Transformation: The Core Curriculum

Sample Dialogs to Promote Student Engagement

Many thanks to the faculty and staff who attended “Transformational Advising and the Core Curriculum” on April 5, 2015 for coming up with these great questions. These are sure to encourage students to make good choices, to be adventurous and exploratory, and to take advantage of the array of options available here at UMass Lowell!

Conversation #1
Student: I want to take an elective class that’ll be practical for my career, but I don’t know what to take.

Some suggestions for questions you could ask in response to get this conversation on a productive track:
What do you mean by practical? Keeping you on track? Helping you pick a major? Helping you get set for career/graduate school? What would you look back on and regret that you hadn’t taken? Are you talking about academic career, or your professional career?
What kind of skills do you think you need to develop? (Use this question to tease out misconceptions.) What kind of experiences have you had outside of your “career” that you’ve really enjoyed? Are you interested in developing a minor? Or would you prefer to get lots of variety? Consider talking the student out of practical and into exciting!
Look at all the many options that are available! What stage is the student in (undeclared or major)? Questions might vary by how advanced the student is in the degree, and whether or not the student has a declared major.

More sample Dialogues

Conversation #2
Student: I need to find an elective.

You: What are you interested in?
Student: I don’t know.
Here are some questions you could ask to provoke a substantive answer from this student:
What have you taken before that you liked? Do you know what you might want to do after you graduate? What type of movies do you watch (or books do you like to read)? What do you like to do in your free time?

Help them find something that they’d do of their own free will! Did you volunteer in high school? What did you do? What have you always been curious about? (May help to model the don’t-have-regrets message: I always wished I’d taken that course in ____.) Do you want to travel? (To identify possible related courses.) Questions might vary by kind of field. (e.g., ask “What application of math are you interested in?” to facilitate non-obvious connections in other disciplines.) or by how advanced the student is in the degree.

Conversation #3
Student:    My classes are so hard, I need to find an easy course to help boost my GPA.

Here are some questions you could ask in response to get this conversation on a productive track:
How about we talk about boosting your GPA in your major –that’s where a low GPA needs boosting! What do you think is an easy course? (To get at assumptions.) How are you managing your time? (If the student’s GPA needs boosting, there may be other cures besides “easy” classes)
What classes are you finding difficult? What about them is difficult? In what past courses have you done well? Do you like you major? (Students may not realize the many routes they have to a given career goal, or might not be being realistic about the requisite skills for the current major.) Let’s focus on finding something different– not an issue of easier, but take a break from the kinds of thinking and work your major requires. See conversation #1, above: performance is often tied to interest


You are working with a student (incoming class of Fall 2015 or later) for whom the Diversity and Cultural Awareness (DCA outcome) is not met within the required courses for the major.

Student:    Diversity & Cultural Awareness doesn’t really matter for me or for this major. I need to find a course to fulfill that ELO.
Here are some questions you could ask in response to get this conversation on a productive track:
Why doesn’t diversity and cultural awareness matter to you? Let’s think for a minute: How might it be impactful for the major/field/profession? What do you think it means? How would you define it? Mightn’t a class with this ELO give you the ability to view the world in a sophisticated way? What courses do you think count for this? What have you been doing before you came here that you haven’t seen this as relevant? (Explore past personal experiences that relate to this outcome.) Where do you want to go with your education? (Draw out the likelihood that DCA is relevant.) How do you think what you just said to me would go over with a potential employer?