The psychology of education

MENTORS IN ARMS: Dr Moses Basitere worked with Dr Disa Mogashana on the coaching programme.

This year the Chemical Engineering Department has been trying a coaching programme as both an intervention and attempt to understand the experience of their first year students.

Dr Disa Mogashana, coach, mentor and advisor at True Success Institute, recently presented feedback on the 2018 Student Coaching Pilot Programme which targeted 62% of the first year Extended Curriculum Programme (ECP)  students in Chemical Engineering.

Students attended five workshops on weekends between March and July, with the first eliciting information to fill in a comprehensive student profile.

The programme targeted students at biggest risk of failing by looking for particular markers: did the students fail their first chemistry test; was Chemical Engineering not their first choice; were they a walk-in; did they need funding; were they not living at home but not in residence on campus either.

Yes to those questions put the students into a group who had to attend all workshops while the rest could choose which sessions to attend.

The programme is based on a life coaching model.

The first workshop showed that some of the challenges faced by the ECP students included: being attacked on or off campus; travelling far distances to get to campus; feeling inadequate; loneliness and not having friends; insecurity about their future; family relationship issues; low self-esteem or lack of confidence; and mental issues such as anxiety or depression.

“The  programme tries to address all of these. It was important that the experience be proactive. How do you empower them to deal with a problem. The structures and way the university functions need to shift the way we teach, but the students also need to realise that they have the power to change,” asked Mogashana.

In addition to the workshops she also set up ongoing support for the students via Whatsapp to allow them to contact her directly for mentorship as needed.

The workshops covered topics such as budgeting, how to set goals and self-awareness and how the mind and emotions work.

She said student feedback showed they had developed a better awareness of the choices they can make and how much control they have over their actions.

Head of the Chemical Engineering Department Prof Daniel Ikhu-Omoregbe said the information could be useful for deciding if and when interventions needed to be made with particular students.

“I hope this will help us understand why students perform or do not. We need to see whether there have been changes in their test performance and next look at how they have adjusted in class. I hope to repeat this programme next year and my desire is to involve the mainstream students as well because they have some of the same issues too,” said Ikhu-Omoregbe.

Written by Theresa Smith

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