STEM – Students Advocating for Themselves

By: Kathryn Berta and Mekdelawit Desta


As students transition to fully online learning after Fall Break, it is more important than ever to have students be able to advocate for themselves and have open communication with their professors. There are many ways a student can start that conversation and reach out.

First, make sure that your student has all the vital information about their professors. This includes the professors and TA’s email address, phone number, office hour times, and additional details that are included in their syllabi. Such as: whether their professor makes appointments with students separately from scheduled office hours, etc. It’s key that your student knows how to get in contact with their instructors correctly for efficient results, especially during the online transition and as final exams are approaching.

Advocating does not always have to be only when there is a problem. This is an important point because students build a good relationship with an instructor by asking questions and seeking clarification. If they seek out that help early on and in a positive capacity, it will make reaching out during a more difficult time easier. It essential for students to understand that their instructors want them to be successful in the course, but the art of support doesn’t happen until the student reaches out first. Common fear student’s associate with asking for help in college is being judged and labeled as not adequate. The truth is every college student struggles in one capacity or another. Successful students associate challenges and struggle with building their skills to be better for next time.

Professor’s and TA’s office hours are one of the best resources students have easy access to. They are here to serve, support, and educate your students. They are the most knowledgeable folks who can give your students the exact answer on how to be successful in that class. Additionally, it crucial to encourage your students to reach out to campus resources that are FREE resources for them. These will serve as a collaborative learning environment for your student to seek additional resources. This can be as simple as sending an email to the program coordinator on how to join the group. Or, visit the website and locate a schedule when services are available. During FA20 majority of CSU offices have virtual resources. Lastly, at TILT we are always encouraging students to form a study group with their class peers, and seek outside resources (e.g., watch educational YouTube videos, visit a website similar to their class materials, etc.) to enhance their understanding of the course.

For the ultimate result, we encourage students to attend office hour meetings with a list of questions to ask. The purpose of office hours is for the student to guide the conversation with a clear idea of what they want to get out of the interaction. Instead of saying “I don’t understand the homework. I’m stuck. This assignment is difficult…” we teach students to use the metacognition technique. Show the instructor what have they have tried to solve the problem, what information do they understand already before they got stuck, what section of the lesson they would like their instructor to explain again, so forth. This way the student is guiding the conversation.

The current time is difficult and different for many students but keeping open communication and knowing how to ask for what they need is vital for a student success!

For online course-related tools, your student can check TILT’s website here.

TILT also has great learning resources for everything from how to find study allies to how to get into the habit of using study rhythmns. That information can be found here.