What's It All About?


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John N. Gardner keynote address at Bristol Community College Professional Day Conference, March 27, 2013

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What's It All About?

  1. 1. The First-Year Experience….College Success Strategies: “What’s it all about?” John N. Gardner Conference on the First-Year Experience and College Success Strategies Bristol Community College Fall River, MA. March 27, 2013
  2. 2. Each of us has a story, including and especially your studentsMany of them love to tell their stories but are rarely askedLet me tell you mine…
  3. 3. Story Time Once upon a time… I came to Fall River, 1981, to honor my first mentor in higher education. Let me tell you his story because his story becomes my story.
  4. 4. This is where it all began… The USC HorseshoeStory Time And the wall surrounding the Horseshoe
  5. 5. Big Picture Background Civil Rights Act (1964) Voting Rights Act (1965) Higher Education Act (1965)
  6. 6. Presidential LeadershipBackground Story USC’s 21st President, Thomas F. Jones, 1962-1974 – an electrical engineer who became a human social engineer Formation of University Associates as town/gown network to lay basis for peaceful integration First TRIO grant:1966, Upward Bound
  7. 7. Student Social ActivismBackground Story February 1968: The “Orangeburg Massacre”--- -Congress adopts Omnibus Crime Control Act US invasion of Cambodia as a trigger for campus demonstrations
  8. 8. Student Social ActivismBackground Story The shootings/deaths at Kent State and Jackson State May 1970 protest at USC dispersed by SC National Guard—no students shot at USC
  9. 9. Occupation of the President’s office building leads to:Background Story Moving the University Treasurer’s office to an impregnable fortress Doing what presidents do when faced with a crisis… Form a committee!
  10. 10. Form a CommitteeBackground Story The Committee crawls along and “While Congress debated I took Panama” President comes with a proposal The University 101 proposal adopted by the USC Faculty Senate: July 1972—one year trial, 3 credits, pass/fail; plus a mandatory faculty development preparation program
  11. 11. The public agendaBackground Story Reengineer the beginning college experience Teach students to love the University Therefore, prevent riots Do you teach your students to love being in college and at your institution?
  12. 12. The hidden agendaBackground Story Use the course to mandate faculty “training”, using pedagogies from NTL, and the Human Potential Movement Change the faculty culture and therefore the campus: make more student-centered Get faculty and Student Affairs to work together Are any of these your objectives today?
  13. 13. Background Story University 101 ran as a presidential initiative until President Jones “resigned” in 1974 University 101 restructured as an academic department, directed by a faculty member, John Gardner, reporting to the Provost
  14. 14. Background Story On the morning of the same day I last came to Fall River my then current President and I met with David Riesman at Harvard, the founder of Harvard’s first-year seminar in 1959. So if Harvard’s students need to be taught “student success”, what about yours? What is student success?
  15. 15. Whatever you say it isStudent Success Is: Something that can be taught Something that can be learned A body of knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors Learned in groups (especially peer groups) Multi-dimensional, holistic
  16. 16. Start with your institutionalmission statement… …then the needs of your students, the community, state, region, and country.
  17. 17. So the question then becomes,“How do you teach student successat your college?” Implicitly Explicitly Intentionally Serendipitously Through sink or swim
  18. 18. Let’s look at my definition offirst-year student success Academic Success/GPA Relationships Identity Development Career Decision Making Health & Wellness Faith & Spirituality Multicultural Awareness Civic Responsibility Retention – the baseline
  19. 19. What is the First-Year Experience? The totality of all experiences our students have A specific program (most commonly a first-year seminar) An educational philosophy about the first year A registered trademark owned by USC Whatever you want it to be
  20. 20. So this is all about thepurposes of the first year.HISTORIC PURPOSES Make money What are your Weed out purposes for the first year? Allow the most senior people to avoid the lowest status students
  21. 21. The first year in the community collegeis particularly unique because:It often isn’t a “year”It often is multiple first-year experiences(ESL, DE, +matriculated first 30 credits)It may also be a transfer experience(in or outward bound)
