Introverts in the Classroom – Crystal Tse

Picture of birds on telephone line, with a single bird by itself.

Last year I attended a professional development seminar that involved four days of intense group work and meeting new people, and I was completely exhausted by the end of it.  As a graduate student, conferences were a lot of fun, but I would need frequent breaks during the day to muster enough energy to keep going the rest of the time. As a high school student I hardly spoke up during classes and my teachers would tell me what a shame it was that I didn’t share my good ideas. My name is Crystal, and I am an introvert.

What is an introvert? This is a personality trait associated with people who, compared to extroverts, do not derive their energy from social interaction. In fact, sustained social interactions have the opposite effect of draining them of their energy and mental resources. They are not necessarily shy or socially anxious (common misconceptions of what introversion is) – it just means that they are generally more reserved, and enjoy having time alone or with people they know well in intimate settings.

Where did this construct come from? The five-factor model of personality, or more commonly called the “Big Five” was validated by psychologists McCrae and Costa (1987) and includes the dimensions of agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, and most relevant, extroversion (you can take the Big 5 personality inventory to see where you might score lower or higher on along these dimensions). Their research has shown that these five factors can predict behavior, and appears in across different cultures in the world.

In the Atlantic last year an article was published on how introverts’ needs in schools are often neglected, as active learning strategies are encouraged and expected in the classroom. Introverted students benefit from having “quiet” time to reflect or complete individual work, and classrooms where activities such as group work and think-pair-share are the norm may at be odds at what they find are optimal learning environments. I’ve had many conversations with a friend and sessional lecturer, a self-identified introvert herself, about how she struggles with incorporating too many active learning strategies into her classes because she herself would struggle with having to do those exercises all the time.

That is not say to forego active learning strategies – there is good evidence for the benefits of active learning for example, in STEM fields. Active learning strategies can still be used, but they do not always have to involve group work or collaboration. They can include “one minute essay” questions or quizzes, and reflection activities. The flipped classroom can benefit introverted students, as they can complete readings and activities for the upcoming class individually, and have their thoughts and questions prepared beforehand.

Lastly, class participation is often valued, but introverted students may speak up less and to instructors, appear less interested or engaged with the material. This educator has a great perspective on this issue: You don’t want to alienate and punish introverted students by requiring that they speak up all time, but you also want to push students out of their comfort zone and allow them to develop their communication skills. He offers strategies that he has used to get students to speak up, and they’re simple, such as giving students time to think and prepare what they will say or transitioning from smaller to larger group discussions throughout the term.

It’s all a balance! As instructors and educational developers we can be more mindful of the introverts in the room, and come up with strategies (they don’t have to be extensive or immediately obvious to students) to engage, challenge, and draw out (but not tire out) the introverts in the classroom.

 

Image above provided by Scott Robinson under the Creative Commons “Attribution” license.

Crystal Tse

Crystal Tse

Crystal is the Educational Research Associate at the CTE where she contributes to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning work and to program evaluation. She received her PhD in social psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, where her research involved applying psychological theory to inform evidence-based interventions that address different social issues.

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The first year is critical – Jane Holbrook

Students leaving campus
Who will stay?

Coming into campus on Monday morning was a shock, but a nice one. We don’t get a lot of downtime on our campus but the last two weeks of August and days leading up to Labour Day are usually pretty sleepy; many folks are on vacation and it’s hard to even find a coffee shop open. The throng that I biked into at the main gates Monday morning at 8:15 was a bit disorderly, but the excitement in the air was electric. And it’s the first year students, all fresh faced and enthusiastic, frantically looking for their classrooms and with high expectations that generate the most excitement.

The first couple of weeks of term are exciting but then, of course, the realities of a five course load, weekly assignments (lab reports, readings …) and then midterms set in and those first year students are often challenged to just make it through first term. Our IAP statistics show that our first year retention rate (percentage of students who return to second year here after first year) is close to 92% (UWaterloo IAP), well above the reported retention rate of 80%  for four-year public US institutions (see National Student Clearing house report ) and higher than most other Ontario universities where retention rates hover around 87% (CUDO – Common University Data Ontario). This isn’t the old case of “look to your right, look to your left, one of you won’t be here next year” that we were admonished with as students in years gone by, but if 1 in 10 students do not return after first year, this is a definite loss to the university community and setback for that young person.

