Teaching Tips | Week 9: Helping At-Risk and Failing Students
As teachers we feel successful when our students succeed. We are encouraged by their enthusiasm, their creativity, and their hard work. But what about our borderline or failing students? When students do not succeed, we experience a multitude of feelings, ranging from distress at seeing them struggle, to frustration that some may not be putting in the effort that is required. But taking our students' shortcomings personally does not help them. Although midterm grades are tallied and the first half of the semester is behind us, our at-risk students still have an opportunity to turn themselves around and push for success. How can we help them?
1. Identify failing students early. Progress grades and midterm grades act as key indicators of a student's standing.
2. Inform the student personally and privately of the issue. Be specific and honest with him. Have concrete "proof" of his progress or lack thereof. This could be a printout of his report from your Easy Grade Pro.
3. Ask the student to verbalize why he is struggling and to try to identify causes, solutions, and a plan. Getting the student to talk about it may help lead to a better understanding of why he is failing and how he can improve. Sometimes all a student needs is a good reality check and a plan of action. Beware of getting too involved. The Academy Resource Center (ARC--see below) services are designed to help students through complicated issues so that you can concentrate on the course material.
4. If your student needs more assistance, refer him or her to the ARC. ARC coaches have extensive experience working with this population of students. Coaches help students set realistic goals and assist them with time management or study plans for the remainder of the semester.
5. Continue to check in with the student and let him know you are interested in his success. Do not lower your standards but do acknowledge progress. Sometimes all a student needs is a little more positive reinforcement.
6. If a student improves but does not pass, keep a professional outlook (or, approach it from a long-term perspective). Some students need to take the class twice in order to understand the material. Sometimes the student is failing other classes as well and needs to rethink his or her goals. Teachers are not doing favors for failing students by passing them.
Adapted from What to Do with Failing Students by Marty Dawley
ARC Referral Form
When There's Just No Way to Pass