Discussion Summary from CUPE AGM Student Engagement Panel


The following is a summary of the discussions from the Student Engagement brainstorming by CUPE Tutors and Academic Experts at the AGM on October 28. The ideas are included here for your consideration in engaging your students.


1. Getting to know your student 

Discussion Question: What introductory questions or information help you learn about your students?


a. Questions to ask students:

  • What brings you to this course at this time?

  • What is your expected timeline for finishing?    

  • Is there anything I should know about you to help you succeed? – this question than may be helpful to understand student’s diversity

  • Understand student’s work experience


b. Considerations for approach w/ a student:

  • Student’s academic purpose may vary w/ academic level

  • A new student may need time to learn how to be a student

  • An open invitation for students to introduce themselves while recognizing some students won’t

  • Consider introducing yourself and your experience (in some situations personal information may not be necessary or appropriate to reveal)

  • Include a telephone quiz as course begins

  • 2 months prior to end of contract, contact student

  • Considering checking student’s Facebook profile

  • Offer encouragement at the halfway mark

  • Include your expectations for teaching, learning and ground rules. Rubric is useful


c. Email, Moodle, Telephone or Student Success Centre:

  • Use email or Moodle to send an introduction in addition to university introduction.

  • Email is better to use for introductions than SSC

  • Always good to have a one-on-one conversation or connection, but some students may view phone calls as annoying

  • Understanding student’s preferences for contact. E.g. don’t want AE/tutors ‘bugging them’


2. Diversity

Discussion Question: How do you meet the challenges of communicating with students from different cultures or have large age differences than you or who have a humanity (science) orientation for their science (humanity) courses?

  • see above “Questions to ask students”

  • Ask student to share any concerns they have to completing coursework.If it’s ‘too much’ for student because ESL (or English Language Learner ELL), hearing impaired or other concern, suggest connecting with a counselor.

  • Communicate in writing to support verbal conversations

  • Incorporate preferences and interests in different topics for papers

  • Names: pronounce correctly

  • Don’t assume last name indicates a student is a New Canadians

  • If early messages reflect writing concerns, suggest using SpellCheck, GrammarCheck and/or Write Site

  • Be aware of how course content is connected to various beliefs; offer open dialogue to explore diversity

  • Make room for various beliefs (i.e. mental health, demons)

  • Refocus on current literature and course outcomes through exploration (assumptions of course)

  • Students send draft [papers]


Other Considerations:

  • We already know students are diverse (different background, levels of learning)  but not necessarily know the specifics

  • Diversity can include philosophical or personal values  or mental wellness

  • Does it affect our objectivity if students are from a ‘diverse’ community?

  • Student has to volunteer their age

  • Does AU have English skill requirements?

  • With call centre model, student can’t contact tutor to share their background

  • student may not share disability at beginning of contract.


3. Potential conflict

Discussion Question:What are your strategies for providing student feedback when there is potential for emotional or negative feedback from the student?

  • Provide additional feedback

  • acknowledge effort and explain/offer reasons why e.g. low mark

  • reduce/avoid ‘you’. Instead 1) ‘this is what I read’  2) ‘let’s think about this’ and/or 3) give an example

  • provide policy and process i.e. appeals

  • ‘lawyer like’ conversation: factual if you perceive conflict

  • positive, supportive commentary

  • flag students, record contacts

  • Students from different disciplines may need more follow-up or clarification

  • have a clear rubric in place to have a context for marks, provides clarity

  • sending out example papers/quizzes so there’s a clear expectation        



4. Tips for student success

Discussion Question:  As an instructor, how do you define student success and how do you help your students achieve this success?

  • Important point: what do students define as success?

  • Ask questions

  • Survive challenges: recognize and offer alternative assignments, where appropriate (i.e. change topic of paper)

  • Gentle reminders

  • Reminder message re: end of contract

  • Encourage direct contact w/ tutors

  • work in a planning exercise for students


Limitations: Few evaluations are completed – with call centre model, comments are not personal

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