Background 26 years of classroom teaching experience Land-grant university, small rural community college, large metropolitan community college, suburban technical college
Background PT faculty, FT faculty, department chair, academic dean Served on 15+ search committees, chairing more than half Evaluated hundreds of faculty, observed dozens
Background Chronicle of Higher Education “Two- Year Track” columnist and “On Hiring” blogger Frequent speaker at conferences and on university and community college campuses
Background Author of Building a Career in America’s Community Colleges (AACC/Community College Press, 2011) http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Publications/ Pages/Product.aspx?Product_Id=863
Has this ever happened to you? A student comes up to you after the first day of class. She appears to be in her mid-thirties and has that “deer in the headlights” look.
Has this ever happened? She says, “I’m really worried about how I’m going to do in this course. I haven’t had (fill in the subject) for (x-number) years.”
HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT STUDENT? Please feel free to “chat in” if you’d like to share either your typical response in this situation or tell us about a specific time this happened to you and how you handled it.
Before we go any further, let’s define the “traditional” student... 18 – 24 Lives on or near campus Full-time student Financially dependent on parents Pursuing a bachelor’s degree
Defining the “traditional” student Does not have a full-time job Does not have a family (wife/partner/children) Middle- to upper- middle-class American citizen
Question... What percentage of your students, on average, would you say fit the description of “traditional” students? You might want to include, in your response, what type of institution you teach at.
Startling facts from The National Center for Education Statistics: 17.6 million undergraduates in U.S. (as of Fall 2011) 15% attend four-year colleges and live on campus 43% attend two-year schools 37% are enrolled part-time
Startling facts from NCES: 32% work full-time 38% are over the age of 25 25% are over the age of 30 Percentage of students over the age of 25 is projected to increase by another 23% by 2019 (Source: Frederick Hess, “Old School: College’s Most Important Trend is the Rise of the Adult Student”)
Is “non-traditional” the new “traditional”? Clearly, we’re fast reaching a point—if we’re not already there--where most of our students will not be “traditional” by definition.
What is a “non-traditional” student? Standard definition: Usually over age 25 Has previously attended college and is returning Went directly into workforce after high school and is now attending college for the first time
Non-traditional student defined Sometimes referred to as “returning student” Usually has a job, often full-time May have family, children (Source: CollegeHelp.info)
Common types of non-traditional students: Workers who need to enhance skills or acquire an additional credential
Types of non-traditional students Women who have been out of the workforce while raising children; in many cases divorced and thrust into breadwinner role
Types of non-traditional students People who are looking to change careers, either voluntarily or involuntarily People looking to expand their knowledge, for the sake of knowledge and/or love of learning (usually seniors)
What non-traditional students bring to the classroom Desire to learn Understanding of the importance of education Self-discipline Motivation
What non-traditional students bring Wealth of life experiences Intellectual curiosity Wisdom
But here’s the problem: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, non-traditional students are twice as likely (38% to 16%) to leave school in the first year.
Typical strategies for helping non- traditional students persist Financial aid (special grants, scholarships, help filling out and submitting forms) Support services (tutoring, advising, counseling) Help “navigating” the system
Strategies for helping non-traditional students On-campus clubs and other peer support groups
Question... How many of you have an office or program on campus specifically designed to address the needs of non- traditional students?
These are all wonderful strategies, but they’re all student services solutions. And yet...
... Studies clearly show that one of the most important factors affecting whether or not non-traditional students persist and succeed is their classroom experience. This is what Sherry Miller Brown calls...
“Academic Integration” “If non-traditional students perceive the outcomes (grades, careers, options, etc.) to represent a fair exchange for time, effort, and money invested...
“Academic Integration”... they will be more committed to staying at that particular institution through degree attainment.” (Source: Sherry Miller Brown, “Strategies That Contribute to Non-Traditional/Adult Student Development and Persistence”)
So the questions are... How can we as classroom teachers help non-traditional students feel welcome and valued? How can we help them “integrate” into the academic environment?
Most importantly... How can we help them succeed?
