Responding to Students with Academic Problems

Responding to Students Who are Failing or Haven’t been to Class Recently

A student who is failing or has not been in class may come to class late or have frequent absences, lack understanding of the course content, be unaware of campus resources that can help to fix the problem, exhibit negative thinking and behaviors early in the semester, lack preparation or interest in the course, or struggle with balancing work, social activities, and academic responsibilities.

What you can do:

  • Reach out to the student to check in on them via email or by scheduling to meet with them
  • Engage student in gentle conversation about their absences or failing grades and discuss possible barriers to success as well as ways to improve


  • Concluding that the student just isn’t trying hard enough
  • Waiting to connect with the student
  • Presuming the student lacks the ability to be successful

Responding to a Student Who is Academically Dismissed

Check the Registrar’s website for official policies regarding academic dismissal and appeals.

What you can do:

Responding to the Student Who Needs Study or Learning Skills

Study and learning skills vary according to the specific nature and content of the course. A student may not have been taught specific study or learning skills prior to coming to college, such as good time management, making lists or schedules, or study habits (i.e. making marginal notes, giving visual emphasis to material, scheduling frequent reviews, etc.). With help, a student can plan effective study strategies based on their learning style. Sometimes a student’s learning style does not match your teaching style.

What you can do:

  • Consider building into your class a session on how to study for the course at the beginning of the semester
  • Ask the student about their study time, learning strategies, and understanding of course content
  • Consider reviewing past exams/assignments to analyze the student’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Offer potential strategies for effective studying for your course and encourage the student to identify and adjust to what works for them to succeed
  • Encourage the value of group study
  • Refer the student to the Pirate Academic Success Center, CCSD’s self-help page for tips, or CCSD for personal counseling


  • Assuming the student does not understand or want to understand the course material
  • Believing the student should know how to learn course content without guidance
  • Thinking the student knows about available campus resources

Responding to Students with Test Anxiety

Some anxiety often helps a student perform better under pressure. However, if students experience too much anxiety, it can affect both academic and psychological well-being. Test anxiety can be caused by many factors, such as the pressure to succeed, past experiences, and/or fear of failure. The student with anxiety may not perform well on tests, although grades on other course requirements are good. A student can have anxiety related to certain types of exams.

Symptoms of test anxiety can include:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • sweaty palms
  • negative self-talk
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • tears
  • inability to retain test information

What you can do:

  • Meet privately with the student and ask about the student’s test preparation skills. Suggest useful study strategies and exam preparation techniques (see Study and Learning Skills).
  • Go over the exam with the student so that the student understands their performance and what caused the errors
  • Refer the student to Disability Support Services if needed to discuss accommodations
  • Offer for the student to download the MindShift phone app for managing anxiety or check out CCSD’s other self-help resources
  • Refer the student to CCSD if needed to address negative self-talk and emotional distress
  • Encourage the student to use the Pirate Academic Success Center if they do not understand the course material or need additional study skills


  • Minimizing the situation or believing the student can just “get over it”
  • Assuming the student is simply trying to ask for special attention
  • Concluding that the student must have a learning disability
  • Believing that if the student really understands the material, the student should be able to perform better on exams