9 Learning Principles and Practices for Teaching Unprepared Students


Extract from Issue#11 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

By Kenneth Alford, PhD and Tyler Griffin, PhD

Source: https://www.magnapubs.com/magna-commons/?video=3077
(How to subscribe: Staff with a CSU email address can obtain the Magna Commons CSU subscription code from Ellen McIntyre elmcintyre@csu.edu.au)

Teaching Unprepared Students: Strategies that Work is another well-designed delivery from Ken Alford and Tyler Griffin, discussing the seemingly universal problem of students who are not prepared for their learning. These presenters discuss strategies for turning such students into self-directed and motivated learners in this 75-minute webinar. The framework for this talk:

Learning Principles and Teaching Practices

Principle 1: Not all students are prepared

  • Clearly state prerequisites
  • Help “at risk” students self-identify
  • Be available
  • Offer appropriate “catch-up resources”
  • Honesty

Principle 2: Students are responsible for their own learning


  • Specific
  • Measurable (quantification = a verb and a number)
  • Attainable
  • Rigorous
  • Timely

Principle 3: Students respond better to meaningful choices, with consequences

  • The rising generation struggles with deadlines


  • Clearly communicate fixed expectations
  • Provide firm consequences early in the course
  • Show them
  • Help them
  • Watch them
  • Let them

Principle 4: Students must “buy-in” to your subject

  • Front-loaded relevance: Start lessons with a relevant attention-getting activity or question
  • Where possible… Give students more ownership over course decisions
  • From your assigned reading for this presentation…
  • Please pull out your survey results so that we can compare them
  • How did that feel?
  • Help students be accountable

Principle 5: Students are thermometers, not thermostats

  • Provide incentives for students to help each other
  • Grading self-directed assignments…

Principle 6: One size doesn’t fit all

Whenever possible…

  • Provide alternate ways for students to prepare for class
  • Give students an opportunity to share what they are learning
  • Piazza.com

Principle 7: Relevance is king

  • So what?
  • Who cares?
  • Whose questions are we helping students answer? Ours or theirs?

Principal 8: Students need appropriate “just-in-time” opportunities

  • Reflective questions
  • Announced vs. unannounced quizzes
  • Brief in-class writing experiences

Principle 9: Clarity counts

  • Share examples and non-examples, when possible

The Bottom Line: What you do – matters!

Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download from the Magna Commons website if you don’t have time to listen to the seminar.