Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How To Help Failing Students

This advice is directed at teachers, but it is also useful to tutors and parents.

Identify problems as early as possible. In the first week of class, assess all students’ needs through testing, in class writing, and interviews.

Meet privately to discuss problems with students. Show the students the problems you have found in their work. Then, let students tell you what they think their problems are, why they have those problems, and what they think should be done to solve the problems. If they deny there is a problem, be firm and go through their work with them to provide specific evidence for your concern. Students must recognize their problems before they can be fixed.

Listen to what students tell you. You can learn a lot about students’ problems simply by listening attentively and paying close attention to body language. Your assessments may have only revealed the symptoms of their problems, but not source of the problems. Show the student that you are interested, and be open and honest with them.

Work with students to create a plan of action. Help students to determine the best starting point, and to set goals you both agree are realistic. Then, work together to plan reasonable steps to reach those goals. It’s important that students think of this as their goals and their plans. Later, you can use these plans to remind students of what they said they wanted to achieve and offer support and encouragement through each of the steps.

Become a resource for students. Make yourself available for additional instruction and provide extra material at an appropriate level for each student’s needs. Offer to locate other resources such as tutoring ( or community services which can help the students.

Vary your approach in class to accommodate all learning styles. This is something that all the students in your class will benefit from. Because each student takes in information differently, a varied teaching style will allow different groups of students to display their strengths at different times. However, don’t tailor your classes for those weaker students at the expense of the stronger learners.

Offer encouragement. Meet with students before major tests or assignments to listen to their concerns and help them develop a positive attitude. Even when students do poorly, stress the areas where they have improved and help them to learn from their mistakes. Try not to pass students for effort, though, as that will not give them a realistic understanding of their results.

Don’t take your students failures personally. Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, a student will still not improve. Don’t blame yourself; in the end, students are responsible for their own successes and failures. Console yourself by saying that you did everything that you could.

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