And the answers are... 1. Recognize their legitimate issues and concerns 2. Structure and approach the course accordingly 3. Emphasize the relevance of the course 4. Make non-traditional students feel valued in the classroom
1. Recognize non-traditional students’ legitimate issues and concerns Fear of the unknown Financial concerns (books, course materials, technology)
Issues and concerns Lack of confidence in academic skills Erosion of academic skills Feelings of inadequacy Lack of familiarity with college culture Lack of familiarity with academic norms and rules (i.e., plagiarism)
Issues and concerns Need for affirmation Feelings of “being different” Lack of connection to younger students (dress, language, interests, life experiences)
Issues and concerns Disapproval of younger students (parenting instincts) Conflicts with work schedules Conflicts with parenting responsibilities Transportation issues
Issues and concerns Technology issues (both knowledge and access)
Issues and concerns Feelings of impatience Age differential with instructor Difficulty navigating the instructor- student relationship (boundaries)
2. Structure and approach the course accordingly Provide options for course materials (online, handouts, course packs, library reserve) Whenever possible, choose inexpensive course materials Use frequent “refresher” sessions to reinforce basic skills and teach norms
Structure and approach Be quick to offer help or refer for tutoring Have a liberal attendance policy (for face-to-face). Keep in mind your own situation as an employee.
Structure and approach Avoid high-stakes deadlines. Remember, this is school. It’s not a job, not life or death. Use incentives other than grades to encourage meeting deadlines
Structure and approach Be available to students, but not “on call” 24/7. Don’t give out your cell phone number. Maintain appropriate professional distance
3. Emphasize the relevance of the course Remember what Brown said: non- traditional students need to “perceive the outcomes... to represent a fair exchange for time, effort and money invested.”
Emphasize relevance Demonstrate expected “real-world outcomes” by frequently linking course concepts to examples in the corporate or professional world
Emphasize relevance Structure assignments to tie in to and reflect real-life work situations Bring in examples from outside the classroom (news stories, video clips, guest speakers)
4. Make non-traditional students feel valued in the classroom Try to draw them into class discussions Create discussion topics that encourage them to contribute Choose reading assignments to which they might be able to relate Structure writing assignments to take advantage of their life experiences
Discussion... Please “chat in” if you’d like to share examples of discussion topics, reading selections, or writing assignments you have used that appeal to or work well for non-traditional students.
Make students feel valued (cont.) Encourage them, in their written assignments, to talk about themselves and their experiences As you learn their names and their stories, call on them to offer opinions and insights (make this optional so they’re not embarrassed)
Make students feel valued Without showing favoritism, look for opportunities to praise their ideas and work—publicly, when appropriate
Make students feel valued When students are working in groups, put non-traditional students with younger students. Both will learn from each other.
And best of all... You will learn from all of them!
Thank you for attending! I appreciate your time and participation. Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources Findings from the Condition of Education, 2002: Non-Traditional Students. National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/2002012.pdf “Non-Traditional Students Struggle with Schedules, Loans,” USA Today online, June 4, 2010. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/degrees-of- difficulty.htm Rob Jenkins, “Welcome to My Classroom,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 24, 2010. http://chronicle.com/article/Welcome-to-My-Classroom/124109/
Resources Frederick Hess, “Old School: College’s Most Important Trend is the Rise of the Adult Student,” The Atlantic Online, September 28, 2011. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/09/old- school-colleges-most-important-trend-is-the-rise-of-the- adult-student/245823/http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/09/old- school-colleges-most-important-trend-is-the-rise-of-the- adult-student/245823/ Sherry Miller Brown, “Strategies That Contribute to Non- Traditional/Adult Student Development and Persistence,” PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning, 2002. http://www.iup.edu/assets/0/347/349/4951/4977/10261/C5F EA4F0-ED94-4C31-BA62-0250815F7F65.pdf
Resources “Non-Traditional Students: Definitions and Data,” National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs/web/97578e.asp Laura DiFiore, “Financial Aid Strategies for Non-Traditional Students,” CollegeHelp.info http://collegehelp.info/scholarship/nonTraStu_ptI.htm James Lang, “Teaching and Human Memory, Part I,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 15, 2011. http://chronicle.com/article/TeachingHuman- Memory/129778/