Ensuring Writing Success for Hispanic Doctoral Students
General description of the project
Albizu University – Miami (AU-Miami) is a primarily Hispanic serving institution. The most recent enrollment data demonstrated that 78.3% (483) of the 617 graduate students identified as Hispanic/Latino. Over the past five years, enrollment of Hispanic graduate students at AU-Miami has steadily increased and it is anticipated with the award of the Title V PPOHA grant, the enrollment will continue to grow. With the increase in Hispanic enrollment, there is a need to support these students in completing their graduate programs by implementing retention strategies that ensure their success.
During the second year of the Title V PPOHA grant (2020-21 academic year), an emphasis was placed on working with students in the Human Services (Ph.D.) and Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) doctoral programs. A series of three meetings occurred with the Human Services department and two meetings with the Clinical Psychology Department to discuss the current struggles of doctoral students in terms of writing a dissertation or completing a doctoral project. Difficulties identified included: a) students who are English as a Second Language Learners, b) inability to summarize information, c) grammar, and d) paper organization.
To address these problems, students were referred to the Graduate Student Research Center (GRSC) to receive one-on-one tutoring. Using one student initially as a pilot, a process was developed as follows: a) hold preliminary meeting with student to identify research topic, stage of writing process, and perceived academic challenges, b) student sends via e-mail an initial draft for review, c) track changes and detailed feedback is provided, d) a virtual meeting via Zoom is scheduled, e) the one-on-one meeting focuses on a discussion about the feedback and direction of the paper, f) detailed notes of the session are recorded, and g) follow up appointment is scheduled.
The first technology used was Zoom for one-on-one sessions. Using Zoom, students shared their screen and both the student and GSRC staff would review the paper together and make changes. The next technology used was the purchasing of a Grammarly subscription. All graduate level students had access to the full version of Grammarly for Microsoft Word and for their web browsers. Students were encouraged by the GSRC staff to use Grammarly services on Microsoft Word to avoid smaller grammatical errors in dissertations. The final technology used for this practice was Smartsheet. Using Smartsheet, student meetings were tracked with the date, detailed notes of each session, and recommendations for follow up. Smartsheet’s sharing feature allows the dissertation committees to see student progress in real time. This feature easily allows both the GSRC staff and faculty to identify if a student has fallen behind and carefully monitor student progress.
Explain project results
To date, a total of 17 students (n=9 Human Services; n=8 Clinical Psychology) have had 50 one-on-one meetings with the GSRC averaging approximately three (3) meetings per student. The original student who piloted the process has defended her dissertation and will graduate in December 2021.
There has been positive feedback from students as well as from both departments. Students utilizing the one-on-one sessions through Zoom reported being more organized, having a sense of direction, and feeling like the dissertation was more manageable. Faculty from both departments have noted significant positive changes to student writing, in particular writing organization. Faculty expressed that they had to spend less time editing and more time to focus on content. In addition, a total of 278 students are utilizing the Grammarly license to date. Students have reported that they find this service helpful as it gives grammar recommendations as they write.
The information from Smartsheet along with the information collected from Grammarly can assist university staff in analyzing the main areas of weakness in writing. This has led to the development of additional writing workshops and activities such as a Dissertation/Doctoral Project Boot Camp.
Why it should be considered best practice?
This described project is a best practice because it utilizes an individualized approach to student learning. Students already have access to general online programs, ESL courses at the university, and other writing workshops. This additional layer of support provides a personalized mentoring approach where students get specific, detailed, and ongoing feedback. The use of weekly meetings also helps to hold students accountable to writing on a regular basis which leads to continuous improvement.
Highlights of your proposed presentation
This presentation covers:
1) The piloting process of a one-on-one writing tutoring process for doctoral students
2) Technologies implemented to meet and share information (e.g., Zoom, Smartsheet)
2) Lessons learned from the new process and student accomplishments
The Evaluation Committee will evaluate submitted proposals based on the following criteria. Each area will be rated on a scale from 1 to 7 (1= non-satisfactory; 7 =outstanding), for a maximum of 63 points.