Building Academic Success through Student to Student Assistance

Building Academic Success through Student to Student Assist

Brief Description:
This project will provide academic assistance to students enrolled in introductory courses that have been identified as high-risk or historically difficult. To achieve the goals of improving student learning, persistence and attainment, upper divisional undergraduate students will be trained to mentor and provide instructional support. The three models used to deliver this student to student assistance will utilize Supplemental Instruction Leaders, Undergraduate Teaching Assistants, and Undergraduate Laboratory Assistants.

Introduction and Statement of the Problem
More and more students are seeking post-secondary education. According to Gray (1996), from early adolescence on, most young people express their intention not only to pursue higher education but to earn at least a baccalaureate degree. This is not a case of wishful thinking; most young people attempt to follow through with their plans. According to U.S. census data, 70% of 1992 high school graduates enrolled in institutions of higher education. The majority enrolled directly in four-year college programs. Students who enter college programs are making assumptions (consciously or otherwise): (1) that they are prepared to do legitimate baccalaureate-level work; (2) that most students who begin baccalaureate work will graduate; (3) that individuals will not get hurt in the process even if they fail. Unfortunately, data suggest that most of these assumptions are incorrect.

IIIIIII University East is a commuter campus of 2400 students. A significant portion of these students fit the profile for economically disadvantaged (65%), first generation college students (85%) who are recognized as the “new majority” or non-traditional student based upon age. These are the students whose assumptions about their success for attaining a baccalaureate degree may be less than realistic. For example, results of placement rests (Skills Review) administered to all newly admitted students at IIIIIIIU East indicate a great number are less than adequately prepared for post secondary education. During the 1995-96 academic year, placement test scores showed that 98% of our entering students placed into developmental math while 52% tested into developmental composition. In addition, 30% of students tested below the 12th grade reading level on the Nelson-Denny Reading Test. Of that 30%, nearly one third tested below the 10th grade reading level.

Two possible explanations exist for the large proportion of under prepared students at IIIIIIIU East. First, only about one-third of high school students are graduating with courses, grades and test scores that would confidently predict academic success in a four-year college (Gray, 1996). Second, some students are under prepared because they are returning to college after long absences from formal education. Some of these students need remediation, while others need only to upgrade their academic skills. The problem is that with these obstacles facing them, only about half graduate. In fact, most of these students fail to return between the first and second semesters because they began with inadequate academic preparation in the first place. The cost of these failures is not just to the students themselves. College costs have increased substantially while average incomes have not. As a result, 48% of those attending public institutions are securing student loans. The resulting student debt is not limited to those who actually graduate. The majority of college dropouts end up with debt from student loans as well. Dollars are not the only cost, however. Equally worrisome are the human costs of widespread humiliation, depression and alienation of young people who have unmet expectations and in looking for someone to blame become alienated adults against higher education (Gray, 1996).In keeping with its mission. IIIIIII University East seeks to extend opportunities to its disadvantaged students, whether these students be disadvantaged because of a lack of educational preparation or limited financial resources. If these students are to persevere in college and obtain a degree, a broad range of academic support services must be available to them from the moment they enroll in college. Services must focus on providing both early intervention and continuing support to help students achieve successful degree completion and attainment of personal goals.

The Proposed Activity and its Relation to the Strategic Directions Charter
To improve student learning, persistence, and attainment, we propose to offer student to student academic assistance, using a variety of models tailored to address student needs in a spectrum of courses. This project speaks to the heart of the Strategic Directions Charter. It is designed to empower students, both those needing to obtain necessary skills and those providing success for their peers. It is most directly related to the following initiatives: (1) Place student learning, intellectual exploration, persistence and attainment at the center of the university’s missions; (4) Promote…internships, and other special opportunities for learning; (5) Support student success through student oriented policies and practices, special tutorial programs, and expanded mentoring and advising; and (11) Increase support for…mentorship and guided experience in classroom teaching.

Strengthening the community of learning is central to this project. Through this project we will expand IIIIIIIU East’s existing academic assistance programs, focusing on student to student participation and, in so doing, provide a sound educational program for IIIIIIIU East students which will improve their chances for academic success. The project will also provide training, mentoring, and work experience for upper divisional undergraduate students, further enhancing their college life experience and career goals.

What Has Been Done Previously
Three models of student to student assistance have been used at IIIIIIIU East. One such model is Supplemental Instruction (SI) which was piloted during the spring of 1993 in General Psychology (P103), Introduction to Sociology (S100) and expanded to sections of microbiology and biology. The Supplemental Instruction model seeks to improve student academic performance by helping students master the course content in difficult post-secondary courses. Students learn to develop and strengthen reading and study skills by integrating essential study strategies into the course content. The model targets high risk or historically difficult courses, in which 30% or more of the students are receiving the grade of D, F, or W (withdrawal). SI was offered to all students in the courses starting the first week of class so that no remedial stigma was associated with this type of assistance. Students attended S1 sessions offered several times a week on a voluntary basis. The divisions of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Natural Science and Mathematics, and now Business, have indicated that this type of assistance would improve student learning and, therefore, needs to be increased.

