Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Last Class of the Fall Semester

Today I finished up teaching my last class of the semester at the IEP. So in this post I spend some time talking about what happened in the class and how I think it is important to better prepare our students for adjusting to university life.

Because after this class is over many of my students will be transitioning to life at the university, I wanted this class to be more about what they need for taking that next step and how to adjust to the changes they will face.

I started off class by having students respond in an open free-write about what strategies/tips they think are important for being successful in the university. Once students were finished I had them go around the circle we were sitting in and each share one thing they had written. Their list looked something like this:

Tips/Strategies for Success in the University

  • record lectures and review
  • make friends with native speakers
  • ask classmates or the professor if we don't understand
  • don't cheat!
  • study and review vocabulary
We talked about how professors will probably speak very fast and they will not often get much of the what is being said, so recording the lecture to review later will be an effective way to study the material. I pointed out to students that many of their cell phones come with technology they can easily use to record lectures. I related how I sometimes use the application Dropvox to upload recordings of lectures and meetings to my online Dropbox account. 

We also discussed how important it is that they make friends with native speakers. I explained that the process of learning English will continue and that they are now in charge of their own English learning. So having a native speaker to compare notes with and help them study would be very beneficial. 

I stressed the need for visiting professors during office hours too. This is something I don't think we encourage our students to do enough of. I have even considered making office hours a mandatory part of my class. Perhaps next semester I will do this. I think that ESL learners are sometimes seen as mediocre students by university faculty when they may in fact be trying very hard in their coursework but are simply struggling because of language issues. Without discussing these learning issues with their professors, their professors have no way of knowing an issue exists and how they might be able to assist them. 

When one student mentioned "don't cheat" I used it as a segue into the seriousness that professors feel towards academic dishonesty and what this word means. 

After this discussion about their strategies we analyzed a syllabus from an entry-level Biology course. We talked about the large amount of reading that was on the syllabus, the quizzes and exams that the course grade depends upon, and the academic honesty policy. I then passed out a sample calendar and had students think about how they could plan the reading and studying time into their weekly schedule if they were taking courses like this next semester.

Our class concluded with an end of course reflection writing task and then the course evaluation. 

As I left the class so the students could fill out their evaluations, I wondered how many of them would truly implement the strategies and tips we discussed in class that day.

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