Assessing Problems To Help Students Doing Poorly Or Failing In College

Being able to accurately identify student problems is of critical importance in my work, and for anyone else trying to help a student. Parents may not know what has been happening because their student was away at college, and even the students themselves may have trouble identifying the problems or articulating them so they can be helped. There are so many variables as well in student situations. They may be at large colleges, small colleges, have varying majors or no declared major at all. Certain problems can even disproportionately affect young men vs. young women. But, in the end, it’s the fast identification of problems that will guide timely intervention efforts most effectively.

I’ve created a tool, based on the real-life problems students face, that is meant to help identify many problems students face. It’s the Student Self-Assessment For Academic Underperformance® and is based on the same one contained in my book. This is a broad-based, expanded version yet only takes 15-20 minutes to complete. Its simple format asks students to rate their actions and perspectives against those of students who earn top grades in college (High Performing students) to see if their own habits and outlooks are grade-enhancing or grade-reducing. It was designed around domains or categories of problems, such as academic skills, motivation, and skills students need to perform well in higher education. This expanded version also includes issues that are specific to bright students who Underperform in college.

It’s real value is that it covers both obvious and hidden issues that are often present in students having problems, yet are not always intuitive. For example, one might expect a student’s grades to be affected by procrastination, so that topic is included. But less expected is that they may not be willing to ask for help, and often unexpected is that some students say they cannot even formulate the questions to ask a Professor when they do want help.

Finally, each question has a brief explanation about what top students (High Performing ones) do to earn good grades and explains what Underperformers typically do on that same topic. So the assessment also teaches the student, in some respect, what they might do to act more like their good grade-earning peers.

I’ve been using this self-assessment in my work for new students who I had not yet met, and even I was surprised by how well it worked: It gave me a quick reading on known problems so I knew where to begin. What’s even more useful is that the self-assessment can be downloaded in PDF format after completion so it can be shared with parents, advisors, or others trying to help them. Incorrect answers flag potential problem areas so it’s easy to zero in on them.

This tool has proven to be of tremendous value for me in my work, and I am currently collaborating with some colleges, psychologists, and other professionals as a screening tool to identify student problems quickly. It’s in the learning section of my website which is as well as on the resource page here. I highly recommend it since I’ve seen it work for myself.