Data collected during the 1994-95 academic year supports this view. Assessment of SI found an average of 41% of the total classes (210 students) participated in Supplemental Instruction. The average course GPA for SI participants was 2.70 versus 1.68 for non-SI participants; 85% of the SI participants received a grade of “C” or better in the course. On a 5 point scale the mean SI participant evaluation rating of the helpfulness of SI sessions was 4.4; 98% of the students rated SI sessions as satisfactory or above.

A second model developed by the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences is called Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UGTA’s) aimed at student retention/success in Introductory Psychology (P103) in which a large percentage of “W” and “F” grades were found. The pilot project placed entry level students into special sections of P103 combined with a Critical Thinking course. Each section was assigned two upper level students acting as Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UGTA’s). In addition faculty teaching these special sections assumed responsibility for mentoring students enrolled in the class even after the semester had ended.

Moreover the undergraduate assistants received mentoring by the faculty in curriculum development pedagogy and assessment. The result of this pilot was that in all sections utilizing UGTA’s W/F grades were reduced to less than 10%. Due to the success of this pilot the Division has expanded the project to include K300 Statistics and Introductory Sociology (S100). In addition an undergraduate assistant has been assigned to faculty teaching P103 in Connersville and New Castle. And one UGTA has been assigned solely for the purpose of assisting students with library and computer assignments pertaining to P103. The results of this expansion have been equally positive. For example no students received W/F grades in K300 for spring semester 1995 (previously 25 — 30% received W/F grades).

A third model of student to student assistance was developed by the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics. Many students had difficulty making accurate observations, identifying variables, constructing and evaluating hypotheses, working with tabular and graphical representations of information, correlating lab experiences with scientific principles learned in lecture and communicating clearly with others. Lack of these skills led to increased attrition and low levels of performance. To counteract these 5 problems the Division began using undergraduate students to assist in the biology and chemistry labs and to conduct interactive group tutorials outside of class. A two-year grant provided laboratory assistants (upper level students who had completed the course) for Biological Concepts (L107) and Principles of Chemistry (C105/125 and C106/C126, C101/C121 and C102/C122).

Trained upper level students worked with beginning students enrolled in selected science laboratory courses during class time in small groups or individually. They also conducted voluntary tutorials outside of class time. These tutorials were conducted at numerous times during the week reinforcing skills taught during class time. In the fall of 1994, 85 students made 504 visits to the voluntary tutorials. In the fall of 1995, 91 students made 564 visits. Approximately 86% of the students in the fall of 1995 (individual section numbers = 70% 88% 88% 100%) made at least one visit. In an end of the semester survey conducted in 94 and 95 virtually all students agreed that the tutorials were very valuable. Student grades improved 10%-20% as a result of this collaborative learning experience.

What this Proposal will Accomplish and how it will be Accomplished

Using the academic assistance models previously discussed we propose to meet the following objectives:
(1) to increase the number and variety of courses in which student to student assistance is available.
(2) to increase retention in all courses using student to student assistance.
(3) to improve student grades in courses utilizing student to student assistance.
(4) to improve student persistence through enhanced study skills and increased interactions among students and faculty.
(5) to increase graduation rates of students.
(6) to have undergraduate assistants exhibit an appropriate understanding of the teaching/mentoring process.

Expanding Student Access to Assistance
The overriding goal of this project is to build on the experiences and successes that have been established thus far at IIIIIIIU East. Primary criteria for selecting courses for assistance will be as follows:

( 1 ) introductory courses that have been identified as high-risk or courses that have been historically difficult for students (30% or more of the students are receiving the grade of D, F, or W).
(2) courses in which no other academic assistance is currently available on the campus.
(3) large lecture courses (in cases of low enrollment, undergraduate assistants will be assigned to two sections of the course).

The first year of the project will target sixty (60) sections of introductory courses in math and natural sciences, humanities, business, and social and behavioral sciences. The number of course sections in which student to student assistance is offered will increase by ten (10) during the second year.

An Advisory Board will be established to assist in the development, implementation, and assessment of the project. Board members will consist of the Project Co-Directors, the Assistant to the Co-Directors, three to four faculty members whose divisions are participating in the project, and two students.

