How can individual faculty members attend to retention in our courses?

When we think about retention in individual courses, there are two main areas to focus on: belonging and student success. 

How can I cultivate belonging in my courses? 

  1. Tell students that you are excited they are here and want them to do well in your class and express that you believe that they are capable of success in your course
  2. Normalize struggle. Students who are struggling can convince themselves that they are the only ones having trouble in the class. Talk about typical challenges students face and explain the ways that learning can be a struggle. Tell stories of your own struggles.
  3. Explain that the transition to college is challenging and temporary and is not representative of their ability of characteristics. (This relatively simple intervention has been linked to both academic and health improvements.)
  4. Check in with students. Consider using informal feedback in your class – possibly through a google form or exit ticket – to assess learning and student attitudes and needs.
  5. Work to build community in the classroom. Learning student names and having them into your home are important, there are also ways to build community through in class activities, small group discussions, giving students the opportunity to share things about themselves. The Mission and Implementation Canvas Course has a module on building community.

What do we mean when we talk about “student success”? Does that mean everyone makes an A?

Student success is a complex metric, but it’s rarely measured by making an A in the class. Ultimately we want students to learn and meet the learning outcomes of the course.

How do I help students succeed?

  1. Use transparent teaching strategies. The TILT framework is an evidence-based practice that leads to student success. Transparent assignments, for example, always list the purpose, the skills and tasks required to complete the assignment, and criteria for success, including annotated examples.
  2. Discuss strategies for being successful on tests, assignments, presentations, etc. In other words, tell students how they should prepare for those assignments and give examples of what successful students have done in the past. Consider using exam wrappers.
  3. Discuss common pitfalls. Where have you seen students stumble in the past? How can you current students avoid that?
  4. Look for barriers. Where might an assignment or assessment create a hurdle for  students? How can you make it more accessible while still meeting your outcomes?

What if a student tells me they can’t complete an assignment because they are too anxious?

According to Tyson Alexander, director of the Medical and Counseling Center, you should remind the student that they, in fact, can do it. You believe in them and you know they have the tools. If you do extend the deadline, give them a new deadline and help them consider the next steps to complete the assignment.

I want help to implement some of the strategies above? Who should I reach out to?

The Adams Center! We can offer one-on-one, small group, or department consultations to discuss student-centered learning strategies.