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This is a very interesting topic.  I agree with much of what has been discussed.  I will make a couple of points from my experience.

I think many of us woefully underestimate the insidious impact that negative beliefs have on student performance.  As Kathleen Gabriel points out in Teaching Unprepared Students, citing research from Blose, "regardless of individuals’ prior academic history…students tend to respond and behave as the faculty expected in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy... When professors treated students as academically capable, and held them to high standards… in an environment of respect, students – all students, even those who were admitted as underachieving or unprepared students – achieve an increased level of performance (p.4)" This is particularly problematic with the current tsunami of largely unsubstantiated, yet deeply held negative beliefs about students.

I agree with Nic, that the quality of teaching has a lot to do with this. I see this from three different perspectives:

1) Increased faculty demands have eroded quality of teaching -- As we know, educators are constantly bemoaning the supposed poor quality of students. The most well-intentioned cite students being required to work significantly more, and having other priorities (e.g., athletics, social life, etc.) as reasons for their poor performance. However, has anyone researched or even considered how faculty demands have evolved over the years? It seems to me that if we compared the scope of faculty duties today (including the ever-growing list of "other duties as assigned") to those twenty or more years ago, we would see that significant mission creep has occurred. Furthermore, with educators' salaries flattening or diminishing, increasing numbers of faculty are taking on additional freelance work or outright second jobs. (This doesn't include those who are caring for elderly parents who may not have sufficient health care.) The point is that instead of looking at how the quality of students have supposedly gotten worse, perhaps we should explore how all of the factors mentioned above have narrowed professors' capacity to adequately prepare and sufficiently teach students.

2) The difference between h.s. teachers and college professors -- I used to conduct a workshop entitled Professors are From Mars, Students are From Venus: Learning Takes Place on Earth. In this workshop, I shared with faculty how students have been taught throughout high school and how this processes has conditioned students to believe that teachers (broadly defined as teachers and professors) are supposed to perform certain roles and have certain responsibilities; however, these roles and responsibilities are at odds with how professors see themselves.  For example, high school teachers guide students into certainty.  As a result, students spend a lot of time finding answers in high school. They are then tested on whether they can recall the correct answer. They are then rewarded for this repeatedly with high marks on tests.

Contrastingly, college professors see their role as leading students into uncertainty.  This process values developing the proper mode of inquiry and asking the right questions over finding the correct answers. Therefore, when students take tests that give them multiple correct answers and require them to select the "best" answer, rather than the "right" answer, they struggle. I've discovered that one reason students struggle with these types of questions is because they automatically search their brain for the "right" answer they have stored in the heads. This process triggers recall. It's as if they unknowingly translate the question from "find the best answer" to "find the right answer." Finding the best answer requires evaluative skills, rather than recall skills.

I am considering posting an article about this on my blog in the coming weeks.

3) Teachers don't know how to make learning easier and maintain high rigorous standards -- I know this seems contradictory. First, let me say that faculty must ALWAYS assign a text. I say this because academic subjects are complex. It is impossible for faculty to cover all of the material during class. Therefore, the book is an invaluable tool for students. Faculty should NEVER tell students not to read the book or that the professor's notes are sufficient for studying. Professors must understand that no matter how great their notes are students will not see their notes in the same ways. Faculty are deeply educated. Therefore, when they look at the notes, they evoke a breadth and depth of knowledge that students don't have. So faculty are communicating half-truths when they say that their test material came from their notes (unless they are teaching at a very low level). The material is in their notes, but the connections that make the notes meaningful remains with them in their heads.

I am currently working on an article for my blog on teaching organizing principles. I wont spoil it here, but if we think about it, information is organized around principles.  So every chapter in a book is organized around 5-10 essential principles. Academic domains are situated around organizing principles that provide a framework for the content. Educators who learn to frame their teaching to teach toward the organizing principles will generate deep learning within their students.  More on that later.

The following link features me interacting with a group of students who significantly improve their reading comprehension, reading efficiently and test performance in a few weeks:  http://bit.ly/1aZ3ohA


Sorry for the long post.


Leonard Geddes, MA
Associate Dean of Co-Curricular Programs
Coordinator of the Lohr Learning Commons
(828) 328-7024
[log in to unmask]
www.lr.edu
Personal Learning Assistance Blog - The Well: thewelledu.com
________________________________________
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Saundra Y McGuire [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 11:02 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Thoughts about Complete College America

Hi Katie,

I'd suggest looking at the site www.howtostudy.org.  The section on how to study by subject has great information.

Another great way to find suggestions for students is to google. For example if you google nursing study tips you'll see some great sites.

I hope others will post their suggestions. I have found that encouraging students and calming their fears and anxieties is great at helping them to improve.

