Getting On Course with Starfish


With Week 3 of the spring term upon us, Starfish reports are right around the corner. In terms of early engagement and positive psychology, these emails are a valuable resource for instructors to build student confidence and naturally integrate the On Course principles into their course culture.

Kudos are a logical choice to promote the choices of successful students. For example:

Excellent work so far this term! I’m truly impressed with your attention to detail and commitment to the learning process. I know how difficult it can be to manage work, school, and life. To that end, please know that your hard work does not go unnoticed, and it is this type of self-motivation and personal responsibility that our employers are most looking for when hiring NWTC graduates.

In addition, even if a student is already struggling, a kudos might be just the tool to sandwich in some constructive feedback on how to get on course. For example:

I appreciate your attendance and active listening in my class, though I’m concerned with your missing work/low scores. To be successful in this class (and life!) it’s necessary to manage your time, set concrete goals, and use available resources to earn the grade you want. NWTC has many valuable opportunities to assist your learning process, such as academic coaching. Likewise, if there are extenuating circumstances to consider, we also have many free services such as financial advising, childcare assistance, and licensed counseling.

For today’s student, the On Course principles are more than just choices—they are life skills that not only improve course pass rates and college persistence, but also provide real-world lessons for work and home. For a culture truly committed to student success, everyone must be On Course. The Week 3 Starfish report provides just the opportunity to do so.

How about you? In the spirit of interdependence, please share your own best practices for the Starfish reports, especially those that help students make successful choices!

2 thoughts on “Getting On Course with Starfish

  1. There is no doubt that a word well and sincerely spoken to anyone scratches the underbelly of their self-worth, affirms their self-esteem, and motivates them to be successful. As the saying goes, “I will remember how you made me feel more than what you said.” Certainly I will Starfish, but the Kudos will come more from the heart than from a script.

    Last week, I received a phone call from a former student I had in 1973; he had tracked me down. He said, “Do you remember when you encouraged me to follow my dreams, never to give up, and all will be well.” We talked for about an hour. Afterwards, I thought of seeds that we plant as facilitators of learning.

    Recently, I received an unsolicited email from a student last semester: “I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your class, and I wanted to thank you for teaching it so well. I was constantly encouraged by your responses to my work and felt motivated to do my best for each assignment. I had no experience with ethics and philosophy in an academic setting prior to this class, and I feel like I’ve found a subject that I really love. I already know that my major will be political science, and I’ve decided that I’m going to take philosophy as my minor. I’ve now switched from UWGB to UW Whitewater, where they offer that option. Because of my experience in your class I am looking forward to diving into more classes on the subject and can only hope that they will be taught so aspiring as your class. Teachers like you give meaning and value to students’ education. Thank you for a wonderful and thought-provoking semester!”

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