Student Needs: Recognizing the Needs of Your Students

Recognizing the Needs of Your Students

Recognizing the Needs of Your Students

by Timothy Howe
Student needs are important.  Students bring a lot into the classroom other than books and ideas. They come into the classroom with a whole host of issues with which they are dealing. This is part of life. Each one of us approaches our job affected by  a variety of factors – our mood, recent news we have received, physical illness or tiredness, concerns, etc. Students are the same way. Part of the maturation process requires them learning to deal with various struggles while performing at an acceptable level. Yet, as educators, we can help them in to learn this process to great degree. We do so through a combination of demonstrating compassion while holding them accountable to their work. A large part of the educator’s task is recognizing what are the real needs of the student versus plain old laziness or apathy.
Classroom: When students are first entering into the classroom is a good time to assess how they are doing. The look on their face, their body motions, their interactions with other students and their preoccupation with objects not associated with the class (such as cell phone) can all be good indicators as to whether or not there is something with the student beyond what meets the eye. Furthermore, interaction within the classroom with the professor or other students can give more clues. How a student responds to question – does she give quick, short answers when normally she is full of ideas, or is he hostile when normally he is pleasant – can reveal what is going on internally. Since, everyone has a bad day or feels “blah” from time to time, this might not set off alarm bells initially. However, the repetition of such behavior can communicate that a student is in need of assistance.
Silence Speaks Loudly: Most people do not want to communicate their problems. They hold them in and put a mask on for the world around them. One way that people communicate their difficulties is precisely when they do not speak out. When a student seems to shut out others and avoid communication, this is a good time to pay attention to what might be going on in his or her life.
Anxiety Affects Performance: A sure sign that a student has had a need develop is a drop in performance. Anxiety affects performance. When a normally well-performing student suddenly starts to perform poorly, this should be a hint that something is not right. It might be as simple as not understanding the assignments, an easy thing to fix. It is likely to be a lot more complex.
What concern is the student’s problem to the professor? So if a student is having a problem, is that a concern of the professor. People go into education to improve the lives of others. This is done primarily through helping others to grasp knew levels of understanding. It is also accomplished through experience. So, yes, it is a concern of the professor if the professor wants to be a real influence in the life of the student. Learning takes place in so much more than the imparting of factual data. Students learn much from professors they perceive as caring about them. Learning will be enhanced when these problem areas are no longer in the way.
So, how to help?
Face the problem head on: People often times will avoid a problem and hope that it goes away rather than deal with it. This strategy rarely works. If a professor suspects that a student is struggling with a need that is of direct bearing on the course, a good approach usually is to communicate directly with that student about the suspicion in a sensitive fashion. If the need is classroom related, the student might feel relieved to get the issue in the open. If the issue turns out to be non-classroom related, but it still affects the classroom, then the professor is able to get the student the best help available.
Over-communicate: The professor should not assume that one try to communicate about the problem will be sufficient. Neither should there be an expectation that once a problem is diagnosed that it is fixed. Intentional follow-up is necessary and this includes clearing up any missed assignments or completion of material agreed upon to get the student back on track. The professor will need to over-communicate to be sure that the student is back on the right track.
Encourage: Students can become overwhelmed and think that they are too far behind or incapable of doing the work. An encouraging word of a professor carries a lot of weight in such a situation. Professors can take on a mentoring role to not only help the student through the course, but also through life. Many students still refer to past professor’s as mentors in their lives years after the last course they took with him or her.
Resolve the Need: Where it is possible, help the student to resolve the need, not just become aware of it. Their seems to be a tendency to analyze a situation and not do much more than explain it. Real problems need real solutions. If a professor is able to help a student chart the course to solving a real problems, the professor has just passed along one of life’s most important skills.

Social Science and Scripture (Part II)

Social Science and Scripture. Featuring image:Money Ball by Wolfgang

Social Science and Scripture (Part II)

by Steve Huerd
Missed Part 1 of the Series? Read it here.
Integration begins with the notion of reconciling all things together in Christ.  In the world today, there seem to be separate things which either do not relate together or compete with one another in their truth claims.  For example, is homosexuality a learned behavior or a genetic issue?  What is the best form of government?  How should we as a country prepare for retirement in the future?  Just read the latest headlines and you will come up with many issues demanding immediate answers.  These myriads of issues requiring integration for the Christ-follower can be personal, corporate, or even conceptual in nature.
Central to the concept of integration is the notion of unity in all things since Christ is king over all the created order.  For example, in Col. 1:16, Paul says of Christ that, “all things were made by him, for him, and through him.”  This truth obviously implies that all things must necessarily then relate to Christ in meaningful ways since he created them, empowered them, and was the purpose for their existence.  We also know from this passage that all things will be eventually reconciled to Christ (Col. 1:20), or brought back into their proper perspective in relation to him.  The later verse also seems to imply that now, in the present, everything is not reconciled to Christ, being perhaps the reason we experience difficulties in reconciling them together in our minds.  In C.S. Lewis’s fictional series, the Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan” has not yet appeared to unfreeze the winter covering the earth.
Thus we press on continually trying to see the connections and disconnections between the findings of social science, or any other truth claim for that matter, and that of scripture.  If we hold to the view of the scriptures being the primary and foundational source of truth, then other truth claims must be evaluated and carefully analyzed by what we know is true in the pages of the Bible and the mind of God.
The honest Christ-follower then must perpetually do what Duane Litfin, the former president of Wheaton College suggests, “The Christian’s intellectual task is to use his or her God-given apprehension and correlation to discover truth about God and truth about the spiritual, moral, and material dimensions of the world he created” (Litfin, 2004, p. 173).
Consequently, if we are to “know the truth” as the “truth will set us free” (John 8:32), then this task takes on greater significance as it affects not just our salvation but how we live here on earth.  If all truth is unified coming from the mind of God where there is no confusion, then regardless of the source, all that is truthful should cohere and fit together with whatever else is truthful.  This logically implies that truth discovered via social science should cohere with truth being revealed by God in the scriptures wherever possible.  And, correspondingly, wherever truth seems to contradict or not fit with scriptures, we need to proceed with caution.
While the masses may follow the crowd, we as Christian educators and scholars should be most thoughtful in how we put things together in our thinking.  We need to lead the church and this next generation through our careful scrutiny of today’s truth claims for “all who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly” (Prov. 16:13 NIV).
Sources:
Litfin, D. (2004).  Conceiving the Christian college: A college president share his vision of Christian higher education.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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Soapbox Shoutout Saturday -God: "I will help you speak"

Find Your Voice

“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” –

                                                                                                           God, to Moses (Exod. 4:12)