I usually found that midway or 2/3rds of the way through the term, students had kind of figured out how to coast. Come in with some kind of interesting ideas, listen to the instructor, revise them a little bit, start to lay them out and they look a little like ads. Almost every term I'd have to have a break-them-down-to-rebuild-them meeting where I'd do two things:
1) I'd have them look at a CA or One Show annual in class. Spend about 5 minutes with it. And then have them examine their absolute best (usually comped-up) work and honestly say whether or not it belonged.
2) Point out that their competition for a job isn't in that classroom (it's very easy to start to rank yourself among your peers). The competition is coming from Richmond, and Atlanta, and Miami and wherever any of those ad schools are, plus all the talented juniors who are still looking for work. No one can afford to coast.
Our friend Nate is also teaching at Miami Ad School this quarter, and he, Greg and I exchanged a few emails of advice and what to expect last week. In one of them, Greg said something that I think is really important and that students often forget (It applies to people in an agency too. It’s easy to compare yourself to your coworkers and nobody else.):