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#40: Benefits of Using the WOOP Tool

#40: Benefits of Using the WOOP Tool

This content was initially posted at APUEdge.Com

Do you want to improve your time management or adopt a new habit? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares the WOOP tool to help you change behaviors, create new healthy habits, and take a fresh approach to online teaching or online learning. Listen to hear the four steps that were developed using neuroscience and motivation theory to help you become more focused, more productive, and more successful in your online teaching and learning goals.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Teaching online and learning online can happen anytime, anywhere. For this reason, it may be challenging to set boundaries, to manage time, to prioritize the tasks to be done, and to manage everything else in life.

Perhaps there are aspects of your online work that you have tried to change, but you find that you keep returning to less effective strategies. In today’s podcast, I’ll give you a new tool to help you with time management. It will also help you focus on what you would like to accomplish in your online teaching or, if you’re an online learner, in your online schooling.

You can also use it to change habits and behaviors, so it can easily be applied to other areas of your life. This tool will help whether your task is big or small, you might be teaching one class or have to write one assignment, or you might be teaching five classes and need to grade 120 essays. Either way, this tool is based on neuroscience, motivation theory, and it will give you more of what you want and help you spend your time wisely.

If you need to get through circumstances you cannot control like having to self-quarantine or having children at home when they would normally be at school and other unexpected challenges you are facing, this tool will help.

What Challenges Are Keeping You from Being Productive and/or Effective?

Before I share it, think about three things that keep you from being focused in your online learning or teaching right now. And if focus is not really your concern, think about three things that keep you from being successful or effective as you would like to be, in your online learning or teaching right now.

I asked this question to faculty, students, and academic leaders a few months after the pandemic erupted and significantly impacted the way people lived and worked. And I’d like to share some of their answers with you.

  • First, we have the relationships in the home environment. Kids, having children at home, homeschooling children, children wanting to be in the office space, wanting to play. A husband, wife, or partner wanting to talk while they are home. Other family issues, dogs, cats, or other pets, maybe the dog needs to go out, go for a walk or something like that.
  • Next, we have health areas. They could be health issues, allergies, fatigue, or getting sick.
  • And then of course we have the environment we work with. TV might be on. Distractions. Being easily distracted, maybe our own ability to concentrate or our own stress levels.
  • Perhaps it’s just the unknown, feeling anxious or worrying.
  • The internet speed and connectivity, the office setup, or lack of an office space.
  • And, lastly, we have areas of productivity, expectations and work-related tasks. These could be texting, constant email interruptions, maybe you hate grading papers, multitasking, difficulty finishing one project before starting other commitments, taking on too much, not enough time to complete these tasks and personal commitments, or maybe you find it difficult to say “no.”

Many of these challenges are really just a normal part of working from home and teaching and learning online, or even normal parts of life. They can become even more significant when other circumstances have changed, like family members being present when they normally might be at school or work. When there is more going on like political unrest and pandemic concerns.

And some of these challenges really are unique to the conditions faced during the pandemic. As you think about these challenges, consider the experiences you have when you face these challenges. What is the impact on you?

You might have less sleep or irregular sleep. Your energy could be impacted. If you typically exercise and are more active, you can’t always do that now or you don’t feel like getting started. Your enthusiasm is reduced. You may have begun your approach enjoying and wanting to teach online and as these things have continued to impact you, you’re “want to” moved down to the “should” level and then should may have become “need to” and that became even less compelling when it became “have to.”

Anything we approach with the belief that we should do it, we need to do it, or we have to do it is beyond our control it seems. It’s as if there’s this demand placed on us from outside us that now controls our time and our mental space as well.

Whenever we perceive something this way, another impact is that we find it difficult to find solutions or even find our focus and we lose our creativity. Long-term, these impacts on our health and wellbeing are very significant. And the challenges of managing these things that impact our online learning or online teaching also impact our relationships, our sense of purpose in the work, and our life satisfaction. We can see that changing things might help. We’ll bring these ideas back later in the podcast when I share the tool with you.

How the WOOP Tool May Help

The good news is that I’m sharing a tool with you today that can help you turn things around; this tool is called WOOP, or W-O-O-P. It’s a simple tool I discovered recently that I think you’ll find simple and powerful. Well, what is WOOP?

