Increasingly, students expect more guidance and pastoral care from their higher education institutions. For example, they may want to belong to a community, feel challenged and looked after at the same time. With the pressures of having to compete in a competitive global job market increasing, academic staff often need to find a way of helping their students navigate their way in difficult times. Although it may sound daunting, there are simple steps you can take to facilitate your students’ learning and have a positive influence on their wellbeing. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
• Have a chat: a lot of undergraduates may feel intimidated in a new environment when faced with unfamiliar workload and staying away from their usual support networks, such as family. So, how about asking a simple ‘how are you?’ at the start of a class. Get to know your students, find out what they are interested in and how they really are. You don’t need to spend hours talking to them about their weekend but showing a bit of interest and signalling that you are happy to listen, can make a huge difference.
• Find out what motivates them: only when you are aware of your students’ life goals and motivation can you tailor your teaching to their needs and support them in achieving their goals.
• Build confidence through competence: help your students learn more effectively by making sure all your instructions are clear. Put the students in charge of expanding their knowledge. Use a collaborative approach to teaching and give your students the opportunity to think and listen to one another while they are tackling complex problems. To facilitate deep and respectful conversations you can use the ‘think, pair and share’ approach
• Respond positively to questions and encourage contributions in tutorials. Show that it’s ok to get things wrong sometimes and guide them towards their own discoveries. This approach will show your students that you respect and value their input.
• Respect diversity: make a conscious effort to increase your awareness of who your students are and what kind of learning adjustments they may require, for example, additional handouts printed in a larger font or complex tasks to be broken down into more manageable steps.
Before you go:
Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:
- What inspired you?
- As a result, what do you want to do more of?
- And what do you want to do less of?
- What will you do next to achieve these goals?