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Teaching Unprepared Students: Strategies for Promoting Success and Retention in Higher Education Paperback – October 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Stylus Publishing (October 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579222307
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579222307
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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 "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"

About the Author

Kathleen F. Gabriel is a professor at California State University, Chico. She was a high school social science teacher before she became a Resource Specialist for students with learning disabilities. Once she moved to the university setting, she developed an academic support program for at-risk and unprepared college students. She became a Faculty Development Specialist at the University of Arizona. She has also served as the Director of Disabled Student Services at a community college in Northern California.

Sandra M. Flake is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the California State University, Chico.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By ESL teacher on March 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Students bewildered by the demands of college courses, wanting to succeed but not knowing how, and giving up after a series of failures... Kathleen Gabriel addresses these problems head-on in this accessible, practical guide to helping all college students succeed, no matter their degree of preparedness.

It's easy for instructors to become bewildered, too, when we encounter students in class who seem unprepared to do what we may see as basic tasks. It's all too easy for instructors to place blame (on high schools, admissions officers, or the students themselves) and feel that these students are beyond reach. Gabriel counters this scenario with concrete, specific ways to reach students by engaging them in class and making them responsible for their own learning. She shows how a few simple changes to an instructor's approach can make for big changes in students' performance.

Gabriel is committed to maintaining high expectations for all students; rather than lowering standards, she shows instructors how to help students meet high standards. She discusses the merits of learner-centered pedagogy, including the use of formative assessment and rubrics, rapport-building activities, and awareness of learning styles and strategies. I appreciated the author's references to research and the anecdotes she uses to illustrate her teaching philosophy and methods.

I was surprised that this book has no mention of students who have English as a second language, who are often "unprepared" in their own way. However, as Gabriel points out, the approaches she describes are generally beneficial to all students, which includes ESL students.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jane Rosenthal VINE VOICE on September 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a great general introduction to working with students who do not seem to be prepared to college academics. I especially appreciate the underlying philosophies of the book: 1) all students can become lifelong learners, 2) change requires commitment and change, 3) struggle is a necessary and important part of life, 4) students must accept responsibility for their learning processes, 5) professors should not do for students what students can do for themselves. I think these are powerful principles that undergird the entire book, which also makes the point that underprepared students might not know what to do to support their own learning, and so the book gives good strategies for supporting students in such a way so that it is embedded in the syllabus, in the lecture, and modeled for students. As someone who has been working with at-risk and struggling students I agree with much of what Gabriel suggests for acclimating students to the academic culture and demands of college.

This book is most appropriate for teaching assistants or new faculty teaching at a community college level or freshmen undergraduate classes. The strategies are straightforward and would be most beneficial to students at this level. Some of the specific strategies might seem a little outdated (for example, I don't know of many classrooms equipped with overhead projectors any more), but a savvy faculty member could be able to adapt the strategies to his/her discipline and resources.

The strategies seem overly simplistic for more advanced students, such as upperclass students in advanced classes or graduate/professional students. In this situation, there are other books aimed moer specifically teaching complex materials that would be more appropriate, such as Ambrose et al (2010) How Learning Works.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Crystal on January 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This little user-friendly handbook, not even 1/2" thick, is an easy read and full of ideas and suggestions for helping at-risk students succeed: not "dumbing down" your teaching or doing the work for them, mind you, but simply using different approaches and strategies to help them realize they can be successful. The first read-through confirmed for me that I was already incorporating many of the author's tips, such as building a more informative syllabus, but the second read got me annotating the chapters, really enjoying the content, and seriously thinking about other ways to tilt the power dynamic in my classroom more towards my students, rather than just me. In fact, this semester, I used the Performance Prognosis Inventory (Appendix B) and had students take it in class on the first day (slightly revised for my non-majors, one-semester, biology course). When I read the key to them, there was a stunned silence as they absorbed the impact, realizing that the responsibility is theirs: they can enjoy success in college if they are willing to put in the required effort. We have to show students how to effectively use their power, because most of the time, they think they have none.

I keep this book with me all the time. The chapters are stand-alone and lend themselves to short periods of free time, but reading (and rereading) it straight through is worthwhile. The appendices contain examples of some of the strategies, and the reference list is impressively comprehensive. Thanks, Dr. Gabriel, for your work.
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