10 Actions to Help Student Readiness

Both my kids went away to university for their first year. They were both miserable and came home for their second year. Part of this was the complete change in social life, but a major part was that they were lost on what was expected of them academically and how to study. First-year students often need extra support adjusting to this.

What we can do to help them

  1. Be very clear on our expectations. Create rubrics that describe each aspect of how you will be grading and share these with the students.
  2. Provide links to student services: services that support students with writing, remedial math, etc. and services that help students in distress such as mental health clinics. If you expect students to use technologies, provide links to both how to access/install the technologies and how to use them.
  3. Encourage your students to complete their homework in small groups.
  4. Do not grade on a curve. Curves automatically create competition and punish those who are less ready.
  5. Provide email, discussions, and/or chats specifically for assignment questions. If using a discussion group for assignment questions, provide points for students who answer other student’s questions (perhaps 1 point for incorrect/incomplete answer, 5 for correct). Give specific dates and times of when you will monitor these so students know when to expect answers/help.
  6. If you are expecting project work, provide training on project management (see chapter C11) and require frequent drafts.
  7. If you are expecting long-term group work, provide training on group management (see chapter C11).
  8. Provide solid feedback that explains what they did right and wrong, and what they can do to improve (see the chapter on feedback).
  9. Teach students metacognitive skills. This will help them identify what and how to study. McGuire & McGuire (2015) provide a wealth of information on how you can do this.
  10. At the end of the semester:
    • Review how the students did and what questions they asked.
    • Ask your students what you could do to provide more and/or better support.
    • Ask your students for feedback on the assignments including the directions.
    • Revise the assignments for the next course offering.

McGuire, S. Y., & McGuire, S. (2015). Teach students how to learn: Strategies you can incorporate into any course to improve student metacognition, study skills, and motivation (First edition). Stylus Publishing, LLC.

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