Scaffolding students out of procrastination: teacher interview with Mike Cahir

Scaffolding students out of procrastination: teacher interview with Mike Cahir

Student Success Podcast No. 16
Feb. 10, 2014, recorded Feb 8, 2014

Today’s Guest: Mike Cahir, Teacher and Department Chair, English Department, Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, DC

In this interview, Mike rejoins us to discuss procrastination from the point of view of a high school teacher. I ask him about his take on procrastination, and then I review some of the ideas that we are learning from Dr. Pychyl of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University. Mike processes this new information through delivers his own experiences and offers ideas and advice for both students and teachers.

Most importantly, Mike connects timely teacher feedback to overcoming procrastination — if the feedback is slow or late the value behind the assignment is now lost and the learning is rendered irrelevant to the student.

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Guest Biography

Mike Cahir is an award-winning teacher of English and Department Chair at Archbishop Carroll High School in NE, Washington, DC. Mike has taught at the middle and high school level. He is expert in and dedicated to engaging students in reading and engaging text.

Show Notes:

  • Just ask the question: discussed impact of core idea from Podcast no. 4 discussion on teacher advice to student. Mike applied the strategy explicitly and successfully to 3-4 students.
  • Procrastination as a paradox, which Mike defines as “I have too much to do, so I’ll do nothing.”
  • Bromley: driven by emotion, anxiety, fear
  • Distractions as mood repair
  • Mike discusses the book “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal and reward structures build into gaming — challenging and with immediate feedback, and very seductive.
  • Behavioral Economists and immediate rewards.
  • Just getting started
  • Breaks and their dangers: using breaks for accomplishment and not delay
  • Mike: teachers need to provide immediate feedback.
  • Example of Joe Ross who would not leave work until his grading was done. This raised student performance.
  • Teachers should also scaffold assignments: break it down for students to engage and understand how/why it is important
    • Students won’t follow long-term assignments without constant feedback.
    • Consistent with Pychyl’s ideas about scaffolding
    • Mike experience with large IB projects: he realized that he was not connecting the pieces of the project. Made them more meaningful by connecting them and showing students how.
    • Example: bibliography and research: kids would do bibliographies last and lost track of sources. Thinking forward would connect the research to the bibliography.
  • using a calendar: un-scheduling
  • Students should ask teachers about their large projects, especially on how to get started on it.
    • provides instant feedback
    • helps scaffold the project
    • helps “just getting started”
  • Bromley: “could” v. “should”



Host: Michael L. Bromley Original Music by Christopher Bromley (copyright 2011, 2013) Background barking by Puck.
Best Dogs Ever: by Puck, Stella, & Artemis:

Puck does some barking this episode.
Puck does some barking this episode.






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