Dr. Stephanie Dennis on Motivation, Time Management and Goal Setting in the age of COVID

The Gunston School welcomed Dr. Stephanie Dennis to its Diversity Leadership Speaker Series on January 20, 2021. Dr. Dennis spoke to students and faculty about the ways in which the pandemic has amplified not just the difficulties experienced by those with learning differences, but across the board for everyone, and the importance of formulating an action plan for yourself.  

The challenges of online learning are myriad — Zoom fatigue, difficulty concentrating, distractibility, family challenges, staying engaged, too much screen time, academic integrity, accessing support and resources, and what even is “normal” anymore?

Dr. Dennis explained that effective learning is so much more than just a level of intelligence one possesses. “Executive functioning goes on behind the scenes,” she explained “and relies on cultivating skills such as impulse control and regulating emotions, goal-setting, flexibility in thinking and shifting perspectives, prioritizing, organizing ideas, thoughts and materials, initiating tasks and monitoring progress, sustaining attention, memory (information recall) and self-awareness.” These are all key components of the learning process.

“It is ok if you learn in a unique and different way, and in fact it should be celebrated,” she continued, “Shine a light and illuminate the different strengths and the gifts that diverse learners bring to the table.”

Dr. Dennis encouraged students to identify their strengths and their challenges and to formulate an action plan. 

  • What are you willing to do to address these and improve? 
  • Find a partner to go over your goals and your plan and ask them to hold you accountable.
  • Identify the types of things that impact your motivation (too much social media, stress, fatigue, etc.) and formulate an action plan to avoid them.
  • Give yourself permission to be tired and to acknowledge that tiredness. 

“For time management, use everything at your disposal,” she advised. “Paper and pen, to-do lists, accountability partners, online tools (calendars, reminders, etc.). Set timers and alarms that help you stick to a routine and strive for consistency over perfection. Instead of setting a goal of an A on an assignment, try to develop habits that will lead to better grades and let that be the goal: always turn in your homework on time, always ask questions for clarity, seek out feedback.”

Dr. Dennis is an educator, curriculum development expert and student advocate with 30 years of experience leading, teaching and coaching instructors, families, and students in both private and public school settings. Dr. Dennis' life's work has been to increase the understanding of how children learn; providing expert guidance on the needs of students with educational disabilities in academically rigorous environments. 
 
Dr. Dennis has served in the role of Director of Academics at Gilman since 2016. She is also an adjunct professor at Towson University, teaching Universal Design for Learning, Introduction to Special Education and Understanding Diverse Learners in the General Education Classroom. 
 

Dr. Stephanie Davis speaks to Gunston students and faculty about learning in the age of COVID

Dr. Stephanie Davis gave a virtual presentation to Gunston faculty and students on learning in the age of COVID.