Only a little over 50% of American college students earn bachelors’ degrees in four years. When students write essays or reports, or take exams our classes, anything under 60% constitutes failure.
Welcome to today’s world of higher education—an environment where more students than ever before, from just about every imaginable demographic, seek college degrees and often do not receive them. Higher education continually invests more resources into admissions, co-curricular programs, retention studies, and graduation plans, but graduation rates remain unsatisfactory, students take longer to meet their degree requirements (so much so that colleges now budget for significant student attrition), and, for learners, the consequences of dropping out or stopping out have become disastrous.
Recently the State of Oregon invested a considerable effort to determine why graduation rates were so low in a particular population of students. Researchers went into the project expecting to make recommendations on how institutions could spend additional money on programs that would address this problem. But the answer wasn’t money in particular (although more investment in today’s schools is needed). The study found that the most significant factor in keeping students in college and seeing them through to graduation is culturally sensitive care from professors. Professors who know about, care about, and invest in their students’ learning often make the difference between success and failure.
Students look to professors as the people who will help most to pull them through the labyrinth of gaining a college degree. When this connection with professors does not occur, students often feel disconnected from their educations, discouraged, and lost. Despite whatever requirements a college or university communicates regarding research, publishing or performance, committee work, or the necessity of meetings, professors will spend the great majority of their time in the classroom, creating lesson plans and evaluating student work. Professors primarily teach. We also know that far too many full-time professors have not heard as much as they need about becoming excellent teachers. A new professor might in fact enter the profession with a list of unanswered questions:
- How do I successfully impart my knowledge to my students?
- How do I make students enthusiastic about my courses?
- Am I prepared to meet the range of my students’ educational needs?
- How will my students, my colleagues, and administrators judge my efforts in the classroom?
- How do I follow in the footsteps of professors that I respected?
- How do I communicate to my students that I care about their welfare, and how do I keep from being taken advantage of by dishonest or panicked students?
- How do I know my students are learning?
We’re here to offer some help.
Daniel and David discuss this topic.
We recorded this podcast on Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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