Faculty Checklist for Success
"At no time is support, in particular academic support, more important than during the critical first year of college when student success is still so much in question and still malleable to institutional intervention" Vincent Tinto
The following are recommendations from the Mansfield University Retention Action Plan and the General Education Evaluation Committee for improving student persistence and success at the course, program, and individual student levels. Please make note of the methods used in your courses so that we may re-evaluate these recommendations for the upcoming year.
- Students linked closely with others in engaging and productive campus activities, whether it be the Honors Program, the band or chorus, an athletic mentoring program, the TRiO program, or some other high value activity at the department level persist at higher rates.
Evidence has consistently indicated the importance of new students connecting with their advisors very early in their first semester of college.
- Recommendation: FYS faculty should help all of their students become engaged in not only their classes but in a campus community or program that is active and supportive.
Many students come to college adrift and with no history of reasonable academic expectations every being placed on them. They lack study skills and the capacity to plan their daily and weekly schedules effectively. First year students particularly need structure they may not have experienced before. Class attendance is a core element of a culture of learning.
- Recommendation: FYS faculty should ensure that all of their students can identify who their advisors are and encourage, or even require, them to meet with them within two weeks of the start of the semester.
Some faculty may unintentionally encourage the notion that class attendance is not essential. (In fact it is not essential if one only covers what is in a text book.) Tinto and others advise making full use of the first day of class to engage students with the syllabus and the course material, the professor, and other students in the class who should become partners in learning. Discussing pathways to success in the course is important in a first class session. Using an assessment of knowledge and course expectations can be an important part of the first class session. Handing out a syllabus and sending students on their way during the first class session is identified by Tinto and others as a practice to be avoided.
- Recommendation: FYS faculty should implement a mandatory class attendance policy for their courses. Faculty should continue to report students who miss more than two classes in succession.
Actively engage all students who are in first year courses and seminars. They should experience class as productive time that helps them understand course content and think critically about the topics being covered.
- Recommendation: All faculty should have effective methods of utilizing the first class session to set a culture for learning in the course. Similar messages should be communicated with consistency across all courses.
Writing, even briefly, within class can be a productive activity. For example, a one-minute paper can be engaging and useful to both instructor and student. This kind of assignment can be a part of any class, and the instructor needs only to read a sample of the papers and respond at the opening of the following class to make the process meaningful.
- Recommendation: Active learning through problem focused discussions, group work, writing assignments, clicker technology, and so on, should be a part of classes that fully engage students in learning.
The timing and frequency of exams and quizzes in first year courses is critical. Best practice would be to have an assessment of some kind or quiz by the second or, at the latest, the third class. The maxim “test early, test often” is particularly important for first year courses. The traditional college practice of a mid-term and a final is deadly for underprepared first-year students. Spaced learning and demonstration of learning has been demonstrated as better than massed learning.
- Recommendation: Faculty should consistently use techniques such as the one-minute paper to improve class engagement, learning, and communication between instructors and students. For more information on the one-minute paper, please see: http://writing.berkeley.edu/wab/2-2-gone.htm
Students who come to class prepared are more likely to be engaged in deeper learning. Assignments can be designed so that students are forced into being prepared for class. Generally points assigned to preparation or pre-class quizzing online help to ensure that students are better prepared.
- Recommendation: All faculty teaching first year courses should follow the practices of assessing early and often and avoid a small number of major examinations as the primary method of assessment.
Supplemental instruction or course-centered study groups that meet outside of class improve learning outcomes and student persistence.
- Recommendation: Faculty should design courses so that students are prepared for discussions or other classroom learning before they arrive.
While recognizing that the new first year seminar is built around content, it is the position of the academic administration that the course must also fulfill a set of learning activities that prepare students for a higher level of success. Nowhere else in the general education curriculum is there a course that would necessarily orient students to the role of general education, the culture of Mansfield University, library utilization and information literacy, study skills, and student success expectations. Best practices for first year seminars (e.g., Keup and Petschauer, 2011) would ensure that such outcomes and skill development are integrated into such a course.
- Recommendation: Faculty should plan supplemental instruction, peer leader support, or student study group assignments into their courses. Points assigned to such activities increase participation.
The application of analytics to promote student success is a critical part of achieving the goals of this action plan. Obtaining the data needed to create successful analytic processes should be everyone’s responsibility in very specific ways. Faculty teaching first year seminars and other courses must accept part of the responsibility for ensuring that entering students complete instruments such as MAP-Works and promptly refer students facing challenges associated with their first college year to appropriate resources.
- Recommendation: FYS faculty should integrate learning outcomes and activities that prepare students for successful engagement with college level learning and related expectations into their courses. They should assess achievement of outcomes that ensure these skills are addressed successfully. The First Year Experience web page provides seven on-line learning modules that assess these hard skills.
- Recommendation: Set a 100% response rate as the goal for first-year students competing MAP-Works, and reach out to students who are having difficulty engaging with college-level expectations. An expectation of completing MAP-Works should be integrated into the syllabi of first year seminars and other first year courses.