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How Do You Help Students Who Will Not Help Themselves?
It would seem that students should want help from their instructors, especially when they struggle with course topics, assignments, and meeting deadlines. But the reality is that this is usually not the case and, as most educators know, students may even resist the very idea of asking for help and would rather give up when faced with a challenge. . This can happen even when an instructor has gone out of their way to encourage students to speak up. For example, I have observed many online courses where instructors have created optimal classroom conditions conducive to productive exchanges, similar to what I have done in my own online courses, and students still do not ask help – even when their grades were dropping.
I studied adult education and one of the important principles is called andragogy, which contrasts with pedagogy or a principle about teaching children. According to andragogy, adults as learners are autonomous, which means they want to be involved in the learning process and can assume their role. The underlying assumption is that students have the academic experience necessary to understand their developmental needs and know best how to work towards continued growth. This is an aspect of andragogy that is often overlooked by educators and yet it is essential to remember it when working with new or undergraduate students. However, I know many mainstream educators who believe that all adult students should take responsibility for their homework, grades, and meeting deadlines – and any form of ongoing outreach is considered hands-on and not part of the responsibility of an instructor.
But the fact remains that many students will need the help of their instructor at some point during a course, whether or not they are responsible for all aspects of their own learning. The question is how to encourage them to ask for help, or even start a dialogue with their instructor, so that they feel comfortable asking for help when needed. Here’s another thing to consider: Will making statements to students like “I have an open door policy” or “Feel free to ask questions” be enough to encourage them to ask for help. assistance ? Then there’s another scenario that emerges and it involves the students who just don’t seem to want to help themselves. So what does an instructor do to help these students?
What does a mature student need?
Mature students need more than course materials and learning resources for long-term learning and retention to occur. Yes, a student can memorize information and take a test; however, this is a short-term learning curve that may soon be forgotten. This is the premise of a correspondence course and one that is completed without the aid of an instructor. An instructor can make an intellectual contribution to the class and provide context through lectures, online class publications and announcements, and class discussions.
Students also need guidance, support, feedback, and most importantly, they need direction. I have also worked with graduate students who still need development support. Even PhD students have development needs, although their writing is often more advanced and involves higher-order thinking. You can engage these students in a more advanced form of speech when you interact with them. Overall, every student’s most important need is for their instructor to be present and engaged in the course. But this is only the starting point for developing a positive working relationship with students.
Understanding the Fear Factor
When students start a course, they start working with an instructor they’ve probably never met before – and with an online course, that’s someone they can’t see. They will rely on initial perceptions to determine whether they like or dislike this person, and whether they will be receptive to working with, trusting or accepting this instructor. There is another interesting aspect to developing interactions between students and their instructors, and that involves a fear factor that is often felt until a certain level of comfort and trust is established.
For some students, this feeling of fear or intimidation never goes away. It is most often found in new students or those with no prior academic experience, and they may be intimidated by the idea of asking a question, especially if they think their question is “dumb” or something. something no one else would ask. I have also seen the fear factor occur as a result of students having previous negative experiences and as a result, it distorts their view of all instructors. Then, when they need help, they are very unlikely to contact their current instructor.
A proactive approach to helping students
As an experienced educator, I know that showing up in class and having a positive attitude is just a good start to impacting my students’ progress. I also know that students are going to need help and, more importantly, there will be students who need help but cannot help themselves – until they know that I proactively works to support them. Below are some of the strategies I have implemented to help students in my online courses, using the acronym HELP.
Hands-On: What I have to consider, in every interaction I have with students, is the value I can bring to them when I work with them or respond to them. When I craft comments, they need to be more than canned responses. Instead, it should be personalized and meet their development needs in a way that demonstrates that I genuinely care about their work. Even when it appears that the minimum effort has been put into a student’s work, there have been attempts made to meet the requirements and it is my responsibility to respond and help guide the process. ‘learning. The more I am involved in my feedback, and the more active I am during discussions in class, the more I show the students that I want to help them and in the long term this promotes their responsiveness to me.
Eempathy: One of the most important aspects of being a teacher, in terms of relating to my students, is being able to see students where they are at from an individual and developmental perspective – although I can’t see them physically, or they are a different age, personality type, or temperament; or they are not particularly easy to work with in general. I have been an online student myself and know what it is like to work full time and try to balance other responsibilities while working towards academic goals.
There is hope that the class will be easy to balance and the workload easy to manage, and more importantly, the instructor will be someone you can contact when needed and easy to work with. What I’ve learned is to be empathetic while balancing the need to respect academic policies, which means when students are struggling and I can’t change the rules, I offer them real support and help them in any way I can until they are committed to the course again.
Listen: I’ve found that one of the reasons students don’t ask for help anymore, and apparently won’t help themselves anymore, is that they asked for help and no one seemed to help. to listen. When students experience difficulties, they want above all to be heard and understood. If an instructor launches into a lecture about what they are doing wrong or why there is a problem, before listening to what the student has to say, the student will disconnect them.
A challenge for instructors is having the time to listen to students, as it can seem quite complex to ask a student to tell them what they need help with and then really listen to the problem. I have discovered that when a student is ready to communicate with me, it is an opportunity for me to help them, and I must first listen carefully to what they have in mind. I also have to do it non-judgmentally to avoid the perception that I am criticizing them.
Pprovider: When you think of a provider, you might think of someone as a doctor and that’s a great analogy for an educator who works with students. A doctor treats the symptoms, but is also interested in preventive measures, while looking after a person’s well-being. I believe an educator can also be a provider and address similar aspects for their students. The symptoms would be the errors made during the evaluation of the learning activities completed by the students. Some students will go to their provider for help with symptoms and others hope the symptoms go away. The ones hoping this goes away are the students who may not want to help themselves and those are the students I want to monitor in my classroom. The best way to spot persistent, untreated symptoms is to see repeat errors or mistakes from week to week – even after providing feedback and encouraging dialogue with the student. I will also take another step and start outreach attempts.
I understand that I cannot help a student who does not want to help himself. However, if I have students who are struggling for whatever reason throughout my course and I do nothing to help them simply because they don’t ask for my help – then I haven’t completed my obligation as an educator. It is not possible for me to know exactly why a student will not ask for help, to check on their past experiences to assess why they are not cooperating now, or to determine if they are simply holding back out of fear. I must be proactive in my attempt to connect with students and build productive working relationships with them. Each student comes to my class for a specific reason. I understand that not all students will need my direct help, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have any interaction with me throughout the course, especially if I try to connect with them.
To answer the question I posed in the title of this article, a student will generally not help themselves if they see no point in contacting their instructor. This means that they have not established a bond with their instructor, that there is no measure of trust established for whatever reason, that the instructor has not been present and responsive to the needs of the students, or any number of similar factors. Of course, there may be cases where a student just doesn’t care and won’t respond despite the instructor’s best attempt and effort. Overall, students will engage and respond based on their level of connection and engagement with their class and instructor. That’s why I work to let students know when they need help in my class, someone really wants to help them. This is one of the most effective methods of teaching students how to help themselves when they need help.
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