Advising Graduate Students with Competence Problems

CEHS faculty discussion addressed these questions:

  • What are reasonable expectations of support for graduate students who are performing poorly in their program?
  • What advisor or graduate faculty actions are necessary to demonstrate that the student has been provided with appropriate opportunities to improve?
  • When are performance deficits grounds for dismissing a student from a program?

We need strategies for mental health supports for distance graduate students

  • Faculty need procedures for connecting distance-learning students to community supports (e.g., counseling).

Certain graduate program practices will be important protections should the program need to dismiss a student with competence problems

  • Graduate programs should give students a written program handbook as soon as they come into the program that describes expectations of the student
  • Faculty should assign grades that reflect student performance and not give grades of ‘incomplete’ for poor performance. Often, grades become inflated when students are making up work to clear the ‘incompletes.’
  • Faculty need guidelines for advising students with disabilities who demonstrate competency problems.
  • Some graduate students  struggle because of poor study habits and organization skills and we need more strategies to support graduate student successful study skills.
  • Students should be provided with a remediation plan if they are deficient in meeting program expectations

Departments can play a stronger role in enforcing expectations for graduate students

  • Faculty need guidelines for masters students who are not making timely progress through their programs. Similar problems should be dealt with consistently.
  • Departments or programs need procedures for dealing with students who ‘shop’ around for easier courses at other universities to substitute for program requirements.
  • Should program deadlines be revisited? Perhaps graduate students are making important decisions (e.g. selecting advisors; designing course of study) too early in their programs.
  • Departments should revisit their procedures for incompletes.
  • We need further discussion of the guidelines for graduate advisors with students facing life crises (e.g. deaths, natural disasters, cancer).

Faculty Supports

  • CEHS could be more deliberate in preparing faculty to be graduate advisors.
  • We should have a support structure for graduate advisors when they have to terminate a student.
  • Committees and advisors should collaborate on annual student evaluations.
  • Committees should give recommendations about procedures when students have performance problems.
  • Advisors need procedures for documenting students with competency problems.