Student Support Meetings Guidance


  • Make an OH link (Google Appointments): I do 30 min slots to give my brain buffer, but expect most meetings to take 10-20
  • Backup for crunch
    • Who can cover for you for meetings if you get sick or there are too many students (eg after the midterm)
    • Who can run extensions in those situations
  • Triage: Once your schedule gets booked out by a week
    • Avoid adding more slots
    • Save that time to instead leave students with something tangible, and reach out to a head TA or student support lead so they can coordinate staff hours appropriately
    • Eg - email them with the first questions you’d ask in the meeting, and provide resources or start planning with them via email.
  • Show up prepared! It can be easy when you’ve slotted in a one-on-one appointment into the middle of your busy schedule to arrive and try to wing it once you get there, but your preparation does a lot to determine how your meeting goes. Here’s what I’d recommend:
    • Take a look at the student’s current assignment scores
    • Take a look at their assignment scores across topics. Did they do about the same on every assignment, miss a section of class, which topics are they struggling with or excelling in
    • Was this student referred to you by another TA? Have you seen them around Piazza? Search your email for past correspondences with the student, ping the referring TA if they can offer any insight.

During the Meeting

  • Have a game plan. The student may have emailed you because they had a concern, but don’t expect them to have a lot to talk about once you get there. Often, students will reach out because they want to feel like they’re taking a positive step towards doing better in the course, but don’t really know where to go from there. When the meeting starts, wait a beat. If a student wants to lead, let them, but expect that it’ll be you that guides the conversation. Don’t be afraid to get to the heart of the question. Why are they here, what can you help with, what’s going on, etc
  • Locations. I like using my zoom room. Make sure to turn your waiting room on!
  • Making recommendations Some general tips:
    • Resources
    • Guided time > alone time: If a student can get one-on-one time with a TA or tutor, that staff member can probably clear up a misconception in fifteen minutes that it would take the student up to an hour or more to work through alone. Encourage students to identify times they can make this happen – early morning office hours, after discussions / labs, etc.
    • Test-taking strategies: Taking exams is stressful, and students who think of themselves as people who don’t have an issue with test anxiety may neglect to consider this as a major factor in how they’re scoring.
  • Make a plan
    • Use a Template - (Optional, only use if you think student would find it helpful)
    • Ask what other courses they are taking, and how they plan to balance them
    • Leave the student with a week-by-week plan for students to stick to can be really helpful. Send your notes to them after the meeting in an e-mail, including any links you shared in the zoom chat
    • If nebulous, ask them to touch base again
  • Life referrals
  • We are here to open doors for the student
    • Failing is fine. Modifying course participation is fine. Ignoring school for the entire semester can be fine. The things that actually matter are the student’s life, health, and wellbeing. We are here to support them, however this course slots into it.
    • Be cognizant that the consequences of academic failure may be different for this student than they are for you – they may have scholarship money that rides on maintaining a certain GPA, or this could be their last graduation requirement
  • Other notes
    • Don’t Lie
    • You can walk students through the main categories in the course & help them figure out which lectures / topics there tend to show up in questions a lot, and which topics are relatively unimportant. Remind them also that points-wise, Exam material counts a lot.

After the Meeting

  • Follow up! I’d recommend one followup within a few hours of the meeting and another followup after a week to a week and a half. If you said you’d send a student resources, make sure they get them; regardless, students appreciate the opportunity to check in.

Other General Tips / Advice

  • Don’t feel obligated to meet 1-on-1 with a student who makes you feel at all uncomfortable. If a student who you feel hesitant meeting with 1-on-1 reaches out to you and wants to meet up, you can always tell them that you don’t have the bandwidth right now, but can recommend a few other TAs that would be great. You can also always have another TA join in on your meeting. We owe it to students as a course staff to be responsive to their requests for help, and to make sure they get what they need – you don’t personally owe this to any individual student.