Focus Group Recap

Details

Group-1: Feb-5, evening; 3M, 6W; 6W, 3 NW
Group had one primary speaker and two frequent contributors

Group-2: Feb-7, daytime; 7M, 12W; 12W, 7 NW
Group had three main speakers and four other frequent contributors

Q1: What have been the three biggest challenges you’ve confronted since you began college?

  • Managing money
    • Tuition, books, life expenses
    • Tuition for out-of-state or foreign students
    • Financial Aid process is difficult
  • Time management
    • School vs. work
    • Finding ways to use time effectively
    • Self discipline to manage time
    • Studying competes with other things; work, childcare
  • Independence, freedom
    • Build own class schedule
    • Instructors don’t care if you complete homework
  • Motivation
    • Want to finish what you start – assignments, degree
    • Competes with other life priorities
  • More homework and studying than HS
  • Teachers’ expectations are too high
    • Expect three hours studying; 4 times as much as HS
  • Learning how to study – not the same as in HS
    • Lot of pressure on few graded assignments, not like weekly quiz in HS
  • Transportation – gas prices, bus schedules, reliability of public transportation
  • Some instructors treat students as children
    • Can’t get up to use bathroom
    • Penalties for being late to class or absent
    • Don’t recognize that students have lives outside of school
  • Parking – have to walk a long distance in cold weather
  • HS doesn’t prepare you for college – different skill sets than provided
    • i.e. MLA citations
  • Group projects – difficult to schedule with other students
  • Parents’ expectations
  • Pre-requisites for classes you want to take

Q2: What is the biggest surprise you’ve encountered since coming to college?

  • Range of faculty attitudes and personalities
    • Concerns
      • Some have rules, are very strict; penalties for being late or absent; can’t go to restroom; teach as if students are children, condescending; petty demands related to student behavior
      • Some demand too much work; heap the work on; act as if their’s is the only class you’re taking
      • Some do not provide adequate instructions for assignments
      • Some do not return papers promptly
      • Some
    • Positives
      • Nice, not as mean as expected
      • Very helpful, very different from other colleges
      • Caring, open minded
  • Placement tests
    • Poor English score delays math
    • Scored poorly because didn’t study, didn’t know what to study
    • Essay test didn’t provide enough time to think through
    • Type face on computer screen too small
    • Developmental classes don’t count towards degree requirements
  • Gen-Ed courses may not count towards degree requirements
  • Repeating classes for C-
    • Teach and re-teach things you already know
  • Freedom
    • Time between classes
  • Supportive community of students
    • Students share common experiences and responsibilities, easy to relate to one another
    • Tight knit group of students
    • Easy to meet people and get involved with others
  • Availability of help and assistance
    • Counselors, tutors, STARS advisors, faculty
  • Smaller class sizes are helpful; helps keep students interested in class
  • Nice campus

Q3: If you can think back to one class throughout your education where you felt really interested and motivated to learn and do well, what, if anything, did the teacher do to help you feel interested and motivated?

  • Enthusiasm
    • Charisma
    • Teacher must be genuinely interested in material
    • Schtick like costumes, skits, etc…
  • Tie material to real life situations
    • Examples (stories) from real-life situations
    • From instructor’s own experiences in the field or life experiences
  • Make you think, examine your life
    • Teacher turned off the lights, read a story, then the class discussed it with the teacher drawing connections to his and the students’ lives, revealing the hidden meaning
    • Draw parallels between generations
    • Life lessons and situations found in text
    • Don’t use the book – encourage students to think
    • Teach about life, then tie it to the class material
    • Encourage students to explore new things and ideas
    • Engaging students enough that they ask questions; not just about the class but about the world
    • Bring material to a personal level, show how it relates to your life
  • Class participation
    • Students get involved
    • Students need to be taught to look for things
    • Don’t just give answers, prod students to ask questions
    • Seemed like a conversation or discussion, but the stories resulted in learning
    • Allow class discussion to evolve, even if get off track; do not be a slave to the text
    • Not just lectures and slides directly from text book
  • Teacher cares, tries to get the most out of students
    • Care about all students, not just the smart ones
  • Personal connection with the teacher
  • Small classes
  • Patience with students
  • Extra credit opportunities
  • Group work, collaborative learning
  • Teacher had strong opinions, but invited the group to disagree and discuss
  • Field trips – hands on training

Q4: When you’ve been in a boring or bad class, what’s made it a bad class?  What kinds of things made it a bad class?

