Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Teaching Tip: Pushing Students a Little Harder

Can we push a little harder without overtaxing our students? Very likely.

Every year, first- and fourth-year Fordham students respond to the Higher Education Research Institute survey. About 55% of each class responded in Spring 2012. One part of the survey asks how students spend their time during a typical week.

About 85% of full-time first-years and seniors say that they spent 15 hours or less a week studying outside of class. Nearly 70% say it's 10 hours or less. That’s right: most students spent only as much time or somewhat less time preparing for class as attending class.

Most could spend more time on their academic work, if they chose. About 60% of full-time seniors and 53% of full-time freshmen reported that they socialize as much as or more than they spend time attending class.

We do not want to discourage socializing, because it is essential for students to remain healthy individuals. But socializing is not the only discretionary use of time documented in the HERI surveys. It serves merely to show students can squeeze more out of their week to meet higher standards. The students themselves say so.

These numbers do not reflect other Fordham populations, such as our graduate and professional students. But most students regardless of their program would likely benefit from more guidance from faculty about how to study outside of class.

It is not a faculty responsibility to govern minutely how students spend their time preparing. But students often need help understanding how best to do so. We might fruitfully spend class time discussing our own preparation methods, or modeling study skills specific to our disciplines. Many of us will remember what a revelation it was when a professor in graduate school gave us tips on managing an unmanageable reading load. Such skills seem rudimentary, but novices always appreciate pointers from experts.

What are your tips for helping students prepare for class? We’d love to hear from you! You can write to us, even if you don’t have a tip to share. We love to hear how your classes are going.

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