Before I started in Faculty Development, I was the course coordinator for the large lecture public speaking class. In my third year, I abandoned the midterm and final for a series of low-risk open-book quizzes students took through Blackboard. I had read the research and decided to make the switch. Some aspects of student performance increased, but the failure rate for the course more than doubled. I worked with my Teaching Associates to discover why students were failing when the thing they expressed the most concern about in evaluations, the exams, had been eliminated and replaced with a user friendly assessment strategy. Almost universally, the students who did not pass the class had failed to take several quizzes. Very few of these students would have forgotten to take exams because they happen during class time. We were concerned about student success so we set up an alert system on Blackboard, reminders were built in to lectures, and we started doing periodic grade checks throughout the semester to identify students who were struggling. None of these represented magic bullets, but they did help us make progress.
12 weeks from now you will be glancing back and forth between an Excel sheet or your gradebook and Peoplesoft entering grades for Fall 2016. It can be an interesting exercise as you realize the student who was always active in class didn’t turn in half of the assignments. Maybe the student who never showed up was actually a star in every category except for attendance. You might realize, like I did, the unintended consequence of a well-meaning change. The time to help students is during the semester, not at the very end. One tool for identifying struggling students is the Retention Center in Blackboard. This can help you set up rules to identify students who are struggling. Even if this tool does not work for you, it is worth your time to scan your gradebook once a month to identify trouble spots.
Once you have identified a student, there are a variety of ways to increase their chances for success. Campus resources like the Student Learning Center, Accessibility Resources, college or department based tutoring, or peers are all available to students. Regardless of how they get help, you reaching out to them is a great first step. We have all had the student in our office at the end of the semester who is shocked their grade is low even though there has been ample information about it throughout the term. The time to help that student and avoid that uncomfortable conversation is now.
Dr. Sara Cooper has provided addition Book in Common Material. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.
The CELT Conference preliminary program and registration link are now available. See you on October 6-7!
Got feedback on this tip? Got an idea for a tip? Send it along. Check out our new and improved wordpress site here.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! Link to it on soundcloud, itunes, overcast, or follow the podcast on facebook.