It is that time in the semester when grades become more real and students can see the end of the semester and finals approaching. Around this time, I have several students who are proactive and seek out appointments with me to understand their current grade or seek advice on how to prepare for the final. But about this time, just after mid-term grades have been posted, I also notice the two or three students in my class that have been struggling yet have never come to see me. I have often asked myself why.
In probing a few of these students last year, I came to see that for some students it would never cross their minds to visit with a professor. One student told me that he never visited with a teacher in high school, so he never thought to visit one at university. Another told me she thought she could fix the grades on her own with a little more studying and work. After these comments, I also began to examine the literature on this topic. I came to find that it is quite common for students to think they look dumb if they seek help from a professor or that they might seem childish. The literature further presented the potential for gender differences and income factors to be at play in why some students might not ask for help.
Some things you can do to encourage students to ask for help include:
- Remind students of your office hours and suggest reasons to visit;
- Before a test or report, remind students that discussion of ideas can enhance results;
- When returning work, encourage follow up to review missed concepts;
- Most of all, you want try to instill the idea that visiting with you is encouraged and common practice.
For more on this topic, visit these resources: