[Itech] Fwd: TP Msg. #1182 The Twitter Generation: Teaching Deferred Gratification to College Students

Teresa Franklin franklit at ohio.edu
Mon May 28 19:28:44 EDT 2012

Hello Graduates:

This is a great listserv that I belong to and am sharing this article
from.  Tomorrow's Professor is an outstanding group of educators that look
for articles around the world that have to do with teaching and learning in
higher education.  For those of you hoping to become professors someday, I
suggest you subscribe.  The articles are condensed with the reference for
reading the full article if you wish. This one is very interesting
concerning 'deferred gratification'.  I hope you enjoy it.

Dr. Franklin

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rick Reis <reis at stanford.edu>
Date: Mon, May 28, 2012 at 7:11 PM
Subject: TP Msg. #1182 The Twitter Generation: Teaching Deferred
Gratification to College Students
To: tomorrows-professor <tomorrows-professor at lists.stanford.edu>

Consider this: The research on deferred gratification connects with the
research in the emerging neurodevelopment science of education. Moreover,
there is a strong correlation between deferred gratification—defined as
self-regulation—and current and future academic, social, and emotional
success. And finally, teaching deferred gratification may increase student
retention. Happily, there are specific, unique, and research-based
strategies that educators can deploy to explicitly teach deferred
gratification or self-regulation to all college students.


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The posting below looks at the relationship between deferred gratification
and academic performance and suggest ways that the former can be taught to
students. It is by Patty O’Grady, of the University of Tampa in Tampa,
Florida, and is #61 in a series of selected excerpts from The NT&LF
reproduced here as part of our "Shared Mission Partnership." NT&LF has a
wealth of information on all aspects of teaching and learning. If you are
not already a subscriber, you can check it out at [http://www.ntlf.com/]
The on-line edition of the Forum - like the printed version - offers
subscribers insight from colleagues eager to share new ways of helping
students reach the highest levels of learning. National Teaching and
Learning Forum Newsletter, Vol. 21, Number 3, March 2012.© Copyright
1996-2012. Published by James Rhem & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved
worldwide. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu
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------------------------------------------------- 1,783 words

The Twitter Generation: Teaching Deferred Gratification to College Students

Consider this: The research on deferred gratification connects with the
research in the emerging neurodevelopment science of education. Moreover,
there is a strong correlation between deferred gratification—defined as
self-regulation—and current and future academic, social, and emotional
success. And finally, teaching deferred gratification may increase student
retention. Happily, there are specific, unique, and research-based
strategies that educators can deploy to explicitly teach deferred
gratification or self-regulation to all college students.


Current college students are conditioned to expect instant gratification,
whether in instant messages, instant admissions, speed dating, instant
credit, or instant feedback from professors: How many pages do you want?
Deferred gratification—also referred to as impulse control,
self-regulation, self-control, self-discipline, patience, and will power—is
the ability to delay reward. Goleman (1996) suggests that self-regulation
is a key factor in emotional intelligence, predictive of both academic and
personal success across multiple assessment variables. New neuroscience
research suggests that deferred gratification is a brain process that
activates the frontal cortex to manage the impulses and emotions of the
amygdala. There is also emerging evidence that deferred gratification can
be affected by direct experience and, as I’ve said, explicitly taught to
young adults who may possess poor patience and planning abilities.
(Davidson 2003).