Universities have recognized that students face a number of challenges in their first year and provide orientation programs, peer mentoring, study skills sessions and other supports to help new students handle the emotional and educational transitions that they will be experiencing. However, even with these programs in place, our instructors who teach first year courses have a critically important job ahead of them. Studies show that although a student’s personal situation (family background, economic stresses, etc.) and prior academic performance in high school affect first year retention, student engagement in this critical first year is also a major contributor to student retention (Kuh et al., 2008). Creating rich and engaging classroom experiences for first year students in large classes when students are coming in with a wide range of skills is a challenge, but by integrating active learning into large classes (CTE tip sheet – Activities for Large Classes), considering student motivation (CTE tip sheet – Motivating Our Students) and providing frequent, formative feedback to students, instructors across campus are helping to keep students engaged and successful.

Welcome first year students, and kudos to those great first year instructors who work hard to keep them here!

Kuh, G.D, Cruce, T.M., Shoup, R., Kinzie, J. & Gonyea, R.M. (2008) Unmasking the Effects of Student Engagement on First-Year College Grades and Persistence. The Journal of Higher Education, 79 (5), 540-563.

Jane Holbrook

Jane Holbrook

As Senior Instructional Developer (Blended Learning), Jane Holbrook helps to develop faculty programming that promotes the effective use of the online environment in on-campus courses. Working closely with Faculty Liaisons, CEL (Centre for Extended Learning) and ITMS (Instruction Technologies and Multimedia Services), she helps manage initiatives related to “blended learning” courses. She received her BSc and MSc from Dalhousie University but has also studied Graphic Design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

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Creating and Engaging at WCSE 2015 – Mary Power

Capture

A week ago I attended the Western Conference on Science Education – WCSE 2015, held at Western University in London, Ontario. This biennial conference brings together people passionate about STEM education from across Canada, and beyond, for three days of learning, community and fun. I have attended all three of these WCSE conferences (the first being in 2011) and I must say this has become THE conference I look forward to. What is it about WCSE that I find so rewarding? In reality it is the whole package. It is the perfect sized conference, my guess is about 150 attendees, which is large enough to have a variety of quality presentations and posters and a diversity of participants, yet small enough to generate a community. The organizers, Tom Haffie and Ken Meadows in particular, do a marvelous job of creating a welcoming and engaging atmosphere. Having reflected on my experience at WCSE this year, and in comparing notes with other UWaterloo attendees, I’d like to share a couple key take-aways.

In her keynote talk, Dr. Kimberly Tanner from San Francisco State engaged us in a superhero card sorting activity. This low tech activity very clearly demonstrated the difference between superhero novices and experts. I was a utter novice and grouped my superheroes base on external physical features eg., wearing of capes. I didn’t have a clue as to which were Avengers or Justice League, nor frankly was I aware that those were potential groupings. Dr Tanner and her colleagues have found that it is very similar novice intuitive thinking that can result in common misconceptions of basic biological principles (Coley & Tanner, 2015). As we think about trying to address our student’s misconceptions it is valuable to remember that “… the presence of misconceptions does not indicate deficits but rather a mind actively engaged with the world trying to construct explanations for complex phenomena” (Coley & Tanner, 2015). If we can help students identify where their intuition is not based on how we understand biological processes, for example, and guide them to develop their foundation knowledge we can help them on the path toward expert thinking. Engaging students in thinking about what they know going into a lesson, what they are confused about during the lesson and what they have learned after the lesson contribute greatly to deeper learning and understanding.

