Answering Questions From Professors About Success Coaching


Question 1: (Actual question from a real professor)

What do you success coaches do anyway? Your student is failing my English 152 class.

Answer: When we know a student is failing a class, we first try to see if it because the student is A) not attending class, B) not taking notes or reading the material, C) not turning in assignments on time (or not turning in assignments period), or D) unprepared for this level of class. To find out this information, we check SAT/ACT scores, high school grades, and talk with the student about previous experiences in this subject.

When a student is failing, we first want the student to see the professor to ask for help and, in the worst case scenario, to see if there are enough points left to gain in the semester to allow the student to pass the course with at least a C. We also want him or her to discuss with the professor whether it would be more advantageous to drop the course and take the same or a lower level course next semester. Some students are intimidated on visits to professors and don't readily give out information about their past academic challenges. If students trust their success coaches (and we have found this to be true in the vast majority of cases), they will open up to disclose the real issues with their academics. And the real issues sometimes don't have anything to do with their ability to do the work. They may be have a substance abuse problem, physical or mental health issues, issues concerning relationships with family or a significant other, financial stress, or any of a host or other stresses. Then there are the most common problems: procrastination and time management.

As success coaches, we are very up front and straight with the students. We show them what kind of grades they must make on papers, exams, and assignments in order to pass a certain class.  We discuss all options, and together come up with a game plan. Some students come to college missing skills and knowledge in one of more subject areas, so we (as well as most institutions) have remedial level courses to address these deficiencies. But if the student is missing a few skills, then perhaps tutoring or workshops offered by the academic success center would be best. If the student, the professor, and the coach believe the best option is to drop the class, however, then that is what we do. If it happens that the subject is in their major, we have a serious discussion about their interest and/or ability to complete the courses necessary for the major.

In the end, it is the responsibility of the student to do the work necessary to not only pass the class but genuinely retain the information. Because the ultimate goal, of course, is not to simply pass classes but to develop the skills and knowledge for students to be successful at the college level so that they can graduate and go on to bigger and better things in their field. As I tell my students, "when you get out of college- you're supposed to actually know something."

Susan Marion is the Coordinator for Success Coaches at Tiffin University, in Tiffin, Ohio. She was instrumental in starting success coaching at the institution in 2007.  The program now has fifteen part-time success coaches and supports almost one hundred students who are at risk academically.