Ann Rodier, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty member at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS) has researched student academic performance, identity, and self-confidence. Her work suggests that a person’s identity status—that is, who you think you are—is fluid and can be changed.
“I looked at students’ belief that they could move forward and that was compared to general academic performance,” said Rodier, who teaches a PCS class called The Adult Learner: Identity, Change and Development.
“The more confident they were, the better they did.”
The quantitative study compared grade point average and academic performance against the backdrop of several “identity status” variables. Rodier found that those who got better grades were not necessarily those with the higher SAT scores, but rather those who were willing to explore new options and new self-identities—not unlike the average adult learner from PCS, she said.
“If they do well in their first three courses, they’ll take on bigger challenges,” she said. “But the adult learner needs a great deal of support at the start even though they’re highly intelligent.”
Rodier said that her research showed that the longer a student stays in the game, in the more confident they become—though she doesn’t promote overconfidence.
“There were a few outliers with a 2.0 GPA that didn’t seem to affect the level of confidence,” she said, but for the most part, such students were anomalies.
So, what can the average person learn from the adult learner this time of year?
“The more education you have, the more confidence you have,” says Rodier. “Self-efficacy spills over into academics, health, career, and other areas of your life. As you become better educated you also develop a stronger sense of identity.”
And a strong sense of identity, she said, is key when setting goals and making resolutions.
Here are Rodier’s top five tips for reinventing yourself this year:
- Make sure you are making the change for you and not for someone else. No one can make you change if you don’t want to, so be sure to examine why you are setting your goal. Make sure it is for something you want.
- Embrace your new identity. Buy the workout gear or the college sweatshirt, designate a location in your home as the place where you will work on your goal, get rid of things that relate to the “old you.” Look the part.
- Be active in your reinvented lifestyle. The most successful life changers are curious. They go to events, they attend the informational seminar, they engage in their new community, they push their comfort zone. Show up.
- Start small and build on your successes. You have to prove to yourself that you are capable of achieving your goal, so set small goals and build on them. This could be learning one new task or enrolling in a non-credit course. Learn one new thing.
- Celebrate yourself. Rather than beating yourself up about the ways you may have failed, celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Your confidence will continue to grow.
Andrea Marais contributed to this article.