International students, especially those for whom English is not their native language, may find it challenging to navigate the expectations of their university classes and assignments. Many may find that they need extra assistance, especially when writing research papers, studying for tests or preparing for oral presentations. For these students, it can often be challenging to know where to look for extra help.
Academic coaching is a support service offered to many students attending American universities often through university writing or advising centers. Academic coaching appointments can take many forms, but often the focus is on improving academic performance through subject-based tutoring or establishing better learning strategies.
“Some students enjoy the opportunity to privately ask questions and then receive personal explanations. Some students seek additional exercises and study tips. Other students desire to discuss and verify their understanding of an assignment,” says Anita Culler, the lead academic coach at North Carolina State University (NC State).
Sessions provide a safe and supportive space for students to receive academic and organizational assistance while focusing on areas or skills that they self-identify as requiring extra attention.
It can often be intimidating for international students to ask during class for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the class may be a lecture with over a hundred students! Working with a student’s preferred schedule and at a student’s individual pace allows the students to dive deeper into a particular area without worrying about time pressure.
“Sometimes I don’t want to study by myself because I think the way I study is incorrect for American classes. Studying with an Academic Coach makes me feel more comfortable and motivated!” exclaims Chelsea Li, an Intensive English Program student.
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In a typical coaching session for an English composition course, students may discuss with a coach how best to manage the different phases of the writing process, where to find additional resources on campus for research, and skills for self-editing. Throughout the session, the student leads the direction of the discussion and decides which topics are covered, leaving each session with specific feedback. Coaches and students may work together to set goals and schedules for the project.
“Regardless of the topic, every week I hear students say things like, ‘that was helpful’, ‘now I understand’ and ‘the study tips you gave me helped me a lot’. Seeing their renewed energy and confidence motivates me to come to work every day,” says Culler.
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