Another presentation that especially stood out for me was Simon Bates’ talk “Faculty and Students as collaborators, co-creators and makers”. He talked about his work engaging students in the creation of learning objects to explain physics concepts. In his introductory physics class students generate materials (such as a video, a module, a practice exam question) to explain a concept that is troublesome to them. These are vetted by TAs and subsequently shared with the entire class. Once again, we see students actively engaged in their learning and creating materials to teach their fellow students.

Active participation of students in the education process was a common thread throughout the conference. A large number of undergraduate students participated fully in the conference, both presenting and attending the sessions. Their voices and thoughts were invariably heard in each session I was at. This involvement of the students as complete partners was one of the things that made this conference special for me.

Perhaps the growth of our universities and the resultant large classes has made it feel that it is key to break down the anonymous “us and them” that so often exists in order to find a “we” so that can embark on the learning journey together. This conference with the theme Gather + Create + Improve, highlighted the work of educators trying to actively involve their students in the making of their knowledge, went a long way in the direction of that “we”, I can’t wait for 2017! In the meantime, how do you engage your students as knowledge creators in your classes?

Intuitive Thinking and Misconceptions. Coley & Tanner. CBE – Life Sciences Education (2015). 14:1-19.

Mary Power

Mary Power

As Senior Instructional Developer, Blended Learning, Mary Power develops programming that promotes the effective use of the online environment in on-campus courses. Working closely with faculty liaisons, Centre for Extended Learning (CEL), and Instruction Technologies and Multimedia Services (ITMS), she helps manage initiatives related to “blended learning” courses. Mary is also involved in research projects related to the impact and effectiveness of blended learning.

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As soon as coffee is in your stomach… Ideas begin to move – Honore de Balzac–By Jason Grove

Coffee-Making_October-8-2014“I believe that I learned more about the machine and how… [it] actually works in more detail from that one activity… than I would ever have done had I just read somewhere about how a coffee maker works in some book.”
Have you ever considered what coffee is and how to brew the perfect cup? We invited over 1200 incoming engineering students to do just that in their first week of classes, in a “pilot” activity launching the Engineering Ideas Clinic. Intended to facilitate learning by exploration, students were first asked as a class to identify the safety hazards associated with using and then dismantling a coffee maker. This proved to be both effective—identifying many hazards that we instructors had missed—as well as “a fun and exciting way… to be introduced to WHMIS”.
Groups of students were then given either an electric drip machine or a Moka pot and asked to brew a “small amount” of coffee (usually interpreted as a full pot). Further instructions were not provided and, since a surprisingly small number of students are coffee drinkers when they arrive on campus, this caused some challenges. Where does the water go in the Moka pot? Which coffee goes in which machine? During brewing, groups were asked to consider the physical processes occurring in the machine and make a list of all the components they expected to find inside. This resulted in a number of points of contention, such as whether a drip machine must include a pump.
If this is coffee bring me tea; and if it is tea, bring coffee.* Perhaps fortuitously, the laboratory venue precluded any tasting of the resulting brews, but the groups moved on to consider what “coffee” is and its desirable characteristics, such as bitterness, acidity and colour. Characterizing coffee can be achieved as a combination of sensory perception—sight, smell and taste—and analytical measurement—we provided thermometers, pH probes and spectrophotometers.
With the coffee brewed and characterized, it was time to discover whether the guesses at the machine’s internal components were correct. While the classes differed in their zeal for disassembly (most of the machines could be re-assembled), some surprises were in store inside, such as the amount of empty space, the absence of a pump, the mystery object in one of the tubes (a one-way valve) and the single heating element serving double-duty as water and hot-plate heater. While the Moka pot was much easier to dismantle, figuring out its operation was usually more challenging. Groups prepared a sketch of the machine they had and used this to explain its operation to a group with the other machine.
Finally, the instructor brought the class back together for a rich discussion, ranging across how the machines work, measurement variability and error, communication with technical drawings, constraints and criteria for design, the concept of design specifications and answering questions such as “what is coffee?” and “how is the filter basket made?”. Led by their own inquiry and exploration, this activity provided students with an opportunity to consider what engineering design is and how it is underpinned by principles of physical science. In keeping with the spirit of the activity, I will leave the last words to the students:
“Learning how a common household object required various engineering concepts to design and construct really opened our eyes to how applicable our engineering education can be.”
“The lab was a great hands-on experience. It was very interesting to see the inner workings of coffee makers and the engineering design behind them. Hopefully we can have more labs like this one”
“The ChE 102 Coffee Lab was one of the best moments of 1A so far. I liked that we students finally got to experience a hands-on introduction to the world of engineering. Taking apart an everyday object and analyzing how different parts help the machine function as a whole was a fun way to apply engineering concepts that we’ve started learning about in class. I hope they do more of these hands-on labs since they’re a nice break from just lectures and theory.”

