Working with Student Veterans: Moving toward Success!

It is not just military service that sets student veterans apart from their classmates. According to a 2013 American Council on Education report, they are often the first members of their family to attend college and are often about a decade older than other students. They tend to study harder and are driven to succeed, but feel less engaged and connected to campus life.

The good news in this study is that many veterans feel supported by their institutions. This support is found at every level—from the financial aid process and registration and the classroom. As faculty and staff, we need to find ways to ensure that veterans have the tools and skills they need to walk their educational path. But, there are challenges as you will read in this article from  Misconceptions about veterans abound, do a reality check at NEA Ten Things You Should Know about Working with Today’s Student Veterans.

Cultivating a sense of belonging on campus can be helpful. So, how might we get started?

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask if a student in interested in sharing his/her experiences rather than singling someone out in class discussions
  • If a student veteran seems to be struggling, talk with him or her
  • Know the resources that are available, this includes VetNet, but also the services that are available to all GCC students, both traditional and online
  • Remember that sometimes active duty students need flexibility with due dates—be accommodating when possible
  • Introduce them to organizations and activities on campus. Review tips for Getting Student Veterans off the Sidelines for some ideas
  • Capitalize on each veteran’s strength and determination to help reach educational goals

The VetNet resource center is a must-stop for veterans on campus—it is the place to get certified for educational benefits, meet other vets and find support for challenges. Advisors can learn how to meet the needs of this population from the NACADA: Advising Student Veterans.

Perhaps one of the best all around sites for learning about student veterans is the American Council on Education: Supporting Student Veterans. The articles and resources here are directed at all members of the educational community. You will find information on helping make the transition from soldier to student and much more.




Identifying Students who are Struggling and Taking Action

In the first few weeks of the semester, we are often preoccupied learning student names, creating course materials and getting back into the swing of a busy teaching schedule. This is also a time to be on the lookout for students who might struggle in your course.

Some of the early signs are:

  • Falling asleep
  • Arriving late or not at all
  • Making rude or mean remarks toward you or a classmate
  • Not completing work
  • —and the list goes on

The temptation to ignore some of these behaviors is strong, but there are plenty of reasons to get involved… and to do it sooner rather than later. An intervention does not need to be a full-on confrontation, but merely making the student aware that his or her behavior is affecting others.  Sometimes students do not understand the social norms of a college classroom or perhaps they need to have rules and expectations clarified.

If you are facing challenges, remember that you are not alone and that there are resources to help. Lisa Rodriguez, Ph.D. offers tips for dealing with and preventing many common classroom/student issues

Click here for an 8-step plan for dealing with disruptive students.

Perhaps somewhat more rare, but sadly increasingly common, is to have an emotionally troubled student in class. These tips help you to recognize these students and take appropriate action.

Dealing with disruptive students can be frustrating and can sometimes leave you feeling drained. Keep in mind that this is not an issue reserved for new faculty, at some point all faculty experience these challenges. Seek the support of your colleagues, department chair and experienced faculty.

Creating a Rubric: The why and how…

Creating an effective rubric can seem daunting, but is well worth the effort and will save time grading. Grading rubrics are valuable tools for both instructors and students not only for grading purposes, but also as a tool to communicate expectations about skills and information mastery.

Sharing student learning goals and how these will be measured helps students to understand your assessment strategies. Rubrics also describe the importance of individual grading items and can emphasize learning priorities for students. Rubrics help students meet learning objectives and actually do better on assignments. It is a measure of respect we provide to students about how they will be assessed—they are less likely to be caught off guard.

Many resources exist for rubric construction, but most start with learning objectives for each lesson that are clear, specific and measurable. Once we know what students need to learn and how they are going to accomplish it, we can look at how to assess their progress and how to weight each learning goal in terms of relative importance.

This link to Carnegie Mellon University provides a strong induction to using rubrics and examples of rubrics for assignments, projects, presentations and more.

This primer on creating rubrics offers a simple how-to for creating a rubric. How to Create a Grading Rubric

MA is now designated as a Leap State which means that the AACU Value Rubrics are important for measuring program level student outcomes. Look at this resource for more information on Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE).

For examples of rubrics for assessing different types of learning, multiple disciplines and skills, look at Stephen F Austin State University, Association for the Assessment in Higher Education or the University of West Florida.

If you have interest in sharing a rubric you use any an assignment, please do. Send them to and they can be added to the T & L site.

Test Anxiety and Study Skills

Test anxiety is a debilitating condition that creates self-doubt, worry, and an inability to focus which affects performance and grades. Personality type, coping mechanisms and meta-cognitive processes influence test anxiety development and intensity–learn more about test anxiety How much do you know about Test anxiety quiz (look in the conference presentation for the answers to this quiz).  Instructors can help their students to reduce test anxiety through skill development, desensitization/counter conditioning and self-regulation techniques in the classroom and during testing. This simple inventory can help students decide if test anxiety is an issue that may need additional attention TestAnxietyInventory. Students may benefit from a visit to the GCC Disability and Accessibility Office for help.

MTA 2013 Conference presentation on Text Anxiety: The end of test anxiety

Studying can help to reduce test nervousness and help students feel confident to take on the challenges of an exam. However, many students are unsure of how to study and what specific study strategies might work best for their learning style.In addition to providing ideas about how to study for your specific course and content, these handouts can be helpful for both new and continuing students.

How to study

Tips and tricks for Student Testing Success


Targeted Populations

Our classrooms are more diverse than ever and as instructors and staff we need to respond to the needs of all students through our teaching approaches, the creation of strong community of learners and the availability of resources to make learning available to all. Josephine Scott offers some ideas for meeting the needs of diverse learners.


VetNet is GCC’s club for student veterans. Our primary goal is to generate a campus-wide culture that embraces the leadership, discipline, and high standards veterans bring to our campus while translating their military experience to student success. Learn more about student veterans in Alison Lighthall’s article for NEA’s Thought and Action, 10 Things You Should Know About Today’s Student Veteran.

Scuttlebutt Sep 2014 for staff

Scuttlebutt Nov. 2014 EXTRA-1

Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring offers students the opportunity to look at how they learn. Students enrolled in any GCC course are welcome to meet with peer tutors in the fall and spring semesters. In tutoring sessions, students explore ways to study and problem-solve, and they apply these strategies to specific course assignments. Students meet individually with tutors in our offices in the 4th floor of the Core. In many introductory math and English courses, peer tutors assist students in the classroom.

Disability Services

The Office of Disability Services works with students, faculty, and staff to promote universal design and to remove barriers to access on campus.

Disability Services collaborates with the GCC counseling staff to provide ongoing support for students with a variety of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, mental illness, low vision/blindness, deafness and traumatic brain injury. Disability Services also serves as a resource center for medical and legal advocacy, information, and referrals. Disability Services is also responsible for verifying student eligibility for accommodations, coordinating accommodations across campus, and providing consultation and training about disabilities for faculty and staff.

For more information on Universal Access and learning how to make materials available to all learners, visit the National Center on Disability and Access to Education.

Some tips for working with students at GCC:

ü	Always speak to the student privately about their disability or accommodation(s).<br /><br /><br /><br />
ü	Avoid allowing other students or faculty to hear these private conversations. This includes conversations regarding testing accommodations, class absences related to disability, etc.<br /><br /><br /><br />
ü	Arrange for students to pick up copies of notes for class materials that have been put into accessible format in a time and manner that protects their confidentiality.<br /><br /><br /><br />
ü	When in doubt as to what to do to protect the student’s right to confidentiality ask the student how they would prefer something to be handled or call the Office of Disability Services.<br /><br /><br /><br />