Students have to be ready for the work of learning, and they have to be held accountable. In most cases, to be successful at a university, students need four things: they need to know the purpose or usefulness of their studies, they need to have time to do the work, they need to know how to do that work, and they need to do it. How can you help?
Finally, hold them accountable every day. Build a series of brief daily quizzes into your course grading structure. Five straightforward, factual questions each day are all you need.First, take the time to explain why your course is important; students don’t always see the big picture. Do this more than once, and do it with excitement. Second, give them a reasonable amount of time to do their assignments; remember that they have three or four other classes, probably a job, and maybe a family. Third, be sure to model the reading, thinking, and problem-solving skills you expect them to use to complete their assignments. Don’t assume they already know how to do these things. (If you have Blackboard available, you can set up a practice quiz or a set of study questions for each assignment so that students can check their progress while they are doing their work.)
Once students get used to this process (and get over being resentful of the daily quizzes), they will begin to develop self-discipline, to experience the relief of being ready for class, and to know the pleasure of having something worthwhile to add to the discussion.
“I am a firm believer that students want to learn and want teachers to teach. This may sound obvious, but we should not take it for granted. I really like Catherine Ross’ suggestion that teachers take the time to explain why their course is important. Teachers likely assume that the importance of their course is self-evident, and indeed this may be the case with certain courses. However, this is not the case for all courses, and in these instances, it is the teacher’s responsibility to help students see the big picture.
When teaching becomes a rote activity, learning also becomes rote for students. To avoid this, I agree that teachers need to model the skills that they hope to instill. To do this, teachers must demonstrate their own learning, growth, and ability to self-correct in front of students. Holding students accountable for learning should also involve holding teachers accountable for effective and inspiring teaching.
I especially like Catherine’s suggestion of giving brief daily quizzes. In my experience students often need help developing self-discipline. While they may want to be on top of all their course readings, if there is no built-in structure of accountability they sometimes will choose to take the path of least resistance. For example, this might mean only reading PowerPoint slides instead of the actual text. In these instances having regular quizzes that cover specific information not necessarily included on the PowerPoint slides will foster the accountability and self-discipline that we want to see in our students.”