1. General practices
  2. Practices for the first day of class
  3. Throughout the semester
  4. If a student approaches you with concerns
  5. Services for students on campus

Approximately 17,000 students use the Academic Advising Centre each year, many of them with similar concerns about university life. Students tend to express feeling:

  • Socially isolated;
  • Emotionally and/or intellectually overwhelmed;
  • Unprepared or unsure how to meet expectations at the university level;
  • Uncertain what services are available to them on campus;
  • Unsure what assistance they can reasonably expect of TAs or instructors;
  • Afraid they will be rejected or dismissed by instructors if they admit to needing help;
  • Unable to arrange meetings with instructors due to scheduling conflicts with office hours.

It is easy to misinterpret the signs of students’ senses of being isolated, overwhelmed, unprepared, and/or uncertain as irresponsibility or a lack of interest. Such misinterpretation can intensify the challenges students face and make it more difficult for them to seek help. As Kathleen Gabriel (2008) illustrates, however, instructors can adopt pedagogical practices both inside and outside their classes that can make it easier to provide students with, or direct them toward, the supports they need to thrive in the university environment.

General practices

  • Keep in mind that students often have and are learning to balance many responsibilities (including classes, paid employment and family obligations) which may become sources of distress. Reminding yourself that students have complex lives that do not begin and end in their classrooms may help mitigate some of the frustrations instructors sometimes feel when a student seems distracted, for example.
  • Learn and use students’ names. This helps them feel less isolated, makes you seem more approachable, and lets them know they are more than “just a number.”
  • Get to know students and encourage TAs to do so. Getting to know students makes it easier to notice changes in behaviour and to become familiar with the different types of learners you have in your classroom.
  • Consider getting trained in Carleton University’s Student Mental Health Framework.
  • Familiarize yourself with resources available to students on campus (see list below).

Practices for the first day of class

  • Greet students as they enter class to make them feel welcome and decrease the anxiety they may feel.
  • If class size permits, spend some time on student introductions. In large classes, consider setting aside some time at the beginning of each class for a few students to introduce themselves. You could also administer a brief biographical survey to get a sense of students as individuals and as a group. Include questions about learning styles.
  • Clearly state what you expect of students and what they can expect of you.
    • Tell students your preferred method of communication (email, Brightspace, office hours), but be aware that many may be unable to attend your office hours due to scheduling conflicts.
    • Provide a clear, realistic timeline for electronic communication responses. Can students expect to hear back from you within two days, three, five? Having this timeline relieves anxiety and lets students know you are not ignoring them.
    • Consider taking a few minutes during the first class to provide students with an overview of your teaching philosophy as a framework for interpreting your teaching activities, assignments and assessment techniques.
    • Ensure that you communicate clear learning outcomes to students.
    • If your class will involve a lot of discussion, develop guidelines for respectful participation in classroom discussions.
  • Take some time to inform students about services available on campus, such as the Academic Advising Centre, Writing Tutorial Services, Learning Support Services, and Health and Counselling Services. Include a list of these on your course syllabus or Brightspace page.

Throughout the semester

  • Draw on a variety of teaching and learning activities (lessons, assignments, tests) to reach out to different types of learners in your classroom. You can sign up for one of the EDC’s certificate programs where you will learn how to develop and implement more varied teaching and learning strategies.
  • Learn and incorporate strategies for building inclusive classrooms to ensure students feel that their strengths, abilities and prior knowledge are taken into consideration in the learning environment. You can arrange a consultation with the EDC to discuss specific methods for building inclusive classroom environments.
  • In large classes, use a variety of teaching techniques to keep students engaged and facilitate learning.
  • Include methods for assessing student learning that are not grade-based.
    • You may ask students to submit questions at the end of each class and begin the following class by responding to the most common question.
    • Consider arranging a midterm evaluation of the class with the EDC.
    • Use student response systems in classrooms to assess students’ comprehension of key concepts.
    • Develop online quizzes students can take before class to assess their comprehension of reading material.
  • Consider inviting representatives from the Academic Advising Centre, Writing Tutorial Services or Learning Support Services to give presentations in your class.
  • If students are required to write a research paper for your class, contact a subject specialist from MacOdrum Library to discuss developing a course guide for students.

If a student approaches you with concerns

  • Listen attentively and non-judgmentally.
  • If their concerns are specific to your class, discuss appropriate learning strategies.
  • Know where to direct the student for the help they require.

Services for students on campus

Academic Advising Centre
302 Tory Building
Phone: (613) 520-7850

Centre for Student Academic Support
4th Floor MacOdrum Library
Phone: (613) 520-3822

Health and Counselling Services
2600 Carleton Training and Technology Centre
Phone: (613) 520-6674

Awards and Financial Aid
202 Robertson Hall
Phone: (613) 520-3600

Career Services
401 Tory Building
Phone: (613) 520-6611

Co-operative Education
1400 Carleton Technology and Training Centre
Phone: (613) 520-4331

International Student Services Office
128 University Centre
Phone: (613) 520-6600

Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities
501 University Centre
Phone: (613) 520-6608
TTY: (613) 520-3937

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