Solve Student Frustration Learning New Concepts – Research Based Methods

Frustration is coming!

We all have that hard section. We can usually predict frustration. This one topic is complicated, a bit abstract, or just very different from the rest of our curriculum.

For me this was always DNA, transcription, and translation. It didn’t matter what I tried. Many of the kids still got frustrated and some just quit. I’ve had teacher mentors say that if the material is frustrating, then it’s the teacher’s fault. Of course, you do need to evaluate your lessons to see if there is a better way of presenting the material.

Sometimes the teacher causes the frustration and sometimes the subject is just tough to learn.

New research shows a method to help your students get past the frustration of learning new concepts.

What the study found

Nothing strikes fear in high school students like chemistry. What better way to test frustration. Researchers used a high school chemistry course and looked at the students emotional perspective rather than the traditional test performance.

1. New concept = frustration

Ok, this is a no-brainer. Concepts that were completely different from previous material caused the most frustration. I know that I feel the same way.

Teacher Actions:

  • Connect new material to old subjects as much as possible.
  • Use an analogy to help students build the right framework.

2. Frustration was partially resolved through student-student or student-teacher interaction.

This should not be a total surprise. Individual discussion is highly effective as a way to solve areas of confusion. Not ever student learns the same way. Two students will absorb different parts of a lesson and can commonly help their partner with what the other one is missing.

As it turns out extra work, lecture, and video may reinforce the material, but has no effect on frustration.

Teacher Actions:

  • Make sure new lessons have group based assignments
  • Talk to each group independently to gauge understanding and answer questions

3. Students who revisit the new concept after the interaction converted the frustration to more positive emotions.

The important piece here is that the students were allowed interaction with other students or with the teacher before they concept was reviewed. When this happens, the frustration faded.

Teacher Actions:

  • Make sure new lessons have group based assignments
  • Review the concept directly after group interaction

Final take-away

“The teacher’s ability to recognize the emotions of the individual students allowed for very effective differentiation in learning.”