Student Advising Challenges and Growth

One of the major challenges for General Education students is the lack of continuity between instructors for different courses and not seeing the same cohort of classmates from quarter to quarter. Until Fall 2016, no counselor was assigned to General Education, and we are just beginning to develop an advising model. General Education students often struggle to understand all the requirements for getting to their desired career, or what order to take their courses in. Those who are unfamiliar with college expectations can have a hard time understanding how often they need to study and how to study successfully. Here are some examples of things I’ve heard from students that are not directly related to course content:

  • “In my home country, all test questions required you to write out a memorized answer; there were no multiple choices. The average was usually 50%, so when I came here and got 60% on my first test, I thought I was doing great!”
  • “I want to be a nurse anesthetist. My advisor has been helping me to plan my classes at RTC, but they have lots of other people to see, and I need help figuring out which different degrees I will need, what the schools look for most during admissions, and how long it will take for me to get all the way through.”
  • “I’m studying so hard and I still am not getting the grade I want. I can’t come and talk to you to get extra help because I work every day. I feel so discouraged; maybe I should give up.”
  • “I signed up for Biol& 241 next quarter because it’s the next highest number after Biol& 160. Does that seem like a good idea?”
  • “I am struggling to understand this online course because I haven’t had enough money to buy the textbook. I barely have enough gas to make it to lab on Saturday. What should I do?”

While my major role in class is to help students understand content related to the course objectives, I strive to develop relationships with students and encourage them to meet with me one on one when they need help with academic or career advice that may be outside the purview of counselors. I began holding office hours in the Learning Resource and Career Center (LRCC), which is much more accessible to students than my office and is often where they are studying or working on computers anyway.

In Spring 2016, I developed an assignment to hand out shortly after the first quiz. The assignment asks all students to identify reasons for missed questions and reflect on study practices that could prevent these problems in the future. The second part of the assignment is only required for those who scored below 66%, and offers to bring their grade up if they meet with me during office hours or with a biology tutor at the Learning Resource and Career Center and complete items from a checklist that includes:

  • Make a list of practice questions and answers based on at least 3 objectives
  • Make flash cards based on at least 3 objectives and began practicing them
  • Rewrite class notes in an organized way
  • Practice explaining concepts from the objectives to the tutor or instructor
  • Make a detailed study plan that included at least 10 hours of study per week and a list of specific activities you will do when studying

At the end, they have to make a follow-up appointment with the instructor or tutor and get their signature. I’ve found that when I get a student in to see me or a tutor once, they see it as more normal and are often willing to come back regularly throughout the quarter.

My major goals related to student mentoring and advising this year are:

  • Work with advising to finish making a week-by-week model for general education, and pilot the model
  • Implement more regular checkpoints in the quarter where students are required to reflect on how they’re doing and make changes where necessary
  • Schedule a time for weekly self reflection to think about how best to serve my students, both as a class and as individuals.