September 4, 2008

Project Introduces Students to Helpful Resources

By: in Effective Classroom Management

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Many of my students wait until they are in academic trouble before they seek help. By then, they are often in too deep to be retrieved. At the beginning of the semester, I’ve always tried to encourage students to know what support services are available to them. “Find help before you need it!” I tell them. But often times this advice is either completely ignored or stored for use when it’s too late. How could I convince students to heed my advice? I needed a more creative approach.

My concern prompted the development of something I call the Resource Hunt! In putting this project together, I focused on resources that could help all students in my class. The list included me, our math tutoring lab, a website by our textbook publisher, and Blackboard, our course management system. I then created a task to highlight each of these resources.

I should also confess up that I got serious about this project when I knew that I was going to have to miss class to attend a professional meeting. I don’t feel right about canceling class, and even though colleagues graciously agreed to cover, I’ve never found that works particularly well. I needed a substantive, beneficial project that students could complete on their own.

During the class meeting prior to my absence, I distributed the project sheet. The instructions read: The activities in this project are designed to introduce you to some resources that you may find helpful as you begin your study of Calculus. All activities must be completed by the time indicated. The tasks were as follows:

Task 1. Locate the math tutoring lab. Give the building name and room number, then copy the schedule on the back of this page. Please have one of the tutors sign the statement below.

I verify that ______successfully located the math tutoring lab. ______Signature of tutor or instructor

Task 2. There is an excellent website that supports our textbook. The site has many resources for students including a section of chapter quizzes. Find the website listed in the opening pages of your textbook. Go to the site and take the practice test for Chapter 1. Submit your results; then follow the directions for having the results submitted to your instructor at Your project grade will not reflect your score on this quiz, merely that you completed the quiz. You must submit the quiz on or before Jan. 30.

Task 3. While at the website, locate the section on chapter summaries. Go to the Chapter 1 summary. Click on the first objective under 1.3 and print a copy of the objective. Bring the printed copy with you to class on Friday, Jan. 31.

Task 4. Another helpful source is your instructor. Refer to your syllabus to find the location of my office. Visit my office before Jan. 30 and sign the “signature” sheet that is posted on the bulletin board by my office door. Hopefully, this will not be the only time you visit my office!

Task 5. Grades for our class will be kept on Blackboard. Go to follow the information to log in to the system. Go to our class and check the “ghost” grade recorded for your Chapter 1 Exam. Write the grade in the space below.

The Resource Hunt proved to be very successful. In completing Task 1, students not only located the math lab and copied the schedule, but they also met one of the math tutors who made the students feel welcome and encouraged return visits. Tasks 2 and 3 demonstrated the usefulness of the publisher’s website. Students were both surprised and excited to find the sample problems, chapter summaries, class notes, etc. available to assist them. The quiz allowed me to get a quick “pre-test” for Chapter 1 skills and also demonstrated a way that students could self-assess throughout the semester. Since students had to e-mail the quiz results to me, a communication link between instructor and student was established. In addition, the quiz problems provided a nice introduction to the chapter sections. Task 4 and Task 5 provided the assurance that my students could locate me and also access the grades and assignments that would be posted on Blackboard.

What started out as a possible “wasted” day turned out to be one of the most productive. I attended the conference knowing that I had provided a worthwhile outside assignment. But once I returned and saw how well it worked, I decided to use the Resource Hunt even when I don’t miss class.

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