  • Instructor not receptive to questions
    • Why don’t you get it?
    • Allow other students to laugh at questions from other students
  • Instructor not interested in helping students to be successful
    • Don’t notice when students start having trouble
    • Don’t make sure students are learning the material
    • Don’t encourage students or instill a passion for learning
    • Instructor doesn’t return emails
  • Same class format every class meeting
    • Too much routine and repetition
    • Slides from textbook every class
    • Teacher stands up and lectures for whole period
  • Poor communication skills
    • Lack of energy
    • Monotone voice; not animated; talking at you
    • Move through slides too quickly
    • Accent, lisp and fast talker – difficult to understand
  • Quizzes or tests without any review of the material to be covered
  • Instructor doesn’t have full grasp of material
  • Do not provide specifics on their expectations
  • Too much work assigned – VISTA homework, written homework, projects
  • Teacher lost their passion for teaching
  • No interaction with other students
  • Projects without enough time to complete them

Q5: When teachers write comments on your work, do you read them over and make use fo them?  Which types of comments have you found to be most helpful?  Which comments have you found to be least helpful?

  • Good comments explain what was missing or areas for improvement
    • Explain the problem and how to fix it
  • Good comments provide specifics; and are tied to specific parts of the essay
  • Good comments are explained, provide details
  • Whether positive or negative, summative or general comments are not enough
    • Need to point out specific sentences or sections with reasons why it’s not good enough and ways it could be improved
    • Constructive criticism
  • Comments help you understand the grade you received
  • Instructors need to be available to discuss their comments after class
  • “Please see me after class” is not good
  • Positive comments are good for the students’ ego
  • Constructive criticism needs “kids’ gloves”
    • Too harsh or negative can be devastating, demoralizing
  • If nothing to say, why wasn’t it an A?
  • “Good Job” is meaningless – unless it’s an A
  • ? in the margin isn’t enough information; what does this mean?
  • “Needs more _____” is a start, but to which part of the essay does it apply?
  • “What does this mean” is not specific enough
  • Comments don’t matter; you got your grade, can’t do it over, don’t care what they wrote

Q6: In your opinion, what, if anything, can professors do to help students be successful in college?

  • Add personality, show interest in the material, enthusiasm, be creative
  • Relate the material to real life situations
  • Interact with students as if they were your friends
    • Adult to adult, interactive
    • Respectful, mutual respect

Q7: If you were to go back and tell students at your high school three things they need to know to be successful in college, what would they be?

  • Do your homework
  • Don’t take the easy way – do the work
  • Read the chapters, do the reading
  • Study
  • Go to class – makes a big difference, is a place where learning takes place
  • Use the resources available to you
    • Computer labs, counselors, workshops, classes that teach student skills
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Prioritize school over social
  • Save your money
  • Work hard in Math and English
  • Think about why you are studying – building for your future
    • Understand why you are in college
  • Go to a Community College
    • Affordable; save money over the long haul
    • When get graduate degree, nobody will look at your Associate Degree
    • Smaller classes
    • Not as easy to get lost in the shuffle at CC
  • Work hard in HS, if you don’t you will have fewer choices available to you
  • Understand there is a difference between HS and College – be serious, act like an adult
  • Take advantage of what is available to you
  • HS teachers are far less demanding and do not prepare students for college work
  • Go to college as soon as possible after HS
  • Learn it now, in HS; it’s easier to learn in HS, otherwise will have to pay to re-learn it
  • Come to college for the right reasons, not just to party
Last Update: April 09 2009
For additional information, contact: Gail Hammond