Building confidence in adult learners

(This is the first in a series of columns from Northeast State’s Dr. J. Michael Ramey, Evening Coordinator at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education).

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air. ~ John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), 6th President of the United States

By Dr. J. Michael Ramey

Students who do not fit the profile of the traditional undergraduate have always faced a unique set of obstacles and difficulties. Fortunately, the Tennessee Reconnect initiative is helping to remove what is perhaps the chief obstacle for many adult learners: the cost of tuition.

Through this series, I hope to spotlight some characteristics of these adult learners and promote understanding of issues faced by them as well as the wider college community.

Pursue opportunities for mastery and success in your daily life, even small ones.

This first post will focus on something called self-efficacy (accent on the eff as in effort). That’s a five-dollar word for a fairly simple concept – “how well I think I can execute some course of action.” For example, if you have high self-efficacy it means you are confident that you will succeed.

This ties in directly with the quote from Mr. Adams, above: you are more likely to persevere if you are confident in your likelihood of success. Conversely, if you lack confidence in your future success, the “magical talisman” loses power.

It may be comforting to know, however, that one’s level of self-efficacy can change over time. In other words, you aren’t stuck with a once-for-all number.

In fact, according to leading expert in the field Albert Bandura, there are four factors that can significantly increase or decrease one’s self-efficacy. The first is known as ‘enactive attainment.’ Every time we master a skill or unit of knowledge our overall confidence that we can achieve increases; when we fall short, our confidence decreases.

The second factor is known as “modeling.” In this case, our self-efficacy grows when we watch someone else succeed. Moreover, the factor is enhanced when we view ourselves as similar to the person.

Social persuasion, the third factor, carries the most potential for negative influence. While it is possible for others to increase our self-efficacy through direct encouragement, direct discouragement from others is more powerful. Unfortunately, it appears that the average person is more likely to believe discouraging remarks than encouraging ones.

The fourth factor encompasses several physical signs of distress, known collectively as physiological factors. These factors include sweaty palms, shaking, nervous stomach and more. While the factors have little effect on people with high self-efficacy, those with already low self-efficacy are likely to interpret these physical phenomena as signs of inability. Their level of confidence plummets further.

So, how can adult learners leverage these four factors to increase self-efficacy (or avoid a decrease)?

First, pursue opportunities for mastery and success in your daily life, even small ones. Every time you complete a task successfully, whether it’s a household chore, a craft project, or even a video game level, you are contributing to feelings of confidence in your ability to achieve. If you don’t already, try keeping a daily success log in which you document these small victories. Every time you look back at the log you will experience an additional boost in confidence.

Second, search for individuals who you consider similar to yourself and who have achieved what you wish to achieve – in this case, an academic degree. If you view the degree earner as “just like you,” the impact on self-efficacy will be greater.

Third, avoid any person who tries to discourage you from achieving your goal. If the person cannot be avoided completely then at the very least minimize contact. And while you’re at it, minimize contact with any kind of negativity, even if the person is not actively discouraging you. At the same time, surround yourself with positive people who encourage you.

Fourth, when it comes to physiological factors just realize that sweaty palms, and the like, are not indicators of ability. Even the greatest sports champions get butterflies before the big game. All these physical signs are really saying is that achieving a goal is important to you.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you’ve put some of these tips into practice. Also, please let me know which future topics you would like to see covered. Next month I’ll be taking a look at some traits that are common among adult learners. Hope you’ll join me then!

TRiO at Northeast State

(Northeast State highlights students service offices around campus this summer with links to their services. First up is the TRiO Students Support Services office.)

You know something that is both useful and great?  The TRiO Student Support Services Program at Northeast State.

The Northeast State TRiO team of Jenny Reed, Raylene Steward, Tonya Cassell, and Rita Lay assist students with a variety of services from academic planning and advising to tutoring and transfer opportunities.

TRiO assists low-income, first-generation and/or students with documented disabilities graduate from college and transfer to a four-year college or university. Northeast State’s TRiO SSS program serves 180 eligible students annually. Applications are being taken now for the fall semester and can be submitted here.

TRiO advising staff meet with students throughout the semester with a great emphasis on academic planning. TRiO advisors help students understand general education requirements, registration and financial aid opportunities, and understand degree/certificate programs available. To learn more about TRiO at Northeast State, visit their website and apply now for the fall semester.

NeSCC receives $729,000 grant to aid low-income students with childcare costs

Northeast State Community College has received a four-year $729,000 federal grant to assist low-income students with child care expenses. The program is expected to launch in January 2019.

The Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Education to help parents stay in college and complete a certificate or degree.

As envisioned, the program will serve families with preschool-age children who are enrolled in full-time daycare. However, part-time or after-school care may also be a possibility.

Northeast State plans to partner with local daycare providers who have a 3-star rating—the highest rating available—under the Tennessee Department of Human Services Child Care Report Card and Star Quality Program.

College officials say they hope to provide daycare locations that are convenient to the school’s campuses in Blountville, Elizabethton, Johnson City, and Kingsport.

More information on eligibility requirements and the application process will be released at a later date.

Muriel Anderson kicks off Hot Nights, Cool Music series on June 26

Guitarist Muriel Anderson returns to Northeast State this month to perform in the Hot Nights, Cool Music summer concert series.

Anderson will perform at 7:00 p.m. on June 26 at the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts Theater on the College’s Blountville campus. The performance kicks off the College’s “Hot Nights, Cool Music” summer concert series. The concert is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Anderson ranks among the top acoustic nylon-string guitarists / harp-guitarists in the world. She is the first woman to have won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship.

Muriel Anderson (Courtesy of Muriel Anderson)

Anderson’s recent CD Nightlight Daylight has won top honors in 11 national awards. It features her concept – the first ever interactive lighted CD cover and includes collaborations with her friends and fellow musicians Victor Wooten, Phil Keaggy, Mark Kibble of Take 6, Danny Gottlieb, Stanley Jordan, Tommy Emmanuel, Tierra Negra and members of the Nashville Symphony. She has performed/recorded with Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Victor Wooten and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. She has been composing since the age of six and has published works for guitar and orchestra, voice, and solo guitar.

Anderson has released more than a dozen instrumental CD’s, eight instructional DVD’s and guitar books published by Hal Leonard, Mel Bay, and Zen-On Japan.  Her compositions include commissioned classical works for the Nashville Chamber Orchestra and Vox Caelestis Womens Choir, as well as songs which have appeared as title tracks for three albums by various artists.

She will be offering a free musician’s workshop on June 27 in the Auditorium of the Blountville campus.  Interested participants can contact for more information.

Don’t miss the chance to hear one of the most talented instrumental musicians performing today. For more information, contact 423.279.7669 or