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‘Students should never be struggling on their own,’ says professor

As the academic year comes to a close, Algonquin professors try to keep up the emphasis on learning – rather than simply passing – at a time when most students are scrambling to finish assignments and prepare for final exams.

Among them is Professor Stephen Vardy, who teaches in Algonquin’s bachelor of building science program and consulted on the design of the ACCE-building, which is where many of his classes take place. This gives him the opportunity to give his students direct examples of how the things they learn about are applied in the buildings they walk through in their everyday life.

He maintains that pointing out the tangible outcomes of lessons in this way is key in connecting students with their chosen subjects. To that effect he also suggests professors should try to use examples from their own work in their industry.

Communication is of the highest importance, he said, adding that professors “don’t necessarily know what other stresses the students are having,” and should not only invite feedback but also seriously consider it.

“In an informal way I am always checking the pulse of the class,” he said, explaining that professors should strive to be approachable and meet students halfway.

When that is not possible, they should always explain why and justify their reasoning.

“Respect is a two-way street in the classroom,” he said, adding that in his experience students don’t ask for things when there isn’t a real reason behind their requests.

When he was a student, Vardy said “The thing that I found consistently challenging was when teachers thought they were better than you.” Indicating that this is one of the big pitfalls of being an educator, he explained that some professors can inadvertently come off in a way that distances them from their students.

While he thinks exams have a place in education, Vardy said he thinks it’s important to give students multiple ways to get grades, acknowledging that some under-perform on written tests simply because “exams aren’t their thing.”

Speaking further on exams and the difficulties of students face at the end of the year, Vardy said that students should never be struggling on their own. When feeling under pressure they should not hesitate to access resources on campus such as academic advisers and student support specialists. Vardy also emphasized students are always welcome to reach out to him.

When trying to meet multiple deadlines, Vardy suggested students finish the easiest assignments and projects first, rather than prioritizing the ones with the highest grade weight. He also affirmed that students should get as much sleep as they can and not forget to take care of themselves during this difficult final stretch.

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