As a professor who just completed their first academic school year, I was naïve to believe that students regularly attended class. As college students, I
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
It was soon after my son enrolled in a local junior college that I realized something was wrong. Success, which seemed to come so easy to him in high school, was suddenly out of reach. In fact, he was failing every course! I quickly learned that in high school he did not have to exert any effort and was taught to simply memorize material.
Quick, what’s your biggest teaching challenge? If you said it’s students who don’t read their assignments or prepare for class, you’re in good company. For the fourth consecutive year that we posed that question in our survey, Faculty Focus readers identified students who come to class unprepared as their biggest day-to-day challenge. It was followed closely by students who are not prepared for the rigors of college. Finishing third this year was institutional budget cuts, which edged out student motivation for the first time. Technology distractions remained as the fifth biggest challenge.
In the previous article “Ready to Flip: Three Ways to Hold Students Accountable for Pre-Class Work,” I mentioned that one of the most frequently asked questions about the flipped classroom model is, “How do you encourage students to actually do the pre-class work and come to class prepared?”
Getting students to do their assigned reading is a struggle. Most teachers don’t need anyone to tell them what the research pretty consistently reports. On any given day, only 20 to 30 percent of the students arrive at class having done the reading. Faculty are using a variety of approaches to up that percentage: quizzes (announced, unannounced, online), assignments that require some sort of written response to the reading, reading journals, a variety of optional reading support materials, and calling on students to answer questions about the reading. Which of these approaches work best?
Imagine a world where students came to class prepared. Class time would be so much more productive and enjoyable for teachers and students alike. We would have informed class discussions and focus on students applying, analyzing, and evaluating the material under our expert guidance.
Not all students are prepared for a class. Reasons for lack of preparation range from failure to engage with the assigned material to failure to complete or sufficiently understand a prerequisite class to lack of adequate preparation before entering school.
It is difficult to teach if students are unprepared to learn. In a 2013 Faculty Focus reader survey, faculty were asked to rank their biggest day-to-day challenges. “Students who are not prepared for the rigors of college” and “Students who come to class unprepared” finished in a statistical dead heat as the #1 challenge; roughly 30% of the respondees rated both challenges as “very problematic.”
If you find yourself working longer hours or maybe feeling a bit more stressed at the end of the day, you’re not alone. Fifty percent of college faculty who completed the annual Faculty Focus reader survey said that their job is more difficult than it was five years ago. Only nine percent said their job is less difficult, while 33 percent said it’s about the same.
If unprepared students and student motivation are two of your biggest teaching challenges, you’re not alone. They scored number one and two in the annual Faculty Focus reader survey conducted earlier this year.