Hoping this helps,
Saundra

Sent from my iPhone

> On Mar 31, 2014, at 5:48 PM, "Katie Condra" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> I have been following this thread and finding it very fascinating.  I am a
> new coordinator for a new Learning Assistance Center at a community
> college.  I am an experienced English teacher, but I have little experience
> with STEM classes, and I have many students coming into our tutoring center
> looking for support in science/math/nursing courses.  Many of you have
> mentioned study skills and strategies that you teach students to help them
> be successful in STEM classes. What would be the best way for me to learn
> some of these strategies?  What resources would you recommend that offer
> practical advice for supporting students through some of our college's
> "most challenging" STEM courses?
>
>
>> On Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 4:05 PM, Saundra Y McGuire <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>
>> And you might also be interested in:
>>
>> They Knew Calculus when They Left: The Thinking Disconnect between High
>> School and University
>> St. Jarre, Kevin
>> Phi Delta Kappan, v90 n2 p123-126 Oct 2008
>>
>> But again, these students can be taught to excel in college calculus when
>> we show them the difference and help them adjust.  Students who I'd assumed
>> were not willing to put in the time actually gladly put in the time when I
>> could explain to them exactly what they needed to spend time doing.  And
>> it's not just "you need to study more"...  I so regret that I had not
>> learned this earlier in my career -- I could have helped so many more
>> students whom others had written off as not entitled to  pursuing a STEM
>> career.  I agree that not everyone is cut out for a STEM career, but we
>> don't know who is an who is not until we teach all students effective
>> learning strategies.   Many students will surprise us when they start to
>> excel!
>>
>> Happy Spring!
>> Saundra
>>
>> Saundra McGuire, Ph.D.
>> (Ret) Assistant Vice Chancellor  & Professor of Chemistry
>> Director Emerita, Center for Academic Success
>> 433 Choppin Hall
>> Louisiana State University
>> Baton Rouge, LA 70803
>> 225.578.6749 phone
>>
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:
>> [log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jered Wasburn-Moses
>> Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 2:44 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: Thoughts about Complete College America
>>
>> If you missed it, you might be interested in:
>> https://chronicle.com/article/Students-Come-to-College/145473/
>>
>> "Freshmen estimate that they write about 25 hours each week, and most
>> believe that they arrived on their campus with college-level writing skills
>> fully formed."
>>
>> Jered Wasburn-Moses
>> Math Center Coordinator
>> Success Skills Coordinator
>> Learning Assistance Programs
>> Northern Kentucky University
>> http://lap.nku.edu
>> University Center 170F
>> (859) 572-5779
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:
>> [log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Laura Smith
>> Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 3:14 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: Thoughts about Complete College America
>>
>> Elizabeth....the elephant in the room is and will always be  READING.
>> Students have no idea nor do many that college level reading is not
>> passive but active and it is not "fun."
>>
>> Everyone is not entitled to even be in a STEM program because it just
>> doesn't mean "being there" but also "doing the work"....for each hour of
>> class....3+ hours studying (ACTIVE READING) for each class.
>>
>> ( hot button for me...)
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:
>> [log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Smith, Elizabeth
>> Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 12:45 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: Thoughts about Complete College America
>>
>> I agree with the aforementioned points, but one thing we may be
>> overlooking is that a high percentage of students come to college reading
>> at a 7th to 9th grade level and only at about 250 wpm.  This is woefully
>> inadequate for the reading required in STEM courses.  Only a concentrated,
>> integrated focus on those reading skills and speed will effectively address
>> the problem. There are now many innovative options for developmental
>> reading courses.  Whether the courses are required or not, instructors
>> would serve the students and themselves well to recommend additional
>> reading support either from a course or from a structured tutoring program
>> offered by student support services.
>> Elizabeth Smith
>>
>> ________________________________________
>> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [
>> [log in to unmask]] on behalf of Karin Winnard [
>> [log in to unmask]]
>> Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 9:29 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: Thoughts about Complete College America
>>
>> I agree with you, Saundra.  A number of students we work with seem  not to
>> have been required to do 'deeper' learning.  In addition to memorization,
>> students are still providing simple answers that do not require further
>> inquiry based upon the test question, and student may not see any need or
>> reason to integrate new information with pre existing information thereby
>> growing their critical thinking skills.  When the instructor is teaching at
>> a level where critical thinking and reasoning are required to first year
>> students without a concurrent semester of a study skills course (a one unit
>> course that doubles up for six weeks and then is done) seems like a missed
>> opportunity to capture this audience of first year students.
>>
>> The colleagues and student staff we work with, see students increase their
>> self-confidence, self-efficacy and commitment when the replace their old