Faculty recommendations will serve as the primary means of recruiting qualified upper level undergraduate students to serve as Supplemental Instruction Leaders, Teaching Assistants, and Laboratory Assistants. The undergraduate positions will be advertised through the Career Services’ officer student organizations, such as the Psychology Club, Phi Beta Lambda (Business Fraternity), and the Student Nurses Association; and through campus publications, such as the student newspaper. In addition, announcements of these positions will be posted throughout the campus.

All undergraduates selected to deliver student to student assistance must meet the following requirements:

Minimum GPA of 3.0
Faculty recommendation
Course competency
Effective interpersonal and communication skills Training

Supplemental Instruction Leaders will receive 6-8 hours of training over a two-day period prior to the beginning of each semester. The training sessions will focus on topics such as leadership skills student learning styles and instructional and study skill strategies. During the training sessions, SI Leaders will participate in a simulated SI session conducted by the SI Supervisor. Each SI Leader will then plan and lead a simulated SI session for the next day’s training session. The group will evaluate the effectiveness of the simulated sessions.

Undergraduate Teaching Assistants will successfully complete a three credit hour course, Psychology Applied to Teaching (P280), prior to being assigned as a UGTA. The course provides students with both theoretical and practical skills necessary for understanding learners and the learning process. Its principle focus is on the processes by which information skills, values and attitudes are constructed by the learner.

Training for the Undergraduate Laboratory Assistants (UGLA) will have three components: (1) All UGLA’s will be trained either in conjunction with the SI training through special workshops or by taking Psychology Applied to Teaching (P280). (2) In addition all UGLA’s will he trained in basic laboratory procedures and safety. These first two components of training will be completed prior to the start of the semester. (3) The third component will be course specific and will include how to use pre-lab and post-lab sheets, write lab reports and hypotheses graph and analyze lab data. The course-specific training will be on-going throughout the semester. Approximately 9 hours of training will be provided.

On-going Supervision/Mentoring
All undergraduate assistants will be observed and supervised throughout the semester. Undergraduate assistants will be responsible for observation, planning and feedback to their supervisors. Individual and group mentoring sessions will be provided by faculty and staff for undergraduate assistants to discuss improvements and modifications for future performance.

Student to Student Assistance
All undergraduate assistants are responsible for meeting with students on an individual basis, as well as in supervised group sessions/classes. Under the Supplemental Instruction model, the SI Leader attends all class sessions and models good student behavior by reading all assigned material and taking notes. Beginning the second week of class, the SI Leader conducts 4-5 hourly study sessions per week. Collaborative learning among student participants and the SI Leader is an essential component of each SI session. The SI Leader acts as a facilitator for the session, providing structure, guidance, and clarification. In addition, the Leader models how learning and study strategies (e.g., note-taking, test preparation) can be integrated into the course content and has the students actively apply these strategies to their course assignments and study preparation.

In the Undergraduate Teaching and Laboratory Assistant models, the nature of the academic assistance provided will vary somewhat by course. During class time, the UGTA’s and UGLA’s will assist students in working together collaboratively in small groups, setting up experiments, coordinating review sessions, and assisting students and instructors as needed.

Outside of class, undergraduate assistants will conduct voluntary tutorials to encourage students to work together to develop critical thinking skills, such as analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating, and applying information gained in laboratory and/or classrooms to solve problems. Undergraduate assistants will help students in locating necessary information to complete assignments, guide students in small group activities, ask questions to stimulate discussion of 9 critical points, and otherwise encourage students to become responsible for their own learning. Sessions will be scheduled at varying times, morning, afternoon and evening, to accommodate the schedules of all students.

Assessment of the Project
The goals of the Student to Student Assistance Project, along with strategies for assessing achievement of each goal, are as follows: (1) increase the number and variety of courses in which student to student assistance is available

Past performance of students enrolled in courses in which assistance was available has supported student to student assistance as an important variable in maintaining student retention and persistence.

Measure of Success:
During year one, student to student assistance will be offered in sixty (60) sections of introductory courses in math and natural sciences, humanities, business, and social and behavioral sciences. The number of sections in which assistance is offered will increase by ten (10) for year two.

(2) increase retention in all courses using student to student assistance

Increased retention in introductory courses improves the likelihood of student persistence and eventual attainment of academic goals.

Measure of Success:
Attrition due to academic problems and academic failure will be reduced to at least 10% in each section in which student to student assistance is provided.

(3) improve student grades in courses utilizing student to student assistance

Students who experience academic success are more likely to persist and attain eventual completion of their academic goals. Students who are having difficulty and utilize assistance outside of class are likely to be more successful than students who do not.

Measure of Success:
The number of students using student to student assistance outside of class will increase each year of the project. The average course GPA for students utilizing this assistance (outside of class) at least once a week will be higher than for students who do not utilize such assistance.

(4) improve student persistence through enhanced study skills and increased interactions among students and faculty Rationale: Increasing the level of study skills and helping students build interpersonal commitments to other students and to the college are likely to positively influence student persistence.