First, I’ll tell you what WOOP is. It’s a tool that uses two different types of strategies. These are mental contrasting and implementation intentions. The tool helps change behaviors and achieve goals. It’s based on neuroscience and theories of motivation and goal attainment.

If you get really excited about this tool and want to dig deeper into these areas, I suggest reading the book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking” by Gabriele Oettingen. Each letter of the strategy stands for one step and the steps are “Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.” Now I’m going to break these down for you to walk you through the WOOP process.

Step One: Wish

What are you trying to accomplish? In this step you’re going to state your goal. It should be something challenging, but realistic. If you include aspects that seem compelling to you, this will make it even better. But choosing something out of reach and unrealistic when you use this tool will actually make the process more difficult and completely unmotivating.

The timeline of your goal does not really matter, it could be goal that you want to achieve today, tomorrow, next year or five years from now. For the topic we are addressing today in this podcast, I suggest choosing a specific goal in your online teaching and learning. It could be a teaching task, another aspect of working online, your self-care or family areas.

Here are a few examples from online professionals that have shared their goals with me:

  • staying focused during work time or completing work in a timely manner
  • delegating to others more effectively or providing clearer guidance to people who are waiting for my step on a project
  • writing or updating an online course
  • seeing a project through to completion
  • completing grading, getting grading done on time, grading more efficiently, or establishing a consistent schedule in relation to student grading
  • checking some smaller tasks off the to-do list that have piled up
  • writing for publication or planning scholarly activities
  • reading more academic articles instead of watching TV
  • prioritizing various work activities and priorities
  • working on school studies more regularly or working in your online teaching more regularly
  • making self-care a priority
  • reducing stress
  • taking time for exercise in the morning, and
  • setting boundaries with family members when it’s time for online work

Think about what you would like to accomplish. Is it something you would like to change or improve? Is it a habit you would like to begin? After hearing the many examples I’ve shared with you, you can see that something big or small would work and it can be short-term or long-term. Just take a moment to choose one goal that you’re trying to accomplish for this first step and write it down.

Step Two: The Outcome

What is the best possible outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal? Yes, you might consider the immediate outcome, like the fact that your grading would be done, or you would finish the project.

And let’s take that outcome even further. What’s it going to do for you? For example, here are three example outcome statements I really like, maybe four.

  • “I have more energy and feel better about myself.”
  • “I am relieved and feel proud of myself.”
  • “It gives me sense of accomplishment and pride and I’m happy that I’m using my time wisely.”
  • “I have a positive feeling that I’m taking care of my students.”

As you consider the best possible outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal, write this in the present tense as if it’s already happening. This step is going to give your brain some visualization to begin anticipating what you will feel or experience.

You already know that accomplishing this goal is going to be important to you and it’s going to help you. The outcome takes it to the next level by helping you give it even more purpose and meaning. Take a moment to craft your outcome for this second step and write it down.

Step Three: The Obstacle

What are the obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goal? What’s standing in the way between you and your goal? Earlier I asked what three things were keeping you from focusing or being as successful as you would like to be in your online teaching and learning and then I shared many ideas other online professionals have mentioned about their work.

Now we can take those things and turn them into a more detailed idea. Here are some examples:

  • “I don’t feel motivated or excited to exercise in the morning.”
  • “I procrastinate and get distracted by Facebook or other social media.”
  • “I’m tired when I get home from work and just don’t feel like reading.”

As you think about your obstacles to reaching the goal, just list one specific thing that is tangible, as an obstacle that comes up for you. As in the previous step, visualizing the obstacle is going to give your brain that connection to what you’re thinking about, and it will anchor your thinking in the process. The obstacle will come up again for you in the future and it’s important as part of this process to write it down. So take a moment to identify one specific obstacle you are personally facing related to your goal and write it down.

Step Four: The Plan

What are you action would help you when this obstacle shows up? The plan will be one sentence, structured like an “if–then” statement or a “when–then” statement. You will be able to create this plan and visualize it your mind. The sentence starts with: “When ____ (that would be the obstacle), then I will ____ (and that’s the action to overcome the obstacle).”

An example might be that “When I wake up, then I will see my exercise clothes and shoes I’ve set out the night before, put them on and exercise anyway. Even if I’m tired and don’t feel like exercising.”

This of course is my own example, my own scenario. I learned that I never feel like exercising in the morning, but I really want to. It takes time to get out the clothes and put them on or set up what I’m going to do. Because of that I actually started planning ahead the night before, and I put my exercise clothes and the shoes on the bathroom counter so I see them when I first get up and go into the bathroom.

