Leverage Students for Their Own Success

Guest post by Kevin Flora

It’s not every day that a student comes to you asking for advice, wanting to bounce an idea around, or just has a random question.  Oh wait… what’s that?  It is? 

As an educator (whether that be in preschool or higher education), we have the best chance to impact someone’s life.  We not only hold the positional power that a student looks up to, but also provide a wealth of knowledge and expertise. 

One of my responsibilities in the higher education realm is to work on the student success initiative.  In a Google search for best practices, nothing exciting came up.  Yes, taking time to meet with students is important and allowing them to formulate their own answers rather than shoving your own down their throat, but surely there is more to success. 

Let’s take it a step further as adults.  I propose an atmosphere of group discussion, yet individual attention.  A space that provides adequate support, but screams empowerment.  A culture that not just listens, but sees plans and action steps through until completion.  This is not a “yes, but…” setting, but rather a “yes, and…” environment.  Some ideas for this type of collaboration:

  • Gather students, staff, and educators in a room (voluntarily) and give time for a “Think Tank” session.  This is not an organized meeting with an agenda.  The only item on the agenda (if you have to have one) is for the “thinker” to stand up and state their idea of how improvement can occur in the given context.  In this place and time, individuals are not differentiated by their age, title, race, sex, etc.  All ideas are welcome and none are shut down.  After all – it’s people thinking and coming up with ideas - not force of change.
  • Let students take charge of a few things.  This not only frees up time on your hands, but allows automatic buy-in by giving away some power and decision making.  Of course you need to oversee projects and mentor them along, but give them freedom to pursue their own ideas and fail if necessary.  This even lets other students who aren’t involved know that their voice can be heard.
  • Reward milestones.  It’s not all about getting the student in and getting them out.  You want to see students reach their potential?  Stick around and graduate?  Feel as though they made a difference?  Set small goals / milestones for the student to reach and celebrate along the way with them. 
  • There are endless opportunities to leverage students and create student success.  It’s the responsibility of you – the staff, the educator, the administrator, the custodian – to step out of a student’s way, help them up when they fall, and party with them when they succeed.

    Image credit:  Flickr user UMKC

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