The first few weeks of the semester are often a rush of learning names, student adds and drops, meetings, and general sett-up.  As things begin to settle down, here are a few simple tips to prepare for long-term success.

  1. Office Hours to Review Session – Rename a portion of your office hours as a review session. Students are often nervous to attend office hours but are often more comfortable coming to review sessions. These review sessions can be short, foundation material reviews, class content reviews, or exam reviews.  While you can leave it up to the students to pick a topic it is also a great idea to be prepared with common misconceptions or student errors that can be discussed.
  2. Rethink attendance – Students may dislike mandatory attendance policies, but they understand that coming to class benefits their learning. Rather than a daily attendance grade, change up your attendance options. Try giving students an extra credit on a test or homework for perfect or near perfect attendance. Giving pop-attendance quizzes. Or even give your students an option to choose which policy they prefer. See this article for more.
  3. Set email boundaries – While email is available 24/7, you don’t have to be. Setting student expectations for response times, either in the syllabus or in your LMS/CMS, can go a long way to helping you and students manage time better. Look into setting some boundaries with time frames and dates such as:  I will always respond within 24 hours and typically within a few hours M-F 9-6, Saturdays 10-2 and Sundays as needed based on course schedule.   Double check with your institution to see if there are required response times.
  4. Help students learn how to learn – Many students come to college not knowing the correct way to study. They understand how to memorize but memorization is not a skill that works well in most math classes. You can help student with study skills by integrating study skill assignments in the regular homework or even in class with a Learn-Test-Review example.
  5. Start with why – The common student phrase “why do I need to learn this?” can derail effective student learning. Including a short motivational example or story goes a long way to engaging student interest and setting up why a concept is useful.
  6. Time management scaffolding – Another area in which students are commonly weak is time management. You help students with time management by providing a sample study schedule, a review session on time management, or even by breaking out early assignments into smaller chunks due through the week.
  7. End of class summary quizzes – Rather than pop-quizzes at the beginning of class, try an end-of-class summary quiz that asks students to apply what they just learned to a problem similar to in class examples.
  8. The first month student learning survey – Student evaluations are notoriously poor indicators of student learning and teacher effectiveness. However, valuable information can be gained through tailored in class surveys focused on asking students about how they are learning and what they perceive as effective learning tools. Vanderbilt University has great examples

For more back-to-school inspiration for you and your students, you’ll find a variety of articles on the First Week of Class category on the Index.