Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saving students at the very end of the semester

We get them every year--the students who, two to three weeks before the exam, realize that they need help. It is always difficult. It is in our nature to try to save every student. Some students will get it together, and make it through first-semester exams. Other students have just missed too much, and cannot pack enough into the last few weeks. When I meet with students in crisis, I discuss a number of factors that affect their outcomes:

1) Have you kept up with the reading?

If the students has blown off the reading all semester, it is near-impossible to catch up at the end of the semester.

2) Have you discussed your challenges with your professor?

If a student is struggling to understand the substantive material, their first stop should be their professor. I find that may students are intimidated by their professors, and resist seeking the assistance they need in order to understand the material. With support and encouragement, I can usually help these students craft questions to ask their professors that help them gain a better understanding of course material.

3) Are you synthesizing the material (outlining/course summaries)?

Many students wait for some magic moment when their courses come together. They do not understand that they create that magic moment for themselves when they synthesize the course material. Synthesizing the course material can come in the form of a tradition outline, or it can be graphs, flow charts, are some amalgamation of all of these things. While waiting until the last 2-3 weeks of class is not a good idea, if a student has not started synthesizing the material into one document, getting them started will help them before finals.

4) If you had a major life issue that disrupted your study plans, is that issue resolved?

If a student has an ongoing, disruptive life issue that consumes a large amount of time and energy, they may be better off taking a leave of absence before finals. Yes, they lose a semester of tuition (not good), withdrawing before finals gives them the opportunity to come back after they have their life in order.

5) Do you feel like you can succeed?

The student has to find it within themselves to succeed; I cannot help them if they are unwilling to help themselves. If a student is too distraught, they cannot focus on the tough work they need to do to catch up. Students need to self-evaluate.

(RCF)

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