“I don’t understand why these students don’t know how to read.”
“If I gave them the notes, they still wouldn’t study.”
“How do I get students to actually read?”
“They say that they’re reading, but you wouldn’t be able to tell in class discussions.”
Have you heard these remarks around the water cooler in your department? Most likely, you have heard them or even made these remarks yourself. These questions are not unique to your department or even to your experience level. I hear them from all disciplines and from faculty with a range of experience in the classroom. These issues are not biased to any particular classroom and can be found across the board. These questions are typically asked out of frustration without the realization that there are some resources and methods available to help.
What’s the secret? Well before we talk about that, let’s first talk about the students. Remember when you were an undergraduate student? Do you remember knowing exactly what to study, much less HOW to study? There’s a gap in the knowledge of our undergraduates and sometimes our graduate students in how to study and how study efficiently. As educators is it not our duty to help mind that gap—to fill in the spaces of confusion to better communicate an idea or concept?
Recently I attended two different presentations on campus, both of which spoke to the importance of helping students learn how to learn. During Educators Connect keynote speaker, Dr. Saundra McGuire, challenged the attendants to define the difference between studying and learning. While the former takes on a role of regurgitation to get through a quiz or test, the latter incorporates a deeper understanding of content. Which task are our students challenged to by our instruction and assessment?
The most recent presentation with Dr. Amy Miller and Dr. Joyce Inman seemed to coordinate hand-in-hand with Dr. McGuire’s message with specific targets to the Southern Miss student. These two dynamic presenters challenged the attendants to take those aforementioned questions a step further by addressing them. Instead of just asking questions or becoming frustrated, why not show students HOW to do it. Show them how to actively read. Provide for them an example of a good writing sample. Share with them active listening techniques. You are an expert in your field and you didn’t get here without the knowledge of how to study, how to read articles, or how to take notes. These tasks are more second nature to you now, but to a learner just starting out, guidance is needed. Who better to teach those much-needed skills than you?
Take a few minutes at the beginning of select class meetings to show how to accomplish some of these study skills. Let your students know that you had to learn while you were in school and share a few tips of what works for you. This opens the door for students to see (and realize) that there are different study habits while letting them know what you are expecting from them when you give assignments, i.e. You tell them to read which means you expect them to be able to contribute to the discussion the next class meeting. A lot of students believe that the amount of studying completed in high school will suffice in college, which is not the reality. They do not know the difference between quality and quantity of studying. Help them bridge that gap.
Does this mean you are responsible for developing their learning process? No, no one is responsible for that except for them. Your responsibility is introducing them to the concepts of learning. There are plenty of resources on campus to help with their development in the learning process. These are listed below. Taking time to attend to the fact that students might not understand the expectations of class could alleviate a lot of later frustration for you.
Resources you (and your students) can take advantage of that help with academic development:
What resources on campus are you incorporating into your classes for you students? How do you help your students bridge the learning gap?