I don’t have to make any decisions. I don’t have to look through my closet for exercise clothes. That resistance is totally eliminated. I also set out my exercise equipment, like my hand weights, my workout video DVD, my headphones, or any other items where I go to do the exercise. Again, this reduces decision-making and the time it takes to get ready, and it makes the habit a lot more obvious for me. Having everything set out the night before helps me overcome the feeling of not wanting to exercise because things are just ready to go and it’s a lot simpler getting started.

We know that the best way to establish a new habit is to imagine the obstacle and then do the action to reduce the obstacle and make the habit more obvious and easy to do. In the WOOP tool that we’re using today, the idea is that we visualize the obstacle, and we anticipate it being there. And we condition ourselves to respond to that obstacle with the behavior or activity we want to do instead.

Here are a few examples:

  • “When I get up in the morning then I will immediately put on my exercise shoes and go for a run, even if I don’t feel like it.”
  • “If I get distracted from my work, then I will block all distracting websites with Focus Assist, and get back to work.”
  • “When I get home from work, then I will immediately log into my Brightspace classroom and start reading.”

Take a moment to design your “if–then” plan, or your “when–then” plan and write it down. As you create the sentence, visualizing it and imagining it happening is going to help you prepare to activate your plan.

WOOP Can Help You Overcome Obstacles, Adopt New Habits

Now using WOOP can really help; it can help you create new habits, change behaviors, and take a fresh approach to your online teaching and learning. You’ll find that you can use this tool to overcome any obstacle to creating a big project or completing a big project. It can help you master a difficult situation.

You can also use it to handle time management, set up self-care routines, and confidently adopt new priorities.

The mental contrasting strategy includes taking your current situation, visualizing what it could look like as an ideal state, and visualizing obstacles that you will encounter.

While you might have created goals and plans in the past, the key here is to identify and anticipate those obstacles. This makes the difference in pushing through them.

In implementation intentions, these are the triggers that you set up for the “if then” and the “when then” relationships to create new actions you’re going to take.

The tool is simple but powerful. It really does help you target one area of your online teaching work or your life and make a change. You can complement this strategy with additional ideas like using checklists, taking a planned breakreflecting at the end of the week to acknowledge your progress, and then adjusting your plan for the coming week.

Thank you for being with me today to explore this tool and consider trying something new. Remember that if you write things down and reflect on how they’re working for you, it makes the process clearer and helps you think about your thinking, as well.

Writing your steps to this plan and writing your reflection on how it worked for you, these are great places to start. Best wishes to you this coming week in your online teaching and in trying out the WOOP strategy.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes. Please visit BethanieHansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week and your online teaching journey.

#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

This content first appeared on APUSEdge.Com

It can be challenging to keep online courses engaging and interesting. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares five methods and strategies to help online educators enhance their classroom. Learn how to increase student engagement through asynchronous discussions, online group work, gamification, guided exploration, and leveraging the full power of your school’s learning management system.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

I thank you for joining me. It’s wonderful to be with you here today, to talk about methods and strategies teaching online. There are so many ways you can engage with your students in the online classroom, many of which involve special tools, interfaces, apps, or other items that might be considered bright and shiny objects.

Just to help you avoid getting overwhelmed, I’m going to introduce you to five specific methods and strategies you might consider using in your upcoming courses to help you keep the overwhelm at a minimum and get excited about trying something new and creative.

You might already know this, but choosing methods and strategies that work for your online environment and also guide your students appropriately through the topic, it’s challenging but it’s also necessary.

Creative strategies are so needed because students otherwise will disengage. Online education can be very isolating. If we always use an essay and discussion board approach, it can also be very dry and boring. Engaging your students and getting them excited about what they’re going to learn and how they’re going to learn is only part of the battle. We’re going to talk about that: how to learn it.

Think about the typical online class that focuses mainly on a lecture and some kind of assignment the student will give back to you. This is somewhat an imitation of a live class, and most of us would see this as the typical way a college class occurs. Online students need way more opportunities to interact with each other, with the content, and with you.

Online learners are a bit different than the residential students you might have at a traditional face-to-face university. Many of them have busy lives and need to be able to look at smaller bits of information, like a little video clip or something engaging they can click through or several of these things.

