As an academic advisor, one of our many tasks is to be the information clearinghouse about campus resources to share with the students. A student needs help in math; “check out the Math Assistance Center”. Another student needs more time to take tests because of a medical order; “stop by Adaptive Education Services and talk to them about the process for obtaining educational accommodations”. Another student is a mother with young children; “did you know that we have a daycare on our campus?”. Yet another student has a question about their financial aid monies; “let’s call Financial Aid while you’re in my office and see what they say”. I love knowing so much about the campus and being able to share that with the students that darken my door for two reasons: 1) I like to provide as much one-stop-shopping information as I can and 2) because I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to “my” students and want to make sure they get all the information they need.
Well, this advisor started teaching sections of our Learning Community (Freshman Seminar) course last year. For the first couple of semesters I was telling students about the resources around campus in the “give a man a fish” type of way. It wasn’t until I taught my 3rd section did I discover and implement the “teach a man to fish” way of learning about our campus. I had the students sign up for a campus resource at random. Each week 5 students would present on their resource for what I call the Two Minute Briefing. In their two minute presentation, they were required to pull up the site’s main webpage, tell where it was physically located (Campus Center, 2nd floor), tell who the contact person/ director is and their contact information, and give us a summary of why students would go there or use that resource. The results of doing this were amazing! The outcomes were:
- The students practiced presenting in front of their peers
- The students learned about the resource by actively learning outside of class time
- The students practiced finding the answers to their own questions
- The students practiced navigating our school’s website
- The student giving the presentation became a mini-expert on the office/service
That 3rd result is something I then use the rest of the semester. Mid semester a student asks about scholarships and how to find out more about one. I then ask the student who gave the presentation about our Scholarship Office if they can answer their peer’s question; usually they can! At the end of the presentations I tell the class that if they don’t need to know about all the resources, if they have a friend or classmate that may need to know about one, to share the information as a citizen of our school. For example, the students who do NOT have children may not need to know about our daycare, but maybe someone in their math class mentions having small children and struggling with childcare; they could suggest to that student that there is a daycare on campus.
I still do this activity and have found that the students become empowered not only to learn about the campus, but also to share and help fellow classmates. Does this activity answer all questions? No. But, it starts the conversations and search process and that’s pretty great to watch happen! Hopefully this little tweak in information delivery will “feed” the students for a lifetime.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. -Chinese Proverb
This practice has crossed over into my advising practices, as well. I now ask them more questions to see what information they may already know (often times the students know more than they think they do). Now, I have the student navigate the school’s website to find information they may need while in my office. Students seem to like this because they have the comfort of me being right there for support and help to guide them through, and they have more confidence in themselves for having taken care of things. The best gift I can give the students is not the answers to all their questions, but the confidence to seek out their own answers. I feel great about the small role I play in the student development and success of my students, which keeps me coming back each morning ready to see how I can help the next student!