Measure of Success:
Using a 5 point Likert scale, students will evaluate the academic assistance received and will agree or strongly agree with statements such as the following: “My study skills have improved during this course”; “I will use study skills I have obtained in this course in
future courses”; “Group work contributed positively to my success in this course”; “Group work contributed positively to my personal relationships with other students.”

(5) increase graduation rates of students

The overall goal of retention is to assist students in reaching their academic goal. Students who stay in school through their first year are more likely to attain their academic goal.

Measure of Success:
Specific student cohorts that have been identified will be tracked for two years. At the end of two years, students whose academic goal is to graduate with a degree and who have participated in at least two student assisted courses will still be enrolled and progressing towards their goal at a greater percentage than students who have not participated in student assisted courses.

(6) have undergraduate assistants exhibit an appropriate understanding of the teaching/mentoring process

The key to the success of this program is the leadership and mentoring/teaching skills developed and exhibited by the undergraduate assistants. Without this component, the success of the project is at risk. Additionally, undergraduate assistants who are successful in this regard are more likely to successfully transfer these skills to future endeavors, such as post-college work or graduate school.

Measure of Success:
Undergraduate assistants will demonstrate through portfolios, questionnaires, and supervisors’ evaluations increased reflectively and awareness of successful teaching/mentoring techniques each year they are in the project.

Long-Term Plans
During the first year of the funding period, IIIIIII University East has pledged significant matching funds, substantially increasing these funds in year two. Provided that this project is successful, as demonstrated by the stated assessment criteria, IIIIIII University East has committed to fully fund the program at the conclusion of the two year funding cycle.

Budget Narrative

Senior Personnel
The Co-Directors of the Project will contribute 10% of their time to this project. They have been pivotal players in the establishment of student to student assistance on the IIIIIIIU East campus. William Browne has been a faculty member at IIIIIII University East since 1974 and Professor and Chair of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences since 1988. His appointment is a joint appointment in Psychology and Education. For over twenty years he taught Educational Psychology for all elementary and secondary education majors and has recently developed the course “Psychology Applied to Teaching” for training undergraduate teaching assistants. His program was presented at the Mid America Conference for Teachers of Psychology, and he has been invited to present a symposIIIIIIIUm at the Midwest Psychological Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, on the role of undergraduate teaching assistants.

Mary Mahank has been Director of Tutorial Services since its inception in 1991. Her program is responsible for providing academic assistance to IIIIIIIU East students through a variety of modes: Math Lab, Writing Lab, Reading Lab, reading courses, JUMPSTART (an intensive one week program for beginning students designed to give them a “head start” in college) and Supplemental Instruction (SI). She received extensive training from the National Center for Supplemental Instruction at the University of Missouri- Kansas City before establishing a successful Supplemental Instruction program at IIIIIIIU East in the spring of 1992.

Individual faculty members serving as mentors will meet with their undergraduate assistants one to two hours per week. Support for senior personnel will come from the IIIIIII University East match. One professional staff person is requested to assist in the training and supervision of the undergraduate assistants, oversee assessment of the project, and gather institutional data related to student progression. The proposal requests funding for this position for two years. The first years’s salary is established at $21,000.

The total salary for two years is $42,840 (excluding fringe) and includes a pay increase of 4% for the second year.

The fringe benefits for the professional staff person are requested at the rate of 26.68% which is the amount designated by IIIIIII University for professional staff. The fringe benefits for two years would be $11,430.

The major funding requested for this proposal is to support payment to undergraduate assistants who will be working as Supplemental Instructor Leaders, Undergraduate Teaching Assistants, and Laboratory Assistants. Undergraduate assistants will be paid an average of $650 per semester. Each year the project requests funding for 20 undergraduate assistants at a cost of $13,000.

IIIIIII University East will supply matching funds to support 40 additional undergraduate teaching assistants at a cost of $26,000.

Year two IIIIIII University East will supply matching funds to support 50 undergraduate teaching assistants at a cost of $32,500.

Requested funding for a two year period for undergraduate assistants is $26,000. IIIIIII University East’s total contribution for the two year period is $58,500.

Each year $4,000 is requested to enable undergraduate assistants to attend one educational/teaching conference. Requested funding for the two year period is $8,000.

Materials and Supplies
A nominal amount of $50.00 per section in which student to student assistance is offered is requested each year to cover undergraduate training materials and paper, printing, and postage, etc. The total cost is $2,000 ($1,000 per year). IIIIIII University East’s matching funds will be $1,500 year one and $2,500 year two for a total cost of $4,000. IIIIIII University East will also supply telephones, office space, file cabinets, miscellaneous storage, and other overhead expenses.

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