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Do capital letters really demotivate students?

Would you find the use of capital letters demotivating? Source: Tra Nguyen/Unsplash

Every professor has their own unique marking style.

One professor who offers a wealth of positive feedback may lack constructive critique, while another may use creative meme stickers to mark your work but fail to provide adequate context.

But what if a certain professor loves to use negative words such as “NO” and “DON’T” in a capitalised format?

Would that demotivate your learning or would you feel motivated to turn those capital letters right back around?

The last thing a teacher should do is alienate students. Source: Filip Bunkens/Unsplash

That’s the question that Leeds Trinity University recently put out to its staff.

Reported to have sent a memo out to members of faculty to warn them against using uppercase letters that may scare students into failure, the university sought to reinforce positive feedback and diminish negativity.

As the memo states, “Despite our best attempts to explain assessment tasks, any lack of clarity can generate anxiety and even discourage students from attempting the assessment at all.”

The note received considerable backlash among sceptics, who claim it “is just aiding to the ‘snowflake’ generation being overindulged throughout their education.”

But as the university believes, words written in capitals could trigger a student’s anxiety and make the assignment appear more difficult, thus generating avoidable stress and self-doubt.

Anxiety is a challenge faced by many students in the contemporary higher education system. From library anxiety to exam anxiety, it comes in many shapes and sizes with often incapacitating effects.

Despite critics claiming that today’s students are bubble-wrapped and delicately treated, statistics show that severe cases of library anxiety really can prevent students from achieving ultimate academic success.

There are hundreds of thousands of articles out there seeking to help students overcome stress at university, so if critics believe these learners are exaggerating their distress or exuding imaginary doubt from within, why do the statistics point towards scientific truth?

If capital letters really do hinder students’ self-belief, shouldn’t every university ignore the ‘snowflake’ critics and follow the example of Leeds Trinity to ease the minds of struggling learners?

If UK students are forking out £9k a year for degree-level education, it’s completely understandable that they want to do well.

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