If you take the time to chunk information and use special strategies to create engagement, these strategies will really help your students be interested in your online course and help them throughout their learning and help them enjoy the process.

The tools that give your students the opportunity to work through the content that they need to learn, compete with their own performance, and manage the overall learning process can really help your online courses become more exciting and motivating.

As I’ve already mentioned, this could quickly lead to overwhelm for you. So choose one thing to try in your upcoming course, keep it small and simple, and you will be very pleased with the way this leads to a better result for you and your students.

Five Strategies for Improving Student Engagement

So here are the five methods and strategies I’d like to share with you today to help you get something more interesting going on in a small and simple piece.

Asynchronous Discussions

The first is asynchronous discussions. Asynchronous discussions are the hallmark component of online courses. Most people expect to see a discussion forum at some point in an online class. Some people use discussion forums throughout the entire course. Discussion forums give students the opportunity to teach and learn from each other. They can try on ideas, analyze, explore, debate, discuss. They can really get into the content through a discussion. They can also engage in dialogue with you, the instructor.

The discussion can include text. It could be based on images, audio, video, or multimedia, or you could include some combination of those things. In a previous episode of the Online Teaching Lounge, I explored a lot of different ways to manage your online discussions and creative a forum prompts you might consider trying. I hope you will take a look at those previous episodes. They’ll give you a lot of ideas in the asynchronous discussion area.

Online Group Work

The second method and strategy I would like to suggest is online group work. Learning can be a collaborative endeavor and group work can promote dialogue while refining understandings. This can be done in a way that fits the subject matter that you are teaching.

Group discussions, group projects, and peer-to-peer activities can also make online learning much more enjoyable for your students. This will reduce the tendency to have just lecture and discussion-based courses, and it will also make it more interesting when they’re forming connections with their classmates.

One of the drawbacks of online learning is that students do not really get to know each other deeply. When they work in a group, they have a better chance of getting to know each other, connecting and maybe even knowing a familiar name when they go to the next course in their program.

Group work can be very difficult to manage. I used to do an online project in the music appreciation class that I am teaching most. In that course when the group work came up, sometimes I would specifically assign students groups of people that were in the same time zone. My students tend to be all over the world at any given point, so I like to creatively manage that.

I had also chosen groups based on similar demographics. Maybe they’re in the same military branch or maybe some knew the subject of music a little bit and some didn’t, and I would combine those to give everybody a better chance of engaging about the content.

Group work needs clear instructions, creative activities to explore where each group member can contribute something. And, of course, some kind of criteria for grading that makes it worth the student’s time.

When I say worth their time, I mean that they’re going to actually be graded on their own contribution and not solely on the group grade. Students get very discouraged when they’re graded on the work that classmates have not done.

It’s also very helpful in group work assignments to let students choose some component of the assignment themselves. Maybe there are some creative elements they can put in there. Maybe there are several choices of what could be created or discussed in the assignment, and maybe there is also the opportunity to choose what the output format is going to look like whether it’s an essay, a PowerPoint, or some multimedia presentation.

Considering group work as the opportunity to really engage in a real-world fashion, this is an opportunity for you to also coach your students on how to work as teams, especially online.

Games and Simulations

The third method and strategy I’d like to introduce, this is the area of games and simulations. Games and simulations are opportunities for your students to apply new learning in real life scenarios. These can be supplemented through hypothetical situations, maybe they’re even role-playing or through specific apps and platforms built for some kind of educational gaming.

You might consider badging. Sometimes students get very excited about earning these little badges that appear as tokens of their achievement. There might be something built into your LMS that allows badging or up-voting or some kind of other engagement about the game or simulation itself.

Sometimes a little bit of competition actually makes the learning process even more fun. Games and simulations are becoming increasingly popular. I was at the Online Learning Consortium Conference a couple of years ago where a faculty member actually introduced the idea of using a Dungeons and Dragons scenario in a class, for gaming options.

If you explore the possibilities of gaming and simulations that are available, you just might find one that works fabulously in your subject matter. Simulations are a little bit different than games. They’re a little bit more applied and real-world oriented and might revolve around a case study or a role-play.

A simulation is something that might have a decision tree. For example, maybe the student enters a crime scene and they’re in a class where this is the area of focus. In the simulation, they might need to examine evidence and make a choice. With a decision tree, when they click on one choice, it will go to one avenue, and when they click on a different choice, it will take them someplace else. It’s a little bit like the 1980s example of choose your own adventure books. You get to choose the different options and the program takes you in different directions.

There are a lot of apps and things available that allow for decision trees. Even a simple PowerPoint presentation could be rigged so that you have a decision tree option available. You can create a slide where a student clicks on one or the other item on the slide, and depending on what they click on, it moves them to another slide entirely, skipping over a whole bunch of slides in between.

If you’re not sure what to use for a simulation and you’d like to try, I recommend starting with a simple PowerPoint. You might also consider reaching out to your classroom management team, whoever is working on your LMS at your institution, to see what’s available. Some apps can even be integrated into the learning management system to make this a lot easier for your students and for you.

Going back to the idea of gaming, I will go back into an app that I’d like to recommend today. There is one called Quizlet, which is well known for flashcard studying. Quizlet hosts flashcard-style tools to create simple interactive and game-like components that are easily embedded into any LMS.

A lot of students search for subject matter content online, maybe they do a Google search for items related to your class that you’re teaching. And many of them actually find Quizlets already available that help them study the terms that are taught in your class.

If you decide to create a Quizlet, it can be very simple to just create a list of terms or ideas, concepts, scenarios, and you can set up various options in the Quizlet program, making it fit your subject matter and your strategy the best.

Keep in mind that any new technology you may be learning as the instructor might be equally challenging for your students. There is a learning curve to everything, so when you’re trying a new interface, a new app, or a new program, keep yourself limited to one. This is going to help you avoid the overwhelm that comes with bright and shiny object syndrome. And when you get overwhelmed with a lot of new options, it can be paralyzing, making it difficult for you to integrate that into your classroom.

If you’re able to develop simulations, role-playing games, or other gamification that might go into your courses, this could be really engaging and fun. It will generate interest in your class and in the content of your course. And also guide your students to learn at a deeper level, and the results will definitely be worthwhile.

Guided Exploration

A fourth area I recommend is called guided exploration. Guided exploration helps your students quite a bit. It can be delivered as an instructor-made video. Perhaps you are doing a screencast that walks through the entire classroom, showing your students around. Maybe it’s a narrated screencast. It could be a classroom tour, a list of steps for investigating a topic, a guided exercise in the subject matter. Maybe it’s an analysis presentation of some kind of case study or other issue, or other teacher-led tools.

When we think about guided exploration, this is often the idea of lecturing on a content matter. If you use guided exploration, really what you’re doing is giving an overview of a subject or the topic, walking students through it, and describing, discussing, and analyzing it as you go.

As the instructor, you’re giving a little bit more information about the thinking for this kind of subject, maybe what we might notice. One example I’d like to share is from the music appreciation class, because of course, that’s my subject area. Guided exploration in this case might be a recording of a performance where I’m going to pause it, point out a few things in that video, discuss it and record myself doing this, and then continue recording a little segment and talk through which musical devices are showing up.

As I do that kind of guided exploration video, my students are going to have a lot more hands-on guidance so that when they listen to their musical example and have to analyze it, they feel a little bit more prepared.

Leveraging Your Learning Management System

The last method or strategy that I would like to share with you today is your LMS. Your LMS, of course, isn’t a strategy itself, but it comes with a lot of different components to help you track student progress and create creative assignments. You can communicate with everyone through your LMS, usually. You can also reach individuals privately. There might be some kind of messaging feature. There might be something also that enables interaction or even live video. Leveraging your LMS and all of its different components could allow you to create things that are new and different.

Some learning management systems have a group setting. You can take a forum discussion and randomly assign students into different groups so that they’re just discussing the topic in smaller groups than they normally would. Sometimes this alone is a very engaging method for students to get connected and a strategy for helping them dive to a deeper level.

Just in review, we’ve talked today about asynchronous discussions, group work, games and simulations, guided exploration, and learning management system components. Methods and strategies in your online class are a little bit different than deciding what to teach, it’s more about deciding how you will teach it.

As you spend the time creatively deciding your methods and strategies, you’re going to be able to be creating something that is more interesting for your students and more engaging overall. It will also give you that feeling of trying something fresh every so often. So that you don’t get stuck in patterns that you teach every single semester, but that you keep trying something new.

I hope you will try at least one of these methods and strategies today to freshen up your online teaching. And I wish you all the best this week in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.