With thanks to Patricia Duong, Partho Mondal, Gerry Shebib, Inzamam Tahir and Geethan Viswathasan from the Engineering class of 2019 for allowing me to quote their comments on the coffee activity.
*This quote is sometimes attributed to Abraham Lincoln, though it appears to have been an old joke even in the mid-nineteenth century.

Samar Mohamed

Samar Mohamed

Samar Mohamed is the CTE Liaison for Faculty of Engineering. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence Samar worked as a Post Doctoral Fellow in Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. She received both her MSc and PhD from the University of Waterloo

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Providing Authentic Learning Experiences – Katherine Lithgow

ideas start hereThis past May, I had the great pleasure of presenting at Laurier’s Integrated and Engaged Learning Conference with Jill Tomasson Goodwin (Associate Professor -Faculty of Arts teaching in the Digital Arts Communication (DAC) specialization program; Scott O’Neill (Associate Director, Marketing and Communications within the Marketing and Undergraduate Recruitment (MUR)department and  Madhulika Saxena (a student in the W2014 DAC 300 course and a recent graduate from uWaterloo’s Arts & Business program).

We wanted to explore how we might bring high quality high impact practices (HQ HIPs) into the classroom.  Our presentation focused on DAC 300’s collaborative project that provided students with an authentic experiential learning opportunity where the students worked in teams to address an on-campus community partner’s real world need.  Our goal was to highlight how a course might embody the characteristics of HQ HIPs and what can be done in terms of course design and course delivery to make a course a high quality high impact practice. Using DAC 300 as an example, throughout the presentation, we provided ‘tips’ which we hope will help others incorporate high quality high impact learning opportunities into their classrooms.  

Experiential education has always been important in education, and it is of particular importance at uWaterloo.   We say it is in our DNA. We’re known for our co-op program; experiential learning is one of our Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations and our strategic plan promises ‘Experiential Education for All’.  We know that when done well, that is, where learning is “as much social as cognitive, as much concrete as abstract,” and emphasizes both judgment and exploration, experiential education helps students better absorb, retain and transfer knowledge (Lombardi, 2007)

So… what are the characteristics of a high quality high impact practice?

  1. Performance expectations set at appropriately high levels
  2. Significant investment of time and effort by students over an extended period of time
  3. Interactions with faculty and peers about substantive matters
  4. Experiences with diversity
  5. Frequent,timely and constructive feedback
  6. Periodic, structured opportunities to reflect and integrate learning
  7. Opportunities to discover relevance of learning through real-world applications
  8. Public demonstration of competence

(Kuh, G. D., O’Donnell, K., & Reed, S., 2013)

You can view our presentation here to see how these characteristics came to life in DAC 300.

A lot of things came together to make the DAC 300 course a great learning experience.  A couple that I want to highlight centre around 1) collaboration and 2) the impact on the instructor and students.

Experiential learning opportunities often bring students into meaningful contact with future employers, customers, clients, and colleagues. What struck me about the DAC 300 project was the extent to which Jill collaborated with an on-campus ‘community partner’ (Scott O’Neill and the MUR department) to provide her students with this real-world, relevant learning opportunity. In turn, Jill’s students collaborated together to provide MUR with a solution to address their real-world need. If we want to make more of these high impact practices available to our students, we will likely have to collaborate with campus partners -campus partners from writing centres, student affairs, living learning communities, residence life and librarians are just a few examples of who these campus partners might be. More important, the collaboration has to benefit all parties.

