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A New Workshop Experience

At the Weingarten Center, we recognize that time management is an extremely important aspect of academic success. Over the last 25 years, we have had several appointments with students and many workshops to engage the challenges of time management. At the same time, we continue to ask the question, “What else can we do to bring tailored support to all our students?”

Well, Aisha Oshilaja (C’ 20), one of our Weingarten Ambassadors, had a revolutionary idea: a time management seminar that allowed students to put their time management to the test in context! Below, we share Aisha’s thoughts in response to a few questions:

Q: Can you tell us a little about your work as a Weingarten Ambassador?

Over the past year and a half, I have been working as a Weingarten Ambassador to create a Time Management Seminar.  Working on the seminar for the past eighteen months has been an enlightening experience and provided me with a glimpse of the issues that many people struggle through during freshman year. In preparation for the seminar, Gabriel Angrand and I disseminated and analyzed a survey [that generated about 40 responses] that encouraged students to reflect on their freshman year time management skills. We were hoping to have an in-person seminar, but our plans were adjusted due to COVID-19.

Q:  You mentioned that a survey informed the creation of the Time Management Seminar. Could you share a little about what you discovered?

At the beginning of a semester, we are often told to make a plan and use that to complete our work. Consistent with this advice, more than 50% of the students surveyed used daily, weekly, monthly and semester planners to help them organize their responsibilities. However, most people (61%) said that they did not have time management skills. It seemed as though people did not have problems with planning their work but in executing their plan. I thought this was interesting in and of itself, but I wonder how this fact would affect the advice given about staying on top of work. How do we re-shape advice to provide tangible steps to execute plans or ways to improve planning, so that success is more achievable?

An image that illustrates how more than one plan may be needed to achieve success.
An image that illustrates how more than one plan may be needed to achieve success.

Q: It seems like the Time Management Seminar could be a potential answer to your question, actually! What surprised you about the results and have those results helped you to think about some additional solutions to this challenge of developing time management skills?

One of the statements asked students their level of agreement with the following statement,“During first year, I knew where to go to improve my time management skills”. Over half of the students (52%) responded “Agree” or “Strongly Agree”. This was surprising to me because I assumed that first year students simply needed to be informed of where to receive help. Even if they might need to hear it from other students, I thought that the knowledge alone would be enough. However, the response suggests that students need more than the message, “Weingarten is where you go to get help”.

Students would benefit from increased student-led intervention tactics such as Weingarten staff connecting with academic [chairs] of student clubs. Additionally, Weingarten could create a student position similar to a tutor where students mentor others with issues such as time management, study strategies and future planning.  These students would assist learning instructors and also bring necessary skills to students who may not feel [comfortable] in the formal space.

Q: I think you make an interesting point about empowering and leveraging student voices! What is one thing you want other students to take away from this blog post?

63% of students said that they experienced unanticipated interruptions to their study sessions at least three times a week. Things will happen, so it helps to leave time in your schedule for the unexpected. You should avoid becoming frustrated by unanticipated events. Instead, learn how to evaluate the event and handle it appropriately, so it feels more like a break instead of an interruption. For example, a common interruption is a surprise event or friend bonding session. These interruptions tend to be time consuming and difficult to extract yourself from after a short amount of time.

I have found that the best way to convert these types of interruptions into breaks is setting two timers on your phone: one for the time you hope to leave and one ten minutes after that. Those alarms should help to remind you to leave the situation on time.

Feedback from a Workshop in August 2020

A portion of this Time Management Seminar was used in a workshop for a virtual summer program and the feedback was phenomenal! Here is one student quote in particular:

“I really liked the [seminar] because they raised problems that I have faced such as planning “ideal schedules” and not practical and flexible ones. The [seminar] also gave me a window into what Penn students’ experiences with time management are like so they allowed me to get a glimpse into that world.”

If you and your student group are interested in the Time Management Seminar or discussing how to manage the inevitable, feel free to send an email to gangrand@upenn.edu!

By Staff Writer: Gabriel Angrand, STEM Learning Specialist

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