Monday, January 30, 2006

Academic Support Rocks and I Can Prove It!!!

Professor Tonsing is absolutely right. Academic Support does help. We can make a difference to students and now I can prove it!!! (with the caveat, of course, that I am not a mathematician, see below).  

I am just now compiling our statistics from last year to see if there is any correlation between what we do and the ultimate success or failure of our students. Interestingly, because I was out on maternity leave last spring, I have a control group of sorts to work with because our office did not see all the students who were flagged as “at risk” by their first semester grades.

In the past, we have worked with every student (in some capacity) that has received an unsatisfactory grade (defined here as a C- or below). Usually we conduct one-on-one meetings with these students and follow a curriculum that involves a review of outlining and exam taking techniques as well as many practice hypotheticals and multiple choice questions. But last year we couldn’t see everyone: and it made a difference (by my calculations, keeping in mind the last time I took a course in statistics was as an undergraduate!). It really seems (note the intentional use of the passive voice to take into account my potentially flawed statistical analysis), that seeing students one-on-one will help keep them from being placed on academic warning at the end of their first year.

Judging from our numbers, about twice as many students we didn’t see one-on-one were on academic warning at the end of the first year as those we did see. This is significant because the one-on-one triage the office engaged in involved not seeing those students who appeared to be at a lower risk for being in academic distress at the end of the year. That is, we did not see students who had one unsatisfactory midterm grade as opposed to those who had an unsatisfactory final grade or more than one unsatisfactory midterm grade. We also saw some students whose GPA’s were in the automatic dismissal (if it were the end of the year) range.

There are some variables that I could not quantify and include while doing my analysis. For example, I personally think the student who comes in to see us with the attitude of, “I messed up, please help me get this right” is always bound to make more progress than the, “my professors hate me” student. I also could not tell from the numbers if there were students who were just not capable of doing the work, no matter how much and what kind of help they were given. But even so, the numbers really do seem to point to an advantage in meeting with students individually after the red-flag of a poor grade in the first semester.

Simply put, in the end, the students we saw one-on-one did better.  I agree with Prof. Tonsing that this is a hard time of year for academic supporters, but get out your pom-poms and get going, because we really can make a difference!!(ezs)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2006/01/academic_suppor_1.html

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