Steadily increasing political and market pressures are requiring
colleges and universities to retain those students who come through their doors
throughout each course, then throughout the entire program study until their completion.
The primary responsibility for retention falls upon the individual professor.
The first class meeting has historically proven to be one of the key points when
students withdraw from classes. The strategic-minded professor who manages the
first class meeting effectively will achieve a large share of his/her retention
goals. Following are nine proven practices for retaining students at the start
of the term.
Orchestrate a positive first impression of you and
the learning environment. Today's student has been conditioned by fast-action
television and movies, instant-response computers, and other technology to make
quick assessments of visual stimuli. Therefore, make sure the classroom is neat
and clear, and your appearance professional.
Identify yourself effectively,
to individual students as they enter the classroom, and to the class as a whole
when beginning the agenda. Remember, students are increasingly value-conscious,
so demonstrate your competence without being perceived as arrogant.
Clarify class goals and expectations. Your careful, probing review of an eye-appealing
syllabus that addresses nearly any question a reasonable student might have about
the course is the key tactic.
Up to this point, you have controlled
the stage. Address students' needs for social interaction by conducting an interactive
icebreaker. In the process, you will foster relationships that will lead to the
development of study groups and friendships.
With students in an open
frame of mind, gather useful information from students that will enable you to
identify and adapt to learning challenges inherent in the contemporary classroom.
Using or adapting the "Student Profile" included in The Adjunct Professor's
Guide to Success would be especially useful for this purpose.
the completed Student Profiles in hand, learn and use students' names. You might
also employ name tents or tags to facilitate students' learning each others' names.
Whet students' appetites for the material in your course. Show a video clip
from last night's news, or display a critical headline from today's newspaper,
that demonstrates the relevance of your subject matter.
get away, gather some informal feedback from students - anonymously on 3 x 5"
index cards. Simply print three open-ended questions on the board, including "are
there any critical questions to which you didn't receive answers?"
Reassure students of the value of the course. Provide them several sound reasons
why their class and outside study time will be a wise investment to their future.
Professors who employ these proven tactics create "win-win"
situations for the student, the institution, and themselves!
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Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the