5 ways to improve student outcomes
Now is a good time to take inventory of teaching strategies that work, as well as areas that may need some fine-tuning next semester. Here are five common challenges you may face in your own course, and what you can do to impact student success:
1. Students complain about the cost of course materials and are reluctant to buy them.
What you’re up against: According to a survey of 2,000 students across 150 campuses, 65% of them don’t buy printed textbooks, mainly because a single textbook can cost upwards of $200. And almost all of these students—a whopping 94%—were anxious that their grades would suffer because of this decision.1
What you can do: Consider giving your students the option of purchasing course materials in the format they want. They can buy the printed textbook, customized version, or an e-textbook at a more affordable price that gives them the flexibility to highlight content, take notes, and post comments to the class.
2. They don’t fully understand the goals of your course.
What you’re up against: You spend a lot of time creating a syllabus and setting course goals, but students often fail to understand the overarching goals of your course.
What you can do: Try communicating your expectations in several ways. Studies show when you provide objectives through multiple channels like your syllabus, assignments, grading metrics, and then drive it home during office hours, students will grasp the goals of the course earlier and feel more empowered to reach them.2
3. Although you expect them to take responsibility for learning, students come to class unprepared.
What you’re up against: You assign required reading, but have an unsettling feeling a majority of your students are not prepared for class—and their test scores confirm your intuition.
What you can do: Don’t just require your students to do the reading—expect them to take ownership of their learning process. If you think they still need to be better prepared, give quizzes at the beginning of class that count towards their final grade.3
4. Course materials are considered optional.
What you’re up against: Some of your students stroll into class with nothing more than a Smartphone, assuming they’ll borrow good class notes from a friend.
What you can do: Ask them to bring their required course materials to class, and then refer to specific charts, studies, and topics from the text during lectures and group work. If you use these learning tools in class, those students who leave them behind will quickly see that they’re a necessary component of the learning process. You can then reinforce the importance of reading the material by posting weekly reminders on your course site.4
5. Students lack strong study habits—often falling back on familiar patterns like cramming for a test.
What you’re up against: Your students express a desire to learn in an efficient way that is best for them—but they don’t always know where to start.
What you can do: It is possible for us creatures of habit to drastically alter our routines for the better. For example, students and teachers enrolled in the Berkeley College of Music’s teacher-training program created weekly “life-hack reports” to help them modify habits and unlock their potential for change. Help your students refine their own study habits by encouraging them to set personal goals by actually writing them down and then reviewing these goals together on a continual basis.5