First session: Panel presentation by Student Success Leadership Team members
The Faculty Summit on Student Success began with members of the Student Success Leadership Team (SSLT), Dennis Rome, Susan Hawkins-Wilding, Lori Allen, and Jeff Long, providing a historical perspective on SSLT and describing various current university-level initiatives for student success. The SSLT was formed following participation of UW-Parkside in a workshop associated with the UW-System COMPASS project (http://www.wisconsin.edu/vpacad/compass/) in Fall 2010. The guiding principles for promoting student success were identified as 1) students must possess the necessary academic skills; 2) students must understand the purpose of college; 3) students must recognize and exhibit the motivation to meet the demands of college; and 4) students must possess a willingness to aspire. During the panel discussion of UWP student success initiatives such as Learning Communities, General Education, Title III grant, and Advising, a few key themes emerged, including assessment, communication, student academic skills, and advising.
Assessment is viewed as essential for understanding the nature of barriers related to student success at UW-Parkside. Various questions were posed including: Why do students leave? How effective are programs aimed to improve retention and development of academic skills? Assessment is an important component of the Title III grant, and has been performed for Learning communities associated with ACSK 083 and 090 (60 students total), and there appears to be value. UW-system funding has been obtained to facilitate transition of ACSK 010 (remedial math) to an online format, and there has been discussion of moving student assessment in math academic skills courses to a competency-based approach rather than use of letter grades and repeating an entire course. Currently, UWP General Education program utilizes a course-based assessment process that is extremely time intensive. Reform of the UWP General Education program over the next five years was proposed. Increased communication was one intent of SSLT formation as formerly individuals were working in isolation; however, faculty (see below) remain relatively uninformed regarding some of SSLT initiatives.
Discussion of advising indicated a definition for â€œgood advisingâ€� would be beneficial and empowerment of students through access to online information (DARS, etc.) should be an immediate goal.
Second session: Faculty and the definition of student success
In small group discussions, faculty discussed attributes for a definition of student success. From this discussion, it was widely recognized that student success occurs at a personal level and depends upon an individualâ€™s experience. Success entails empowerment of a student to become a well-informed, responsible citizen who is educated in preparation for a variety of potential careers. This empowerment comes in the form of instilling a desire for lifelong learning and ability to learn outside the classroom, development of problem solving and critical thinking skills, as well as competency and mastery within a given discipline.
The faculty recognize that many of these particular facets defining student success are difficult to assess and are generally not considered â€œkey performance indicatorsâ€�; however, the faculty are resolute that the definition should not be limited to numbers such as retention rates, graduate rates, or employment
statistics. Rather, key performance indicators should be reflective of the unique aspects of the UW-Parkside campus, mission, and students described within the UWP academic plan. For instance, faculty recognize that for many students UWP may only represent a few steps on their path to success as students often plan to transfer after a year or two at UWP. For these students, UWP contributes substantially to their success, yet key performance indicators suggest this is a failure. Assessment measures must allow for those student who leave for reasons other than academic.
Session 3: Faculty response to: What university-wide and program level practices contribute to student success? How do we know that they work? What practices, policies and procedures are working and need continued support?
Discussion revealed a dearth in overall knowledge of individual faculty regarding university-wide student success programs beyond General Education. However, as a collective, faculty commented on several specific items as significant contributors to student success at UWP, including personal faculty-student advising in academic programs, early program declaration, independent study, research, and internships, the PASS system, labs and field work, clubs and student organization, students achieving a balance between work and study, enforcement of policy regarding reading ACSK course enrollment, prerequisite enforcement, study abroad interdisciplinary work, space for students to gather, interactive problem solving activities in the classroom, â€œcourse scaffoldingâ€� (using small projects to build up to larger ones or linking two classes), community-based learning activities, capstone courses, social and academic development, student-student mentoring, student accountability, and a program for supplemental instruction.
It is clear from this discussion that the faculty places high value on high impact practices, innovative pedagogy, and faculty-student contact. The generally small teacher (faculty/staff) ratio to student ratios coupled with an institutional culture that values and cares about teaching helps enable these practices.
It was further recognized that the support systems in place for student athletes and pre-health students appear to work well. However, beyond faculty personal experiences, there does not seem to be much known about how these numerous practices work. Is there data supporting these practices?
Session 4: Faculty response to: What are the barriers that prevent some students from succeeding? Why do students leave UW-Parkside before graduating? Do we have evidence to support what we think are answers to those two questions?
Student success is recognized as a longitudinal process beginning with college readiness, followed by enrollment and achievement, which leads to postgraduate education or career aspirations. Within the discussion of barriers to student success, aspects of the UWP student profile were invoked often, including a lack of college readiness, motivation, determination and understanding of the purpose and value of a college education. A rise in psychological, behavioral, and life issues was noted. Further, there are several intrinsic challenges to serving such a large proportion of first generation students as they adjust to college. Many students work too many hours and/or have too many other commitments that lead to negative behaviors such as not coming to class or not completing the assigned work. These attributes coupled with such items as a predominately commuter campus can lead to challenges for students to connect with our campus. Taken together, these facets can lead to further complexity within learning environments as levels of preparation can vary widely within any given course
(particularly at the introductory level) and in some instances, lead to a perception among some students that UWP lacks academic rigor.
From the faculty side, institutional stress was noted as a barrier to student success. Faculty and staff do not always have the time or resources they need to assist students, given the range and demands of various responsibilities. A lack of faculty development opportunities (and the time to pursue such opportunities) was identified as a barrier. Faculty are often specialists within a field of study and are not trained to deal with many of these issues. As an institution, the lack of programs desirable to students, such as teacher education, was also identified as a barrier.
Session 5: Faculty response to: Are there institutional practices, policies and procedures could be implemented or changed to increase student success? How are these changes accomplished?
This session represents a culmination of the days discussion and offers these recommendations in support of student success initiatives at UW-Parkside.
1) Individual faculty are generally unaware of activities engaged in by administration and student affairs concerning student success. To address this poor communication, the faculty recommend more collaborative planning regarding student success initiatives and a greater faculty voice on the SSLT.
2) Faculty support testing a modular approach to ACSK math courses and MATH 111 that emphasize competencies rather than a course letter grade, so that students who fail do not have to repeat the entire course.
3) Faculty recommend the Admissions, Records, and Student Information committee consider and develop a conditional admissions policy for review by the Academic Policies committee.
4) Faculty should consider curricular revisions such as a freshman seminar or a course used as an introduction to specific disciplines. These revisions extend to reform of our current General Education program, including consideration of more interdisciplinary general education offerings. Lastly, the fit of our program array should be assessed within a context of both our student body and societal needs.
5) Evidence to characterize current retention and graduation rates (why students leave and where they go) needs to be collected by administration.
6) Specific useful tools to empower students, including improved services for transfer and returning students (perhaps appropriate online components) and Reverse Pass (students report back to faculty regarding their own progress and needs), coupled with continuous emphases to students on their responsibilities and accountability are identified as priorities.
7) Additional mechanisms to get families involved in both student recruitment and success attainment should be explored.
8) Combine an intensified emphasis on university "pre-college" initiatives and mobilize the "partnerships" dimension of our developing teacher preparation program to address pre-college preparation and expectations.