helpful for students to remind themselves why they are studying this now and how it fits into the “big picture” of what they are trying to accomplish.

In addition, saying that something is “boring” can really be a statement that “I am overwhelmed/confused/anxiety-ridden about this material” or “This material isn’t stimulating enough for me.”  Students need to be honest with themselves about what they are experiencing with the material and then communicate that to their tutor and Academic Counselor.  Together, we can help the student develop a plan for addressing negative feelings about the material or class.

Tutors can also help battle boredom directly in the tutoring sessions.  They can give students frequent feedback about truly how well they can do in the class if they change their perception about why it’s important.  They can also adjust their tutoring strategies to break down difficult material into manageable parts or help the students come up with a more challenging plan for learning “easier” concepts.

Tutors can also make the tutoring session more interesting by utilizing tutoring strategies that are interactive:  practice hands-on problems and activities; discuss concepts using several modalities; or ask the student to “be the tutor” and teach them the material, for example.

Perhaps the most important strategy for both students and tutors can use to eliminate boredom is to find meaning and value in the material by connecting it to their own lives.  For example, a nutritional science concept becomes easier to learn when looking at the nutritional values in a favorite afternoon snack (and then enjoy eating it, of course!).

Together, students, tutors, and Academic Counselors can make the most of every subject and win the battle against boredom.

For more information about tackling boredom, visit http://brown.edu/about/administration/sheridan-center/teaching-learning/effective-classroom-practices/interactive-classroom-activities

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