Thursday, January 8, 2009

Asking Faculty for Help

I sent an e-mail to my faculty today asking for help so that I can do a better job for my students.  I know that our students benefit when we coordinate our efforts rather than either side having isolated efforts.

My e-mail was specifically about their implementing some suggestions during their appointments with students to review exams.  For many of our faculty, they will have already been doing all the things I suggested.  And, for others, it meant asking them to increase their burden a bit.

I am very fortunate that Texas Tech law faculty work daily to help our students improve their performance.  We have a true open door policy here that means our students have the opportunity for a great deal of faculty contact if they wish to solicit help.  My faculty has been very welcoming of ASP since I began the program.  So, I realize that it was non-threatening for me to ask my faculty to help me out.

I have suggested below some things that you might ask faculty for help with as they begin to see students who are worried about grades (or at least want to do better this semester).  This list is brief and does not encompass everything that could have been included.

  • If a student mentions s/he is on probation, encourage the student to work with ASP staff immediately.  Some students try to go it alone.  The more people who tell them to work with ASP, the more likely they will follow up with an appointment.
  • If a student had a low grade but did not end up on probation, encourage the student to work with ASP staff also.  These students can benefit from ASP help even though they may not consider themselves as being "in trouble."  A few appointments on appropriate strategies can elicit dramatic results.
  • Echoing Rebecca's advice, faculty should be on the lookout for students who have disabilities but failed to request accommodations or whose disabilities have gone undiagnosed before law school.  ASP staff can help students with study strategies and make referrals that may be needed.
  • Faculty should also be on the lookout for students who have other factors interfering with their performance.  Coping with illness, death in the family, or financial concerns can be debilitating.  Married students often have special circumstances as do law students with children.  ASP staff can help these students with study techniques that take into account their circumstances.  ASP staff can also make appropriate referrals to other deans or services.
  • Suggest that a faculty member talk with you personally if there is any student about whom s/he especially concerned.  Again, you may be able to assist the student and make referrals as needed.
  • Students often listen carefully to faculty feedback but do not write down any notes.  Ask faculty members to encourage students to take notes so that when you later work with them you will have the details and not just the gist of the exam review.  (This generation of college and graduate students seems especially prone to avoid notes in meetings and appointments.)
  • Thank your faculty ahead for their help and for all the other things that they do for your students each day that make your job easier.

I provide my faculty and students with handouts on questions/patterns to refer to during the exam review process.  In addition, I ask them to make suggestions on how I can improve these handouts.  If you have similar handouts, consider sharing them so that all of you are working on the same agenda in exam reviews.

If you are not sure whether your faculty as a whole would welcome a solicitation for help and suggestions from you, then start small.  Have the discussion with those faculty members who will be open to coordination of efforts.  Alternatively, talk with the Associate Dean for Academics about a possible joint communication with the faculty.  (Amy Jarmon)

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