The role of the instructor often changes when you provide authentic learning experiences to your students. Prepare to learn along with your students.  Incorporating authentic learning experiences into your course can be disorienting and uncomfortable for you AND your students.  Your role shifts from ‘instructor’ to ‘coach’.  Students will come up with solutions or approaches that you have never thought of.  That can be a good thing, but it also means relinquishing a certain amount of control, being flexible, and adapting to circumstances- just as we do in the real world.

Jill Tomasson Goodwin has kindly created and shared these 6-Tips-and-10-Tricks-to-Facilitate-Classroom-based-Experiential-Learning. Jill encourages you to adapt them to your needs and invites you to email her (jtomasso@uwaterloo.ca)   to chat with her further about how these choices worked in practice.

DAC 300 is a 12-week reflexive theoretically-informed, practice-based course in User Experience Design (the art of understanding, designing, and creating an ‘end-to-end’ experience of technology for users).  The course design choices are based on a very real-world application of knowledge — facilitated inside, and tested outside, the classroom, for an actual client, with a pressing need.

During the W2014 offering, Professor Jill Tomasson Goodwin and her third-year Digital Arts Communication class consulted with UWaterloo’s MUR department to design an augmented reality version of a tour brochure. To complete the project, teams of undergraduate students drew upon their knowledge of user experience design, interviewed high school students, and then iteratively prototyped a range of augmented reality experiences, all designed to engage and inform students as they visit and explore the campus. The project and technology have been so successful that UW will use augmented reality to enhance other recruitment publications.

Resources

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are. Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter.  Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). Excerpt from “High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter”. Association of American Colleges and Universities. https://www.aacu.org/leap/hip.cfm

Kuh, G. D., O’Donnell, K., & Reed, S. (2013). Ensuring quality and taking high-impact practices to scale . Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Lombardi, M. M. (2007). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. Educause learning initiative,1(2007), 1-12. http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/authentic-learning-21st-century-overview

Integrative and Applied Learning Value Rubric (AAC&U) http://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics/integrativelearning.cfm

Katherine Lithgow

Katherine Lithgow

As Senior Instructional Developer, Integrative Learning, Katherine Lithgow facilitates ePortfolio and Integrative Learning initiatives, supporting instructors across campus with the design and implementation of activities that help students integrate learning in academic, workplace, community and social environments. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Katherine taught Cytology at The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences. She received her BA from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s in Educational Technology from UBC. In what seems like another life, Katherine worked as a cytotechnologist graduating from TMI’s Cytology program.

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Darth Vader: teaching method in disguise? – Josh Neufeld

Every year, I teach 600-900 students a “Fundamentals of Microbiology” course (Biol240). Three years ago, I wore a skull-print tie to class on October 31st. Afterwards, a student expressed disappointment that I had not worn a costume. The following year, I decided to wear a more… *impressive* Halloween costume to my lectures. I rented a replica Darth Vader costume and gave both of my back-to-back lectures fully suited. The reception for these lectures was nothing short of extraordinary. The university promoted the costume (http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca/2012/nov/01th.html), students’ photos went viral (even making the front page of reddit; http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/12eqaz/my_microbiology_professor_did_the_entire_lecture/), and I posed for many pictures with thrilled students after both class sections. Last year, I rented another replica costume: The Dark Knight. Again, student photos of the lecture circulated widely through social media and the costume was profiled in the Daily Bulletin (http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca/2013/oct/31th.html). In a completely unexpected way, these costumes seem to have left their “viral” mark on Biol240.

Josh Neufeld in costume
Josh Neufeld darkens the day on two Hallowe’ens

But why? Many students wear costumes to campus on Halloween. Why is it so worthy of comment when a faculty member dresses up? 

