It Takes a College to Graduate one Student: Connecting Scholarly Teaching to Program-level Assessment that results in Student

By: Julia Wai-Yin So

The success of an academic program in a two-year community college in the U.S. is generally defined by completion rate, transfer rate, job placement rate, or industry’s certification award rate. Tracking the progression of an entry cohort by a set of alternative indicators allows program administrator to identify any subtle drop in cohort enrollment, so to implement intervention strategies in hope to mitigate the situation and thus maintain the program completion rate. In this session, the presenter will share three-year enrollment data of one entry cohort of an AA in Criminology. Grouping the data by general education courses as well as program’s core courses, the presenter will demonstrate the number of students in the cohort that have completed a target percentage of the aforementioned categories of courses in each of the three consecutive years. Not only such set up can provide insights in students’ academic progress in the program, but also allows student services and/or academic advisors to intervene when necessary. In addition to discussing various commonly practiced intervention strategies, the session also calls for an inclusive classroom culture to nurture students’ sense of belonging.

The presenter argues for a two-prong approach—mentoring and monitoring–to raise course retention rate, especially in an online environment. First is to mentor students from the first week of the semester. Using evidence-based strategies of mentoring to ensure students feel included and therefore more engaged in their learning. First of all, I recorded a self-introduction video to welcome students, and meet with each student during the first three weeks of the semester, while requiring them to submit a student in-take form that asks a batch of questions about their academic and family background as well as their employment workload. I also recorded a video to familiarize students on how to navigate the course pages.

To ensure the online classroom climate that is inclusive and students feel emotionally safe, I include a music video on the beginning of each module page and adopting a value-based model (instead of a deficit model) when working with students. Other active learning strategies are group work and reflection learning journals.

The other micro approach is monitoring students’ progress, especially during the first six-week of the semester, so to identify students who might be at-risk of following the slippery slope and disappear. Most literature emphasize the importance of a mid-term review in students progress in a course (1). Not only does it provide faculty important information to implement any possible changes, but also demonstrates faculty’s genuine interest in student success. I argue for a 6-week feedback survey, rather than a mid-term review, as it is essential for faculty to self-evaluate their teaching effectiveness and to identify areas for improvement with respect to their pedagogy and a potential need for curriculum change.

Since I adopted the above strategies, the retention rate of my hybrid Sociology 101 was raised from 52% in Fall 2012 to 100% in Spring 2017 while the passing rate was improved dramatically from 50% in Fall 2012 to 83% in Spring 2017.

(1) Cohen, P. A. (1980). “Effectiveness of Student-rating Feedback for Improving College Instruction: A Meta-analysis of Findings.” Research in Higher Education 13(4):321-341.