Midterm exam time has passed, and now as a college instructor you may be left wondering how to assist your struggling students. Another concern may be student motivation for those college students that are breezing through the class and starting to seem disengaged. Both are issues that can be addressed with some innovative teaching tips.

What are college students thinking?

Author Peter Filene discussed the importance of listening to students prior to starting class to discover their preconceptions in The Joy of Teaching: A Practical Guide for New College Instructors. Filene recommended college instructors ask what students think about a topic before beginning a lecture and even follow up midway through or at the end of class to get additional feedback.

Filene wrote, “Most undergraduates prefer to learn in groups rather than on their own. As a result, they are more comfortable and effective in discussions than in lectures.” Many college students grasp concrete facts better than abstract ideas, something to keep in mind if there were issues with the midterm exam and you notice some struggling students.

Struggling students

College instructors have probably observed which college students in their classes were having issues prior to the midterm exam, however, a course’s midpoint still offers time to correct any problems.

Reach out to struggling students. Recommend any academic support offered on campus that they could take advantage of to help. If you know of several students with issues, suggest they form a study group to assist one another. Talking to the struggling student can help you figure out which teaching tips will best address their particular issue. Let the student know that you both share the same goal—the student’s success.

Student motivation

In McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, authors McKeachie and Svinicki discuss the human need for autonomy in learning. They wrote,In general, individuals want to be in charge of their own behavior, and they value a sense of control over their environment. We can enhance students’ sense of control by offering meaningful opportunities for choice and by supporting their autonomy, which in turn enhances motivation.”

Some teaching tips they offer to address student motivation with your college students include limited choices for paper topics or assignment due dates. Highly open-ended assignments offer their own issues, so providing a framework is best. (McKeachie/ Svinicki, 141)

Other teaching tips for college instructors to consider include:

  • Try mixing up your teaching techniques using methods such as discussions, group work, hands-on activities, case studies and multimedia elements. The midterm exam should have given you some insight into the areas that need addressing.
  • Relate coursework to the real events taking place in the life of your college students, linking assignments to their current or future lives.
  • Design your course work by working backwards from the goal you want to achieve. Whatever goals you want your college students to realize should help you determine your teaching methods and assessments.

What teaching tips can you offer to assist with student motivation or struggling students? Let us know in the comments.

Reference: McKeachie, Wilbert J.; Svinicki, Marilla. 2011. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 13th ed. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning