INTRODUCTION: In the Student Support Services (SSS) Program that I coordinate, most of the students obtain their associates degree and then transfer to a four-year institution. Consequently, providing campus visits to four-year institutions is one of the most important services we offer.
During a return trip from one campus visit, I realized that we were not doing enough to prepare students for these outings. I heard students asking one another questions such as, “Does anyone know when we have to have our applications completed?” and “How much does housing cost?” and “When does registration begin for the fall?” I couldn’t believe that students were leaving campus visits without having these important questions answered. I began to ask myself, “What other questions do students need to have answered before they decided on a college?”
My first thought was to generate a large list of questions that students should seek answers to while on campus visits and pass them out to students prior to departing, but I know that force feeding information is ineffective. I developed this “Friend in Need” activity to help students prepare for and get maximum benefit from campus visits. The activity worked well and can easily be adapted for motivating any student groups to share knowledge and information, promoting interdependence, and motivating people to think creatively. For example, since it helps student define important questions, an instructor of any course could use it to help students better prepare for an upcoming test. The activity takes approximately one hour.
- To promote interdependence and personal responsibility
- To help students define important questions they need to answer
- To make campus visits more beneficial for students
- Blackboard, dry erase board, or flip chart
- 3” x 5” note cards
- Writing Paper
- Writing utensils
1. Prior to departing on the campus visit, meet with students in an area that has a flipchart, blackboard, or dry erase board.
2. Announce that a student who was scheduled to attend the campus visit could not because of personal reasons, but asked if we would provide him/her with campus information. [If this activity is used to help students prepare for a test, the “absent student” asks if classmates will provide information that he/she needs to know for the test.]
3. Ask the assembled students to brainstorm some topics this student would want to know about the college we are about to visit. Give a few examples, such as, housing, class sizes, parking, meals, etc. List topics on the board. (5 minutes)
4. Once the brainstorming session has ended, have participants break into smaller groups. Groups of two or three worked best for us. Pass out writing utensils and paper to each group.
5. Have each group select two topics from the brainstormed list on the board and title a piece of paper with each topic they select. Once a group selects a topic, it should not be chosen again. (5 minutes)
6. Instruct each group to develop for each topic three to five questions that they would like answered on the campus visit. Have them write the questions on the paper they have labeled for that topic. (10 minutes)
7. Once each group has devised a set of questions for their topics, have them pass their topic papers to another group. Instruct groups to review the questions and add their own set of three to five questions for that topic. Continue to circulate the topic papers until each group has had a chance to develop questions for each topic. (20 minutes)
8. Once completed, there should be 20-25 questions on each topic paper. With each group now holding its original topic papers, instruct each group to evaluate the questions and select the five they deem “most important” to be answered for each topic while on the campus visit. Instruct them to write down each question on a 3”x 5” note card. (10 minutes)
9. Announce to each group that they’re responsible for their selected topic questions and that they will be sharing answers with everyone. (Depart for campus visit)
10. After the campus visit, have students share their answers. We shared topic answers in the van on the ride back, but any central location would be acceptable.
The purpose of the project was to have students think about the process of transferring to a four-year institution, taking responsibility for their questions, and using their time more wisely on campus visits. The project attempted to do this by having the students work together to answer important questions about the potential transfer institution. I thought that using the example of helping another student would create an atmosphere of sharing acquired knowledge. It seemed to help because I did not hear anyone complain of having an assignment during a campus visit.
The students worked well together and devised some interesting questions. Some examples are:
- Can I bring a car on campus?
- Can I live in the dorms on break?
- Do I have to pay for the laptop program?
- How many credits can I transfer?
The groups also seemed very concerned about what the missing student’s needs would be. They asked questions about the student concerning his/her needs, but I tried to redirect the discussion to what the average student would need. I didn’t anticipate this questioning, so you may want to have a scenario in place in case questions arise.
During the ride back to our campus the students shared interesting observations about the campus that I had never heard discussed after previous trips. I heard students discussing topics such as roommate assignments, meal plans, core classes, counseling services, student loan requirements, etc. Previously they had discussed how cute their student tour guide was, or what they had planned for the following weekend. This project seemed to keep students focused on learning from the campus visit and helping a classmate in need.
When I announced that there was no “missing student” whom they were helping, I heard some “Awes” and “What?” When I told them that they did help someone, one student asked “Who?” I stated that they helped themselves and each other by focusing on the campus visit.
I learned a few personal lessons about myself and about human nature. I thought adding the “missing student” aspect into the project might help a few students focus more on the information being presented, but I did not realize the genuine concern most people had about a fellow student in the program. It seemed that people went above and beyond simply answering questions; they cared about getting detailed information for a fellow student.
This project also opened my eyes to how creative and intelligent students really can be when challenged. I think I stereotype students when it comes to presenting them with challenges. I assume they will think that I’m wasting their time and that everything the program does is boring. Students really want to learn if we allow them the flexibility to learn in their own unique ways.
–Chris Eplett, Coordinator, Student Support Services, Gogebic Community College, MI