Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Adjusting to weaker students

In order to survive, my institution is expanding enrollment across all tiers (Tier 1: strongest students, Tier 5: weakest students). Tier 1 students are very expensive since we have to compete for them with scholarship dollars, so the expansion seems to target the lower tiers. So, in essence, we are getting more students, and more weak students.

Having weaker students is especially time consuming for faculty for unexpected reasons. No, they don't really take more time in direct instruction, because often the ones that need to show to office hours aren't coming. It's the ancillary issues, such as
  • answering more e-mails regarding learning software issues "Prof, I can't get this to upload right"
  • spending more time clarifying instructions "I don't understand what we are supposed to do"
  • providing an unprecedented level of support for studying 
    • from learning objectives: "Be able to describe the molecular mechanisms of such and such"
    • to question by question instructions "Be able to answer questions 4, 5, 6B and 6C"
Not only time but psychological factors are counted in
  • Have thick skin when blamed for student's poor grades in the course
  • Have thick skin when faced with pervasive disengagement despite herculean efforts to be student-centered
  • Have the wisdom to not let the "it's because our students are weaker" become a self-fulfilling prophesy 


  1. This is, I think,a much broader issue, as credential creep continues unchecked and nearly everyone is being directed towards college -- ready or not, motivated or not. Don't forget the stronger students, and keep standards high. Good luck!