Monday March 14, 2016

My Thesis Experience

When I was little I didn’t think I would be able to ride a bike without training wheels. When I was on the high school track team I never thought I was capable of being a true competitor. When I started at my job I never thought I would be good at, let alone enjoy, research or academic writing. When I began at UD I never thought I would have the patience or intelligence to write a thesis.

I have been blessed to have people who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. My aunt helped me persevere and get back up every time I fell off my bike. My coach helped me develop my strengths and athletic mindset so I could qualify for the state meet. My boss gave me challenging tasks to push me out of my comfort zone and help me discover I am intellectually capable of so much more than I ever thought I was.

All of these mentors in my life saw potential in me and assisted me in developing my gifts. These people didn’t look at me when I failed so they could say, “You weren’t made for this” but they helped me move forward and learn when I failed. They believed in me when I had not yet learned to believe in myself.

Now I am entering the second semester of my junior year as a Secondary Catholic Religious Education major and I have continued to grow and learn as a result of the skills and gifts these mentors have helped me develop. One of the ways I have done this is by participating in the Berry Summer Thesis program where I spent the summer researching the importance of teacher-student relationships for my thesis under the guidance of yet another wonderful mentor.  

The goal of my research was to analyze student-teacher relationships and demonstrate how these relationships can aid in educating the whole child. To educate the whole child is to educate not only the intellect but also the heart and spirit of a student. When this is done, the student will have the tools they need to truly thrive.

As shown in my own personal story, and I am sure in the stories of many others, mentors are incredibly important.

I firmly believe educators hold the power to be the mentor that can have a monumental impact on students as they learn, grow and discover themselves. Relationships between student and teacher are crucial for this development. The research I have done thus far has focused on healthy student-teacher relationships that have allowed for students to grow and learn beyond what they thought themselves capable of. Much of this research has been focused on the development of noncognitive skills in students. These are skills such as grit, positive mindset, time management, perseverance, goal-setting skills, etc. Noncognitive skills are the skills students need in order to reach their full academic potential

My research on noncognitive skills has focused specifically on Carol Dweck’s research on thegrowth mindset and Angela Duckworth’s research ongrit. Grit is finishing a project no matter the obstacles; it is working to get the job done no matter what. A Growth Mindset is the belief that your success will increase with your effort and that your intelligence can be developed. These two noncognitive skills specifically, though not exclusively, work to develop the academic, social and emotional skills that are essential for success in the classroom.

This research has been a way for me to apply what I have learned as a result of my Catholic and Marianist Education. Marianist Educators believe that ““to educate is to actively help the student to discover and develop his/her native talents and to guide him/her toward bringing them to their fullest realization” (Domingo Lazaro, S.M.). My research works to educate the whole person, the mind and heart of a student, so they can use their God-given gifts to reach their fullest potential.

I hope to continue to use what I have learned under the guidance and help from the mentors in my life so I can one day do the same for others as an educator who truly works to educate the whole person.  

Written by: Abby Suarine

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