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Month: March 2014

Answering Questions From Professors About Success Coaching – Part 2

Answering Questions From Professors About Success Coaching – Part 2

Question #2:  What are the main reasons so many first year students do poorly and end up on academic warning or probation after the fall semester?

From the perspective of the success coaches who end up with these students, there are two issues that we see most often:

1. A student misses a class, then misses another one and then before they know it, they find themselves in trouble in the course.  Why do they decide not to go to class?  Answers from my students: “I can just choose not to go. No one is making me go”.  “Someone told me you can miss a class, it won’t matter”. “I am so tired that I just had to take a nap”.  “My friends were going to ________  and I wanted to go”.  Answers are many and varied.  Most of these reasons fall under the category of “no one is making me go”.  We have to be able to motivate students to see beyond this semester, this week, today, this hour.  Many students have difficulty with motivating themselves to get up, go to class, turn in assignments and stay focused.  This is decidedly NOT high school and there is no principal to call a truant officer when a student misses a class.  One of our success coaches is a former high school principal who laughs when she recalls how easy it was to just hand attendance issues over to a truant officer.  She could also use detention and calling parents as motivators. None of these are available to us at the college level. We had better have great motivating stories to tell as well as tricks up our sleeves to help students change directions.

2.  Assignments are to be done well and turned in ON TIME!  Problems arise when students get behind in just one course not to mention two or three.  I have had students working in my office to make sure they are finishing a paper or an assignment or just reading the material.  They often leave thanking me for making them do their work.  Somehow we both overlook the fact that I can’t MAKE them do anything.  At the end of each semester, students in the success coach program turn in evaluations for the coaches who guided them through the fourteen weeks.  Many times we see: “It was great to have someone who held me accountable”.

Weight Watchers found this out years ago when they started group meetings for weight loss. People do better when they are held accountable by peers, parents, professors, program evaluators, etc.  Being held accountable is exactly what students will encounter in the “real world” when they are working and reporting to someone above their pay grade. We hope that all future doctors, accountants, intelligence officers, plumbers, etc. had someone hold them accountable for learning the knowledge and skills they will need.

Susan Marion is the Coordinator for Success Coaches at Tiffin University, in Tiffin, Ohio. She was instrumental in starting success coaching at the institution in 2007.  The program now has fifteen part-time success coaches and supports almost one hundred students who are at risk academically.

Answering Questions From Professors About Success Coaching

Answering Questions From Professors About Success Coaching

Question 1: (Actual question from a real professor)

What do you success coaches do anyway? Your student is failing my English 152 class.

Answer: When we know a student is failing a class, we first try to see if it because the student is A) not attending class, B) not taking notes or reading the material, C) not turning in assignments on time (or not turning in assignments period), or D) unprepared for this level of class. To find out this information, we check SAT/ACT scores, high school grades, and talk with the student about previous experiences in this subject.

When a student is failing, we first want the student to see the professor to ask for help and, in the worst case scenario, to see if there are enough points left to gain in the semester to allow the student to pass the course with at least a C. We also want him or her to discuss with the professor whether it would be more advantageous to drop the course and take the same or a lower level course next semester. Some students are intimidated on visits to professors and don’t readily give out information about their past academic challenges. If students trust their success coaches (and we have found this to be true in the vast majority of cases), they will open up to disclose the real issues with their academics. And the real issues sometimes don’t have anything to do with their ability to do the work. They may be have a substance abuse problem, physical or mental health issues, issues concerning relationships with family or a significant other, financial stress, or any of a host or other stresses. Then there are the most common problems: procrastination and time management.

As success coaches, we are very up front and straight with the students. We show them what kind of grades they must make on papers, exams, and assignments in order to pass a certain class.  We discuss all options, and together come up with a game plan. Some students come to college missing skills and knowledge in one of more subject areas, so we (as well as most institutions) have remedial level courses to address these deficiencies. But if the student is missing a few skills, then perhaps tutoring or workshops offered by the academic success center would be best. If the student, the professor, and the coach believe the best option is to drop the class, however, then that is what we do. If it happens that the subject is in their major, we have a serious discussion about their interest and/or ability to complete the courses necessary for the major.

In the end, it is the responsibility of the student to do the work necessary to not only pass the class but genuinely retain the information. Because the ultimate goal, of course, is not to simply pass classes but to develop the skills and knowledge for students to be successful at the college level so that they can graduate and go on to bigger and better things in their field. As I tell my students, “when you get out of college- you’re supposed to actually know something.”

Susan Marion is the Coordinator for Success Coaches at Tiffin University, in Tiffin, Ohio. She was instrumental in starting success coaching at the institution in 2007.  The program now has fifteen part-time success coaches and supports almost one hundred students who are at risk academically.