Student Success in Higher Education

What is higher education doing to help our students succeed? Why do some students choose to leave college? How do we make a better system for students to feel valued within the classroom?

In his work, “Enhancing student success: Taking the classroom success seriously (2012).” Dr. Trinto highlights the three main pillars of an effective classroom and the efforts that go into creating a student-focused environment. From these efforts, we can model a better vision for higher education. 

Pillar One: Expectations

To further students success within the classroom, instructors must hold students to high expectations. Dr. Trinto highlights the implicit expectations held within the syllabi and assessments given to students. If students feel like they are being challenged then they will push themselves to meet these standards. Wavering from these expectations can lead to students missing the goals you set for them. 

Pillar 2: Support 

Instructors must show their students that they will be there to help them at all times or at least be able to provide resources to further student growth. The need for support is highest at the transitionary periods where students are building skills for college.

Pillar 3: Assessment and Feedback

Instructors must be willing and able to allow students to see their growth and correct themselves for the better. Assessments must be frequent so that students can gain confidence in their knowledge of the subject or to ask for help and build habits. Feedback must be as often as assessments, as one cannot be as successful without the other. Feedback allows the instructor to highlight strengths in the students content knowledge even when a student feels otherwise. 

All three pillars must be present in an effective classroom. Should one pillar fall, then the ability for student success to flourish becomes more difficult. 

Efforts to enhance classroom effectiveness:

Contextualize Academic Support:

Academic support can have many different ways of looking. Dr. Trinto uses the example of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges work on I-Best. I-Best or the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Initiative is a program set to help students build their skillsets with skills instructors while working towards their certifications or degrees. This example shows an active role of academic support in which both students and instructors are actively working to build student skills for the workforce.   

Automating Classroom Feedback and Assessment:

Automating classroom Feedback and Assessment can better help students see their understanding of the content while allowing instructors adequate time to identify struggling students. Dr. Trinto emphasizes the work of the SIGNALS project at Purdue University. The SIGNALS project looks at student grade information and alerts both the student and their instructor about a need to provide support due to the student’s grade. This process allows instructors to identify struggling students which may increase student retention.

Promoting Classroom Engagement:

Higher education has moved to promote classroom engagement through the use of engaging pedagogy. From PBL to Think-Pair-Share, more instructors are looking to provide students with an active classroom that builds on their abilities rather than their retention of information. 

What can Student Success in Higher Education look like now?

Currently, Higher Education can continue to build a more student-focused environment while addressing the needs of all of its population. In my opinion, I believe that the application of knowledge and skills gained in the classroom must be more integrated into the workforce than it is now. Greater integration can be as easy as instructors bringing in people from the workforce into the classroom to give students a better understanding of the companies in their given fields while highlighting the skills they need to be employed. 

Reference: Trinto, V. (2012). Enhancing student success: Taking the classroom success seriously. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 3(1), 1–8

Link: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Vincent_Tinto2/publication/287897826_Enhancing_student_success_Taking_the_classroom_success_seriously/links/5759719008ae9a9c954ede73/Enhancing-student-success-Taking-the-classroom-success-seriously.pdf

Rating: 5 out of 5.

6 Core Concepts of Science: Science Education’s Goals for Students

Why do we teach science? Why is it a requirement within so much of our education system? How do educators help show the amazing lessons and skills that come with science?

Siayah and Setiawan (2020) layout 6 important lessons that explain the importance of teaching science to others. 

1) Problem-solving and creating solutions

Science and the scientific method invite people to develop their skills in identifying a problem, creating an experiment, and learning from that experiment to find a solution or finding another question within. This cyclic approach builds on itself and enhances one’s attitude and curiosity towards a solution.

2) Craftsmanship

Science allows for hands-on engagement with solving a problem. Scientists need to measure, collect, observe, and create to build a solution and refine it.

3) Progress

An effect of science is that we can progress in both industry and understanding of the natural world. Without inquiry, we would be unable to continue to improve our well-being.

4) Showing the “beauty” of the unknown

Science gives people a look into the complicated yet simplistic paradox that is the universe. Through this foundation, people can show others the beauty of the universe and use science as a solution to the unknown. Science is a gift that we should give to others. 

5) Inquiry

Science builds inquiry. It allows for people to question whether a process or decision is the best solution, which in turn creates more effective strategies and understanding of the problem.

6) Resilience 

Science helps people overcome failure. Experimenting is the act of trying a solution and seeing its results. Given its nature, there is a risk of failure however science provides people the opportunity to reflect and adjust their ideas based on the results collected.