The Marshmallow Effect

The famous Stanford University “marshmallow experiment” offers some
background indicating that good impulse control seems to be important for
academic achievement and life success (Mischel et al. 1989). In the 1960s
and 1970s, Mischel and his colleagues studied 651 preschool-aged children
examining the mental mechanisms that affect cognitive and emotional
self-regulation (Mischel et al. 1989; Mischel & Ayduk 2004). The children
were given a marshmallow and advised that if they waited to eat a
marshmallow until the experimenter returned from an errand after 15-20
minutes, the experimenter would give the child two marshmallows to eat.
One-third of the children ate the marshmallow almost immediately. One-third
of the children waited some period of time, but ate the marshmallow before
the experimenter returned. One-third of the children waited long enough to
earn the second marshmallow. In a longitudinal follow-up study, the same
children were tested at 18 years of age (Mischel, Shoda, & Peake 1989). The
children who ate the marshmallow immediately, labeled the low delayers,
were compared to the children who waited to receive the enhanced reward,
labeled the high delayers. Across a range of measured variables—including
behavioral measures, cognitive measures, attention measures, social and
relationship measures, physical health measures, stress measures, school
attendance, school completion, early pregnancy, truancy, drug use, and
criminal activity—low delayers performed less success- fully. Most
significantly, the high delayers (610-625) scored, on average, 210 points
higher on the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) in mathematics than the low
delayers (524-528). The predictive variable was deemed the “strategic
allocation of attention” or the ability to self-distract (Mischel et al.
1972; Mischel et al. 1988). As children, these adults exhibited the ability
to self-moderate and modulate emotions using cognitive strategies (e.g.,
singing to self, covering eyes). The findings are stable across cultures.
Based on this research, ability to self-regulate is a better predictor of
SAT score than Intelligence Quotient (IQ) or parent education or even
economic status (Goleman 1996).

Neuroscience of Self-Regulation

Goleman (1996) advanced the theory of emotional intelligence summarizing
the research that students who are emotionally competent, recognize and
manage their feelings, exhibit empathy and tolerate frustration are less
impulsive, more focused, and concentrate better. Goleman further argued
that emotionally intelligent students manage their impulses and tend to
find rational solutions to problems. Goleman’s propositions are perfectly
aligned with Mischel’s claims that self-regulation is a key determinant of
future success across multiple variables and that a lack of self-regulation
is associated with increased academic, social, and behavioral difficulties.
Fredricks et al. (2004) suggest that the neuroscience is persuasive that
teachers must emphasize cognitive engagement. Cognitive engagement occurs
when teachers explicitly teach self-regulation to students activating
intrinsic motivation mechanisms rather than extrinsic motivation
mechanisms, and by developing the student’s internal locus of control
(Rotter 1990). This approach emphasizes the intrinsic value of learning and
the need for self-mastery such that students are able to persist by
consciously avoiding distractions. In young adults, important parts of the
brain in the prefrontal cortex that control planning, working memory,
organization, anticipation of consequences, impulse control, and mood
regulation are not fully developed. Even in later adolescence and young
adulthood, freshman and sophomore students may have an underdeveloped
prefrontal cortex and thus compensate by relying heavily on other parts of
the brain including the amygdala, a more primitive part of the brain that
reacts more instinctually and impulsively, impairing judgment and reducing

For proven biological reasons, these students are less able to
self-regulate overall than other students. Students with a predisposition
to impulsivity will fare even less well in the areas of controlling
behavior and making sound judgments (Davidson 2003). Connecting the
neuroscience evidence with cognitive self-regulation theories, it seems a
legitimate claim that high delayers have earlier and more advanced
prefrontal cortex development. Recently, McClure found two different areas
of the brain that appear to be involved in balancing short-term versus
long-term rewards in college students. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
studies demonstrated that in students who chose short-term gain, the active
areas of the brain are those areas that regulate emotion. Students who
chose the long-term gain had more activity in the prefrontal cortex that
activates logic and reasoning. While both parts of the brain are involved
in the decision, less emotionally reactive students make the better choice.

Teaching Self-Regulation

The research clearly indicates that educators can directly impact student
success by teaching self-regulation as a disposition predictive of success.
Experience can be found to reduce emotional decision-making and increase
rational decision-making. Teaching strategies to develop self-regulation
can be infused into the content curriculum relatively easily. Ten
recommended approaches are derived from the literature.

1. Sensory and Sensory/Motor Experiences — Increase students’ personal and
physical attention to self and body movement in space holding positions for
prescribed periods of time, as occurs in yoga. Use music, smell, touch, and
emotion to focus student’s self and sensory attention, discussing the
amount of time the sensory experience takes, how long it lingers with the
student, and how immediate the need is to recreate pleasant sensory
experiences. Encourage all freshmen and sophomores to take experiential
classes in movement, dance, and exercise science (Davis 2001; Kolb 2008;
Wilson 2001).

