Prevention is the best strategy, and here’s a rule of thumb:
To avert stress in a coding bootcamp, program designers need to foster a strong sense of community, not just impart technical knowledge. I like to use daily standups to help students get to know each other and realize that everyone’s in the same boat. We start with an icebreaker. For example: “Would you rather backpack in Europe or go on a cruise?” As participants answer, they learn about each other, which builds camaraderie.
Next, we ask two very important questions: “What was one success from yesterday?” and “What is something you’re still struggling with today?” Students have to speak about one success (no matter how tiny) and then describe any struggles they’re having. As they do this, they hear from others with similar struggles. They realize they’re not alone.
This camaraderie continues to grow as they work together in small groups or breakout rooms. Conversations easily flow back and forth. They strategize, problem solve, offer technical help, discuss last weekend, and talk about dinner. They become friends, support each other, provide encouragement, and celebrate successes together.
Even with a strong community, however, mental blocks and meltdowns can still occur. If students are showing signs of stress, a good instructor will spot this and adjust accordingly. That could involve reviewing a topic that participants already know well and demonstrating how it’s similar to the new material they’re struggling with. An unexpected break or long lunch can help participants recharge.
Because social-emotional factors affect learning and retention, it’s imperative to plan proactively for managing the stress of a steep learning curve.