>> beliefs, attitudes, and habits with these new strategies and results.
>> Faculty can teach students all these exciting concepts  but if the
>> students do not know how to retain and integrate that information, the
>> results will not match the input from the instructor.  And high school has
>> not necessarily prepared them for the rigors of learning at our
>> institutions.
>>
>> Let's meet the students where they are, teach them the tools they are
>> expected to use at our colleges and universities, have them use them, and
>> then, if they don't meet our standards because they don't want to be in the
>> major, have family or financial issues, etc. then have a discussion that
>> hears out the student and discuss next steps, etc....
>>
>> (Just returned from an excellent conference in Chicago, the AAC&U
>> conference.  Very professional conference and a great opportunity to
>> discuss, listen, and bring back new ideas based on research.  Check out
>> their website and publications.)
>>
>> Regards,
>>
>> Karin
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> Sent from my iPa
>>
>>> On Mar 30, 2014, at 8:45 PM, Saundra Y McGuire <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>
>>> Hello Listers,
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> I have been following this thread with great interest, and have enjoyed
>> reading the perspectives.  I apologize in advance for the long post, but I
>> wanted to make the following points.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> 1.            I think Nic is right on target when he suggests that much
>> of the poor performance of students in STEM courses may be due to poor
>> teaching.  It is certainly true that most college STEM professors have had
>> no instruction in teaching, and there are now concerted efforts to provide
>> workshops for faculty to teach them basic principles about teaching and
>> learning.  (I have conducted these on numerous campuses, and they have been
>> generally very well received by the faculty.)  I am always surprised at how
>> eager these faculty are to hear about how they can teach students effective
>> learning strategies, and by how many of them have changed their teaching to
>> get students more actively involved in the learning process.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> 2.            I disagree with the assertion that "Creating clearer
>> academic maps and default schedules for new entering students that put
>> college-level math and a majority of STEM courses in their first year plan
>> would help." I've seen students fail miserably when they have to take a
>> majority of STEM courses in their first year (before becoming acclimated to
>> college courses).  I think the major problem is that students' learning
>> strategies (memorization and regurgitation) do not match professors'
>> expectations (problem solving and critical thinking skills).  One of the
>> biggest surprises of my career (after 30 years of being a traditional
>> chemistry professor before becoming a part of the learning support
>> community) was how quickly students could turn poor performance around
>> after being taught effective strategies, and being supported by such things
>> as tutoring or Supplemental Instruction.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> 3.            There seems to be an assumption that lack of preparation
>> translates to lack of success in STEM courses, but I have not found this to
>> necessarily be the case. We can help unprepared students, as Kathleen
>> Gabriel points out in her 2008 book,  Teaching Unprepared Students.
>> Sterling, VA:  Stylus Publishing  Below are just a few of the before
>> (students were taught effective learning strategies) and after (e one
>> session on learning strategies) scores for students we've worked with.  The
>> underlined scores are after one learning strategies session. Some of these
>> students were about the drop out of the STEM major We have numerous
>> examples like this, and I'm sure all of us have similar examples.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> §             Robert, freshman chemistry student
>>>
>>>               42,  100, 100, 100                           A in course
>>>
>>> §             Michael, senior pre-med organic student
>>>
>>>              30,  28,  80,  91                 B in course
>>>
>>> §             Miriam, freshman calculus student
>>>
>>>              37.5, 83, 93                        B in course
>>>
>>> §             Ifeanyi, sophomore thermodynamics student
>>>
>>>              67, 54, 68, 95                    B in course
>>>
>>> §             Dana, first year physics student
>>>
>>> 80, 54, 91, 97, 90              A in course
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> 4.            Based on changes in performance like the ones above, I
>> don't think it's possible for us to determine who is suited for a career in
>> STEM or the health sciences.  I know lots of physicians who flunked their
>> first test in general chem or organic chemistry, but are now excellent
>> physicians. I think our institutions have to put more resources into our
>> learning centers so that we can teach students (even unprepared students)
>> to succeed in STEM courses (and everything else)
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Again, I apologize for the long post, but I wanted to add some comments
>> here.
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Thanks for "listening",
>>>
>>> Saundra
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> Saundra McGuire, Ph.D.
>>>
>>> (Ret) Assistant Vice Chancellor  & Professor of Chemistry
>>>
>>> Director Emerita, Center for Academic Success
>>>
>>> 433 Choppin Hall
>>>
>>> Louisiana State University
>>>
>>> Baton Rouge, LA 70803
>>>
>>> 225.578.6749 phone
>>
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>
> --
> Katie Condra
> Student Tutoring and Access Center Coordinator
> Angelina College
> [log in to unmask]
> 936-633-4504
> Student Center, Room 101
>
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