1st Edition

Teaching Unprepared Students Strategies for Promoting Success and Retention in Higher Education

By Kathleen F. Gabriel Copyright 2008

    As societal expectations about attending college have grown, professors report increasing numbers of students who are unprepared for the rigors of postsecondary education—not just more students with learning disabilities (whose numbers have more than tripled), but students (with and without special admission status) who are academically at-risk because of inadequate reading, writing and study skills. This book provides professors and their graduate teaching assistants—those at the front line of interactions with students—with techniques and approaches they can use in class to help at-risk students raise their skills so that they can successfully complete their studies.The author shares proven practices that will not only engage all students in a class, but also create the conditions—while maintaining high standards and high expectations—to enable at-risk and under-prepared students to develop academically and graduate with good grades. The author also explains how to work effectively with academic support units on campus. Within the framework of identifying those students who need help, establishing a rapport with them, adopting inclusive teaching strategies, and offering appropriate guidance, the book presents the theory teachers will need, and effective classroom strategies. The author covers teaching philosophy and goals; issues of discipline and behavior; motivation and making expectations explicit; classroom climate and learning styles; developing time management and study skills; as well as the application of “universal design” strategies.The ideas presented here—that the author has successfully employed over many years—can be easily integrated into any class.

    Acknowledgments; Foreword; 1. Unprepared and At-Risk College Students. Myth or Reality?; 2. Philosophical Foundations. Yes, They Can!; 3. The First Week of Class. Sharing a Mission for Success; 4. Begin with Consistent Contact. Attendance That Matters; 5. Learning Styles and the Science of Learning. Tapping Brain Power; 6. Embracing Learner-Centered Education. Engaging Students; 7. Interweaving Assessment and Teaching. Any Questions?; 8. Techniques for Promoting Academic Integrity and Discouraging Cheating. Playing by the Rules; Epilogue. Final Thoughts. Promoting A Richer Campus Environment; Appendix A. Checklist for Possible Course Syllabi Items; Appendix B. Performance Prognosis Inventory for Analytical Chemistry; Appendix C. Preparing for Three Different Groupings; Appendix d. Vocabulary Strategy Steps; References; Index.


    Kathleen F. Gabriel is currently an associate professor at California State University (CSU), Chico, and an educational consultant. She began her extensive teaching career as a high school social science teacher before she became a resource specialist teacher for students with learning disabilities. When moving to the university setting, she first developed an academic support program for at-risk and unprepared college students. She also became a faculty development specialist at the University of Arizona. She then served as the director of disabled student services at a community college in Northern California before joining the School of Education at CSU, Chico, where she has received two teaching awards. Sandra M. Flake is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the California State University, Chico.

    "This book offers a practical and excellent resource for college and university faculty on how to enhance retention for students, particularly those who might need assistance transitioning from high school to college."

    Christine A. Stanley, Executive Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Texas A&M University

    “An invaluable tool for college and university faculty whether or not they teach unprepared students. This book promotes improved learning in a context of high expectations. It is a primer for all of us who believe in the value of a rigorous education that fosters development of knowledge and skills for a lifetime. It does so by recognizing that students learn better in an environment where they understand the expectations, where they learn through application and practice, and where multiple pathways to knowledge and skills result in lifelong learning and education. That is also why this book provides useful ideas for those of us engaged in working with a full spectrum of students, from the unprepared and often unengaged to the well-prepared and dedicated learners. Gabriel recognizes there are multiple paths to successful learning, and faculty members can guide students to finding the pathways that help them to be successful.”

    From the Foreword by Sandra M. Flake, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, California State University, Chico

    "Teaching is a tough job, especially when your pupil is under prepared. Teaching Unprepared Students is a guide for this all too common situation where a student is dangerously in over his or her head in the class they are in. Aiming for students to get the resources they need to turn a subpar student into a superb one, Teaching Unprepared Students is an invaluable manual for when traditional methods just aren't good enough."

    Midwest Book Review - Education Shelf

    Concrete examples and detailed instructions of what, when, and how to carry them out make this book a valuable resource for faculty and graduate assistants new to the classroom as well as experienced faculty who increasingly find themselves dealing with unprepared students. If a department, college, or university is truly serious about improving student learning, presenting a copy of this book to all incoming faculty and graduate assistants and perhaps arranging for informal discussion groups throughout the year would send a powerful signal.

    Mimi Wolverton, Retired Professor of Higher Education

    "Though written with undergraduate institutions in mind, most of what she offers can easily be applied to other educational settings. It is a very readable and practical book."

    Teaching Theology and Religion

    "Kathleen Gabriel has put together an inspiring tableau of what constitutes good teaching and learning for the majority of faculty in their interactions with current students. I believe that most of our students are at-risk; those that would get through without much help from us are cheated out of an excellent education.

    I especially enjoyed the interweaving she consistently does between issues of teaching effectiveness and assessment of student learning. Kathleen Gabriel has created a professor-friendly discussion for all those concerned with classroom success."

    Judy Diane Grace, Ph.D., Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence