For all the hype the college application process gets, getting into college is only the beginning. Almost half of the students who begin college don’t graduate within six years.
The reasons for why students don’t graduate vary, but at least some students fall behind in their academic work and never really catch up. When faculty members have large classes, it’s hard for them to identify which students could use some help. Many of the students who need assistance fall through the cracks.
To the degree possible, faculty can make themselves available to students through study sessions and office hours. Many students don’t end up taking advantage of these options, and professors simply don’t have the time to give focused attention to every student.
Here are a few ways faculty and schools can work to identify and help struggling students make it past the graduation finish line.
Provide detailed feedback on performance throughout the course. Students who have a solid understanding of which topics in the course they know well and which they’re having a hard time with can study more efficiently and effectively. Before you stress out too much at the idea of just how long providing detailed feedback to every student in a course would take, you should know that the process can be automated.
By giving regular quizzes and tests in a course and tagging all of the questions with relevant categories, each test can produce data to be delivered to the students in detailed reports. As a result, both professors and students have better information about students’ strengths and weaknesses.
Create targeted extra credit assignments based on need. Once the relevant data has been collected, a professor can better craft assignments to serve the needs of the class in general. For students falling behind, a professor can take into account the specific areas where they need the most work and provide extra credit assignments that will help them strengthen their understanding of the course materials.
Not every student will jump at the chance to do extra work, but those who really want to succeed will appreciate the opportunity.
Show students different study methods. It takes a while for students to figure out what study habits work best for them. Schools can help students along in the process by providing resources that point them in the right direction. Boston College offers an elective course focused on teaching students how to learn better. It works—90% of the students that take it graduate.
Faculty can also work some of this information into their courses and assignments. When activities that are common to good study habits become a part of assignments themselves, students start to get a feel for what works best for them.
Enable students to better help each other. Struggling students can learn a lot from students who are managing their coursework more successfully. When given the opportunity, students can pick up better study habits and gain extra insights into the materials from their fellow students.
Group projects and class teamwork are nothing new, but Kingsborough Community College found success through a remediation project encouraging students to work together. Students were grouped together in learning communities and placed in several of the same classes so they’d be working through the same materials at the same time. Having a group of peers to work with in their courses made a difference in how well students engaged with their work and performed in school.
Many of the resources students need for greater success are already available. The trick is getting the right information to them. Technology, better data, and experimenting with what works best in remediation can help schools refine their efforts to serve struggling students better.