2. Project-based Learning — Increase complexity of task, challenge of task,
and student-driven inquiry to cognitive engagement through inquiry around
essential questions that pose multiple solutions, such that students are
aware of the amount of time needed to thoroughly investigate a problem or
finalize a project. Eliminate short term quick tasks such as quizzes and
increase semester-long projects — with intermediary steps clearly
structured — that require more in depth learning (Kwon & Lawson 2000;
Montgomery & Whiting 2000).

3. Stress Reduction — Stress is known to have a negative impact on
neurodevelopment, so educators need to reduce stress to the maximum extent
possible by creating supportive, nonthreatening, nonpunitive, emotionally
safe classroom climates and school cultures committed to integrating the
principles of positive psychology in the classroom that are correlated to
regulation and resiliency. Freshmen and sophomores should work with
advisors to record and chart antecedent conditions associated with
stressful situations and report amount of stress time experienced daily
(Resnick 1993).

4. Affiliation — Provide diverse opportunities to fully participate and
succeed at school in both curricular, cocurricular, and extracurricular
activities with full inclusion and zero rejection policies to ensure a
sense of belonging, including clubs, field trips, competitions, intramural
sports, and more. Include service-learning activities that help others and
build empathy. Freshmen and sophomores should be required to participate in
one club and take one service-learning class each semester as part of their
academic requirements. Students record and chart time spent preparing for
those activities and participating in those activities and record positive
outcomes experienced (Catalano et al. 1997; Resnick 1993).

5. Goal Setting — Students generate self-directed plans that include
written goals and an implementtion timeline that requires students to plan,
monitor, evaluate progress, and identify ways to continuously improve in
all freshman classes.

6. Strategic Time Allocation — Freshman students are required to generate
daily/weekly/monthly schedules with specific times to complete tasks and
assessment of how long the tasks took to complete, with ongoing revision of
schedules as needed or modification of tasks for successful completion
based on data analysis. Schedules are posted online as a prerequisite for
continued enrollment.

7. Positive Distractors — Freshman students identify personal positive
distractors (e.g., headphones with music, work time in library, exercise
breaks) that increase persistence to tasks as part of orientation

8. Token Economy Systems — Freshman and sophomore students collect tokens
that are saved to acquire larger and more valued rewards such as
independent work time in exchange for a set number of days of uninterrupted

9. Competitions — Hold competitions to determine what individual/groups can
defer gratification longest. Coach individuals and groups, explicitly
teaching definitions of deferred gratification, examples and non-examples
of deferred gratification, distracting techniques (e.g., counting when
angry). Practice through competitions for cases where a longer term
commitment to tasks is required.

10. Second Chances — Provide opportunity to change and improve prospects at
crucial “turning points” in development, especially during times of
significant transition. Students report how lack of self-regulation
contributed to the need for a second chance, and anticipate and describe
how the second chance will improve their future (Rayner et al. 1993). Adopt
a restorative justice discipline model university-wide for freshmen and

Mischel (1989) argues that you can teach deferred gratification. He and
other researchers identify three key conditions necessary to teach deferred
gratification or impulse control. The first consideration is the trust
expectation that relates to the degree to which the college student
believes the reward will actually be received (Ferrin & Dirks 2003).
Second, the reward must be worth waiting for because college students
assign a set value to certain rewards and the rewards must be commensurate
with the exertion of the wait (Washington Lewis Univer- sity 2007).
Finally, an academic environment that is predictable and structured is
essential to the practice of deferred gratification. The academic
environment must insist on written goals and plans to ensure a level of
cognitive engagement with tasks that increases the ability to defer
graduation. Trust, value, and practice are the core considerations in a
curriculum design that is intended to give students a significant advantage
by explicitly teaching deferred gratification.

[References for this article will be found as supplemental materials on

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