How can I understand my students backgrounds?

Understand the students is important in order to be able to teach them. In this session we'll explore how to identify common challenges with students. (Created by Neill Bogie)

Learning Objectives

  • Teachers/TAs can list common challenges faced by CYF students
  • Teachers/TAs can identify when to leave a student to work alone

Student Challenges


Work in small groups to name common student challenges, report back to group.


* TODO: link to process for a teacher to follow with code of conduct violations in class (minor or severe). It may come up.
The students might have reasons for...
  • not doing the homework,
  • having difficulty concentrating,
  • lack of interest,
  • being reticent to speak out in class,
  • not wanting to identify themselves online,
  • wanting time to themselves,
  • being on their phone in class,
  • irritability or bursts of anger,
  • missing class,
  • ... something else that you don't see coming
Possible challenges
Here are some possibilities that students may be facing, for you to bear in mind:
(by no means a comprehensive list)
  • uncertainties about their right to stay in the country
  • poor current accommodation
  • uncertain upcoming accommodation
  • financial difficulties
  • lack of employment opportunities
  • worries about family members
  • language and cultural difficulties
  • recently faced extremely stressful events
  • kids or other dependants to care for
  • no suitable study environment (e.g. no quiet, no wifi)
  • might not have had a good night's sleep
  • an unstable situation which changes from week to week
  • Language: English might not be their first, second, or third language. It may also appear fine verbally but weak in reading and writing, or vice versa.
  • Culture: Culturally, they might not have been previously encouraged to study, to speak out, or to seek employment in tech.
  • Time: The amount of hours each student has available to study may vary wildly. Compare: a young, healthy student with no right to work, no job, and no dependants vs mother of two young kids, with two jobs
  • Experience: The level of experience students have had with the material will vary wildly, within a class:
  • some may have very limited experience with computer basics
  • some may have studied programming at university level (or even taught related)
  • some may have done a bootcamp before

Despite these issues

  • we want to challenge each student to reach their potential
  • we expect each student to follow the code of conduct

Your role in this

TODO: Generate a group exercise to discuss what attendees think is their role in this context.
As a teacher or teaching assistant it's not your responsibility to investigate or resolve suspected student welfare issues.
  • Take each student as you find them
  • bear these possibilities in the back of your mind during your interactions
  • try to have more patience than you might normally
  • be sensitive to when your help or attention might not be wanted
  • avoid comparing effort and output between students
  • celebrate progress where you find it
  • treat others as you would yourself be treated
  • know who you should speak to when you have concerns