Student appreciation of these Halloween costumes reminds me of other classroom responses that I’ve noticed at seemingly unrelated moments. For example, when I show a picture of my kids and quote them in relation to the course, the room responds warmly and audibly (“awwwwww”). When I told the class how a particular episode of Swiss Family Robinson (involving a creeping white mat spreading over the island and killing its animals) instilled a lifelong phobia of fungus in me, students sat rapt on the edge of their seats. When I recorded a message for students in my basement and as part of a narrated video animation of a class concept, course evaluations tell me that this was very much appreciated. 

It occurs to me that all of these teaching elements are linked. They convey unique messages to the class. These personal moments communicate that “I trust you”, and that trust is strong enough for me to be vulnerable in costume and risk looking silly, enough to show you my kids, enough to share my quirky personal foibles, and enough to let you see what my basement looks like (i.e., not pretty). In addition, I suspect that the simple personal things that we do send another message that is possibly even more important than trust, they communicate that we *like* our students. Our actions reflect that we like them enough to let our guard down in the classroom, just a little more than they would expect. 

In some ways, building rapport with a class is very similar to relationship building. When we trust and like someone, we do extra things for that person, we even act silly at times. And, if all goes well, we end up… learning about microbiology. We enjoy the classroom experience that much more. We want to keep coming back. Could this be the very spoonful of sugar that makes course content go down?

Importantly, this isn’t about parlour tricks for simple entertainment, it is about building trust and relationships as a precondition for effective learning. I am thrilled that students respond positively by cleaving to course content and exploring microbiology with enthusiasm in the classroom. These in-class experiences may also influence future course selections and career choices, steering interests a little closer to micro than they might have done otherwise. It’s a win win. 

Although wearing a costume can help foster trust and mutual appreciation in the classroom, there is an important unanswered question that lingers for me… what to wear for Halloween 2014?!

Josh Neufeld (Twitter: @JoshDNeufeld) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology, studying the microbial ecology of terrestrial, aquatic, and host-associated communities. For several years, Josh has taught a large second year course (600-900 students) as well as a small upper year course (18 students). 

trevorholmes

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

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How to Reignite Intrinsic Motivation — Sophie Twardus (CTE Co-op Student)

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is something you do because you enjoy it for its own sake. Extrinsic motivation is something you do for outside factors like grades or money. One of the intriguing things about motivation is that if a person is intrinsically motivated to do something, giving them an extrinsic motivation diminishes that original motivation.

This is especially relevant in education considering that humans are naturally interested in learning. You only need to talk to four-year-old children to see how excited they are to go to school, how proud they are that they can count to ten. However, talk to them ten years later and all that enthusiasm will have dissipated. The problem is that in school you don’t learn for the sake of learning – you do it for external reasons like grades and getting accepted into university.

This approach leads to a decline of people’s intrinsic motivation to one solely driven by external rewards. The question is how do we address this problem. I know personally that math is my passion. Despite that there have times where I have been so bogged down by assignments and midterms that I have forgotten that math can be fun.

Last term I had an absolutely brutal week: I had gotten sick twice, I had gotten a midterm back and the results were less than optimal, and I had broken my laptop screen. I was in dire need of a break, I was exhausted, with zero motivation. I walked into the MathSoc office where my friends were playing the card game called SET. The game has a lot of interesting mathematical properties. You can see a sample game here.

While playing the game, I mused out loud how many unique sets exist in the game. “That’s an interesting problem,” exclaimed my friend. Naturally, being mathematicians. we put the game on hold in order to solve it. It took us no time at all to find out that the answer was 1080. We then tried finding out if it’s possible to model the number of sets for the general case of n values and m attributes.

It took me four days to solve this problem. Working on it reminded me why I was studying math. I love the mental challenge of a good problem, the battle of wits as I try to deconstruct the situation. I especially love the flash of insight that comes at the end when the solution is suddenly obvious.

University can be a stressful environment. It is all too easy to get caught up in the frenzy of midterms, assignments, and exams and forget why we originally chose to pursue post-secondary education. If you feel burnt out I recommend taking a break from your responsibilities and do something not because you have to but because you want to. Remind yourself that learning is fun.

As for the solution to the problem, I leave it as an exercise to reader. I would not want to spoil the fun.