It won’t be long before Spring Quarter is over, final exams graded, and some of us head off to a relaxing summer break. When you begin your planning for your courses for either summer or fall quarter, whether they are online or hybrid, or perhaps even face-to-face, think about how to help struggling students. Have you ever considered how you might “humanize yourself” in your classes, demonstrating to students that you are supportive, without adding to your workload? Here’s an intervention that could prove to improve student retention and possible improve their performance in your course.
I recently read an article on the Evolllution website (yes, that’s how they spell it) called Small Changes, Large Rewards in which the author, Zoe Cohen, Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine Tucson, University of Arizona, says “By identifying struggling students and sending them personalized emails encouraging action and providing support, educators can make a significant difference to the success of their learners.”
Cohen provides sample emails. In one of the samples, she connects with students who have failed the first exam: “I was looking at the exam #1 scores for (Course name) and saw that you didn’t do as well as expected. Since it’s still early in the (semester/quarter), now is the time to try and figure out what went wrong and how we can fix it. I have some quick questions for you that I’m hoping you’ll be willing to answer for me.” In this email she lists some questions that ask students to reflect on things like class participation and exam preparation. After sending this email for the first time she worried that there would be a “backlash” from students, blaming her instead of taking responsibility for their behavior. Instead, she got some amazing responses from students, thanking her for taking the time to care about them! And not only that, there has been an improvement in student average grades.
Read more about Dr. Cohen’s experience, and think about how you might nudge students to move them towards success in your course. What are some other ways that you can humanize yourself in your courses to help students? How do you do this in an online environment?