“Students want and need better human connections: An umbrella theme is that students desire and recognize a benefit from connections made with faculty, staff, older students, and peers.”
- Student Success Working Group, May 2019
Many students who participated in focus groups or were surveyed by the Student Success Work Group reported that they developed important relationships, particularly through on-campus employment opportunities and in their dormitories. Slightly older peers and resident assistants, in particular, were cited as important positive influences, and the SSWG recommended increasing opportunities for making these connections (e.g., decreasing RA to student ratios, creating on-campus job fairs, encouraging mindful connections in the classroom).
But many also reported that while they value getting to know their instructors in and outside the classroom, these connections were more difficult to make. Early in their college careers, they had few small classes, and, according to the SSWG, “[t]here was a clear theme related to professors that some really care and some really do not, and that nobody was fooling anyone about which are which.” Some students reported that professors had specifically stated that they should not be teaching, as they are researchers.
Small changes can make a big difference; consider some of the success strategies we have covered in past weeks. But more fundamentally, the SSWG recommended we provide explicit training to our instructors about the challenges and opportunities of teaching at an urban access institution, training like that available in CETL’s Multicultural Inclusion and Equity – Workshop and Certificate. We should consider more training for teaching assistants, in particular, as they see more first-year students in small classroom environments; they are an underused and sometimes underprepared resource.