Discussion thread: Student responsibilities

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the following statement about responsibilities in college:

In college, it’s the student’s responsibility to initiate requests for help on assignments, and it’s the instructor’s responsibility to respond to those requests in a helpful and timely way.

Do you think this statement is true or false? If false, could you modify it so that it’s true?

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Filed under Education, Life in academia, Student culture, Teaching

9 responses to “Discussion thread: Student responsibilities

  1. I would say it’s true but I would add one thing. The professors should make the climate clear by letting students know how they can ask for help (multiple ways, usually). This climate setting should be made clear at the outset of every course so that the students know that the professor is interested in the students’ learning. Students should know the prioritized list of ways to contact the professor. Here’s mine: email, comments in grade book, texting, phone messages. Of course in person should be in there too, but maybe not at the front since then you’re forced to think on your feet to provide the help the students need on the spot. Here’s a great mantra I use for those situations: there are no emergencies in academia.

    I was just talking yesterday with my wife (middle school teacher) about how using Standards-based Grading will likely lead to more F’s in some of my non-majors class. She asked why and I said it’ll be too easy for them to just never turn in any assessments. Her reaction was that she couldn’t let that happen in her class but I feel that in college the students make choices about their own engagement and have to live with the consequences.

  2. Daniel Ethier

    I teach 7th and 8th grade and that’s my policy. The only difference is that I will remind or prompt students to ask for help if they need it. So I think college students should be able to handle that policy.

    I agree that it is important for the teacher to create a climate that is receptive to students asking for help. That includes not making the student feel like a failure for asking for help. I tell students that if they don’t need some help, the assignment is probably too easy for them.

  3. I teach both graduate and undergrads, also working adult professionals (on site/corporate). I think the statement should be true for undergrads but often doesn’t seem to be their natural inclination. I make it clear early on that I’m as available as they need, they just have to speak up, take the initiative, as well as plan ahead. I’m happy to make their emergency my emergency, as long as it isn’t a crisis precipitated by poor time management. Grad students and adults seem to have no problem living up to this statement, at least in my experience.

  4. Pingback: Discussion thread: Student responsibilities | Casting Out Nines : : student

  5. The statement is basically correct, though sometimes the help students need is to be told to go back and (re)learn the prerequisites. It is not enough to have known how to do it once in their lives (see http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/just-scoring-points/ ).

    A lot of undergrads (and some grads) are unaware that they need help, even after failing assignments. Some think that if it isn’t easy, it isn’t worth doing, or that computer programming or essay writing is a matter of cut and paste followed by random mutation.

  6. Danielle

    In college, it’s the student’s responsibility to initiate requests for help on assignments, and it’s the instructor’s responsibility to provide timely, descriptive feedback to help students recognize when they might need this help. It is also the instructor’s responsibility to respond to students’ requests for help in a timely and productive way.

  7. I think there is a continuum. The older the student, the more experienced, and the higher the level of the course, the more true this becomes.

    Is there ever a place where this is 100% true? Maybe. But there are clearly places where the primary responsibility for initiating help falls on the student, but where the professor will still step in, and where the primary responsibility being on the student does not obviate the professor of all responsibility.


  8. Here is my version “In college, the instructor is responsible to encourage students the responsibility to initiate requests for help on assignments. In return, the instructor will respond to those requests in a helpful and timely way.”

  9. I strongly agree with Andy. Your sentence is true, but the teacher has to make the general offer and make his students comfortable about asking. As a TA, I have to remind many students of the possibility to just ask (when they obviously should have asked). I imagine it is worse as a professor because students will intuitively feel more distant to you. Having your door open helps.