If you are like most Carleton College students, you may not be very comfortable with the authority that comes with the title of prefect. However, your peers do in fact expect you to lead, and you can’t conduct effective prefect sessions without being an effective manager of those sessions. This section will elaborate some principles that will be broadly helpful, and it will explore some different kinds of sessions that may require different strategies.
Conduct yourself with a certain amount of humor and humility. By all means, be willing to reconsider changing your plans if you encounter resistance. But you will encounter less resistance in the first place if you explain your plan. Ask for their willingness to try it out, and express your willingness to change plans if it isn’t working.
Large Review Sessions
Some students tend not to attend prefect sessions until the session right before the exam; then they come en masse. The majority of the students, not having been to a session before, will have false or unrealistic expectations of you and the session. You have to be prepared for such a session.
Here’s a protocol for conducting prefect sessions with too many students. Don’t leave out any steps. You won’t know how important a step is until you try to skip it. Students will get better at it with practice.
- Ask students what questions they have or problems they’ve encountered:
- Have a note-taker record students’ responses on part of the board
- Write down all responses without sorting or editing (except for length)
- After all students have raised their issues, have them identify items on the board that seem to go along with other items:
- List related items in columns on the board
- Avoid having more than 5 columns, or columns with only 1 item
- Come up with a descriptive column heading or category for each column
- Turn each item that is not already a question into a question
- Divide the class into groups:
- Each category should be assigned to one or more groups
- No group should have more than four students
- Arrange groups by seating, e.g. “You 4 over there are group 1,” etc.
- Give each group twenty or so minutes to attempt to answer all the questions for its category:
- One person per group acts as recorder and reporter
- The reporter reports the what and the why
- Circulate among the groups if you like, helping them stay focused
- Latecomers are placed into groups
- Report back to the large group:
- Reporters report
- Others ask for clarification
- Correct misinformation and clarify
- Tie up loose ends:
- Address any unanswered questions
- See if there are new questions
- Agree to stay after class (if possible) if necessary
This protocol has many strengths:
- It is good classroom management
- It promotes higher-order thinking skills like analysis and synthesis
- It creates focused small group discussions
- It maximizes the strengths of group learning
- It helps students learn from each other how to learn
- It builds confidence
Working with the Course Professor
The professor for your course knows about the Prefect Program and is eager to participate. They may even have nominated you for your position.
The best thing you can do to cultivate this relationship is to be professional and to maintain constant communication. Communicate frequently with the professor about what is happening in your prefect sessions. Support them in their work as a teacher, within the limits of your position. Be clear with them about your expectations, seek to understand their expectations, and negotiate any differences.
Two important rules:
- Do not undermine or criticize the professor during your sessions or outside of class, and
- Don’t grade papers or texts, or be involved beyond offering prefect sessions and one-to-one tutoring.
Working with Students in the Course
As a prefect, you have acquired the study skills necessary to succeed academically and are an important resource for modeling successful learning practices. Nevertheless, students should not expect you to be the expert in the prefect session. Students should have confidence in your expertise as a learner, and trust you to take them in the right direction. While you begin with a measure of this trust, your conduct in the course of the term — specifically, how you lead — will determine whether you maintain and even increase the trust they place in you.
You are also a peer. You are not the authority in the subject matter; the professor is. You do not need to be able to answer every question. But you might be able to empathize with some of their struggles and can demonstrate some of the same strategies that have made you a successful student. In the end, the students, and the professor, bear primary responsibility for their success in the class.
- Get to know and use the students’ names
- Communicate with students regularly through e-mail
- Be available to students for one-to-one tutoring, up to the limits of your contract
- Feel obligated to help beyond your position and resources
- Conduct yourself so informally that you jeopardize your leadership role
- Take responsibility for a student’s success or failure
If you notice that a student in your prefect session is struggling, your first responsibility is to connect the student with the professor.
Prefects are part of a larger academic support structure known as the Academic Support Center. In addition to the Prefect Program, the Center includes:
- The Math Skills Center (CMC 229, Russ Petricka)
- The Writing Center (4th Libe 420C, Kathy Evertz)
- Second Language Writing Program (4th Libe 420D, Renata Fitzpatrick)
- Academic Skills Coaching (4th Libe 420)
Refer, Refer, Refer . . .
You are in an excellent position to direct students to these resources. You may be the first person to know if a student is struggling. Refer to these campus resources often during your prefect sessions. Take time to listen empathetically to students who may be struggling. Make appropriate referrals in an appropriate fashion. Contact your supervisor if you are concerned about the well-being of a particular student.
Last but Not Least, We Appreciate Your Involvement!
Your supervisors are here to support you in every possible way — to make this an invigorating experience for you and students. We hope this will be a wonderful experience. Please share what you learn and teach us ways to improve future training sessions. And please see us if you ever have any questions or concerns.