What practices are educators currently using to help students uncover these teachings?

Siayah and Setiawan provide a brief overview of science practices that educators have introduced within their lessons to build student understanding with the 6 core concepts of science.

Through these connected practices, students have many opportunities to build upon the core concepts of science. These practices highlight how science educators are consistently checking and observing how students are reaching these goals. 

What is the next step?

I believe that as education continues moving forward, we must provide our students with the opportunity to use their skills within a global setting. In the beginning, this may start by working on a project for the community or by helping a company with a problem, but over time may look like a collaboration on a project between classes globally. Through intentional and direct work with collaborating with other people, students will uncover the core concepts of science naturally.  

Reference:  Siayah, S., and Setiawan, A, R. (2020). A Brief Explanation of Science Education. 

Link: https://edarxiv.org/2evn3/download?format=pdf

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Problem Based Learning during Transitional Periods of Education

Do you remember or currently experience the feeling of being in the class for the first time and not knowing what to expect? How hard is this class? What are the tests going to be like? Spending countless hours talking with peers to see what the class had in store. During my time as a student, I constantly felt these pressures as the first week started up and never felt comfortable until I had taken my first test in the class and knew I had the skills to pass this class.

Two researchers, Bains and Kaliski, aimed to tackle these pressure through using a 2-day anatomy workshop to help incoming students who were coming into Physical Therapy program adjust to the rigor of graduate-level education using PBL (Process-Based Learning). Bains and Kaliski analyzed student confidence in anatomy, preparedness for a PBL based curriculum, and enthusiasm for a 2-day anatomy workshop between those who participated in the workshop (Experimental Group) and those who just took the normal semester of anatomy (Control Group). Both groups were given surveys about these 3 areas of interest, one to be filled before the workshop, one for after the workshop (data only collected for Experimental Group), and one after the semester. The workshop also gave the participants pre and post quizzes for each of the two days to track content understanding.

The 2-day workshop was broken into the anatomy of the lower body for day one, and the upper body on day two. Each workshop had students come prepared with research done before class, which helped prepare students for the classwork activities. These activities were broken into 4 main activities which did not change between days which were 1) surface anatomy identification; 2) grouping anatomy; 3) illustrating anatomy; and 4) technology as a tool for learning anatomy.

In both the control and the workshop participants, there was an increase in anatomy confidence and PGL preparedness from the baseline to post class. While both groups were confident in their anatomy (<80%), the workshop group came in the start of the class with roughly the same amount of anatomy confidence as the control group at post semester, and were even higher than the control group at the end of the semester. This can be shown within the pre and post quizzes where the workshop participants had a ~25% gain in percentage post quiz compare to their pre-quizzes. When it came to PGL preparedness it is a similar story, with the control group preparedness at post semester being roughly equal to that of the workshop students and the workshop students having a higher PGL preparedness percentage post semester. Lastly, student engagement for wanting a 2-day anatomy workshop was higher in the workshop participants than those who did not participate, and that post class students who did not participate in the 2 day workshop had lower enthusiasm for the workshop than their initial level of enthusiasm.

Why should educators use this method?

From this paper, I took away 3 main ideas about why this method of initial acclimation is important for educators to experiment in their classroom.

  • Students are already stressed about the transition to a new grade
  • Allow students the time and space to become comfortable with the rigor of the new curriculum
  • Provides a space for students to meet with one another and build trust and understanding with their peers and you

Students, especially when transitioning from grade section (6th-8th) to next grade section (9th-12th), are already nervous about the possibilities that come with being in a new environment. By providing students the opportunity to remind them about their strengths and experience within the classroom, it sets students up to prove to themselves that they are prepared to be apart of this new environment.

This method gives the students time to adjust themselves to how your curriculum will challenge them and tells them what to expect from your classroom. If you work mainly through direct instruction then students can prepare for your class by sharpening their skills in note-taking. While if your curriculum is centered around PBL then students will have time to develop a completely different strategy for your class.

Lastly, the 2-day workshop allows the teacher to start creating their safe learning environment with the students while allowing students to interact with their peers and start building trust with each other and the community. This time is great to passively show classroom management by correcting any behavior which goes against the classroom norms you have established.

Reference:

Bains, M., and Kaliski, D, Z. (2019). An anatomy workshop for improving anatomy self-efficacy and competency when transitioning into a problem-based learning, Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Advances in Physiology Education, 44: 39 – 49.

Link: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/advan.00048.2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.