  22. 22. Focus on the first year now has different labels: First-YearStudent Success Experience College Success Retention The College Completion Agenda
  23. 23. Some basic assumptions underlyingfocus on student successStudents can be taught to be successfulMany of them will want to learn thisInstitutions have to take more responsibilityfor student learningStop blaming the victimFocus on what we, the institution, controlHave to reduce tolerance for failure
  24. 24. Some basic assumptions underlyingfocus on student successThe first year mattersThe first year needs to be reengineeredDevelopmental education needs to be reengineeredHave to rethink when the first year begins(and hence connections with the pipeline)Student success efforts require a partnership(of faculty, academic and student affairs professionals)
  25. 25. The greatest influenceon student learning… …is that of other students.
  26. 26. Two Main Prongs of Attack! What can the What can I do?institution do?
  27. 27. What can the institution do? Practices The operationalizing of policies Rituals Pedagogies Behaviors that support or detract from success
  28. 28. PoliciesWhat can the institution do? Application for admissions including policies for late admissions? Who performs advising? Is academic advising required for initial and/or continuing registration? Is placement testing required and are the results enforced? Is Orientation required?
  29. 29. PoliciesWhat can the institution do? How “late” is “late registration”? How late into the term may students start classes? Are certain students required to participate in certain interventions? E.g. first-year seminars? How late in the term may students drop a course without a penalty? Do you permit the use of “peer leaders” in instructional settings?
  30. 30. PoliciesWhat can the institution do? Do you enforce an attendance policy? How do you integrate adjunct instructors into departmental cultures and support their professional development? How do you evaluate and reward employee practices that promote student success? May new students take their first college courses on line?
  31. 31. Programs: What’s the status of these initiatives?What can the institution do? First-year seminars Learning communities Supplemental Instruction (SI) Early alert Orientation (and other welcoming ceremonial rituals)
  32. 32. Programs: What’s the status of these initiatives?What can the institution do? Summer bridge Financial aid counseling and early awarding Teaching financial literacy Intrusive and developmental advising Counseling Career planning
  33. 33. Programs: What’s the status of these initiatives?What can the institution do? Redesigning developmental education Academic support/tutoring On-campus employment Student activities Athletics Child care Initiatives to include families
  34. 34. A few guiding questions about theinstitution’s first year… What would you have to do to have an excellent first year? How do you define success for your new students? Do you have a plan for new student success? If so, how is the implementation coming?
  35. 35. Retention
  36. 36. Retention
  37. 37. Retention: Private Institutions Private Institutions’ Change in 1-yr Retention Rates Post FoE Plan Implementation by Level of Implementation 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 high degree 4 medium degree 3 limited degree 2 1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 Implement 1yr post 2yr post 3yr post 4yr post 5yr post Year
  38. 38. Retention: Two-Year Institutions Institutions’ Change in Part-Time 1-yr Retention Rates by Length of Time Post Self-Study2.25 21.75 1.51.25 10.75 0.50.25 0 1-year post 2-years post 3-years post 4-years post
  39. 39. Retention: 2-Year Institutions Institutions’ Change in Full-Time 1-yr Retention Rates by Length of Time Post Self-Study 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0-0.5 -1-1.5 -2 1-year post 2-years post 3-years post 4-years post
  40. 40. A few guiding questions… Is the first year in your institution’s strategic plan? Do you have an advisory/stakeholder/advocacy group for the first year? What are your high enrollment courses and what are your efforts to improve student performance therein? What are your high failure rate courses and what are your efforts to improve student performance therein? What is the current status of academic and student affairs administrators/faculty partnerships? What is current level of faculty ownership for the first year?
  41. 41. Your locus of control Translate the institutional mission to yourWhat can you do? campus, unit, and individual role. Focus on your individual locus of control and what you can do to influence student success. Focus specifically on: - Your interactions with students - Your influence on others who interact with students -Your ability to leverage institutional policy and practice
  42. 42. Your locus of control Have a personal philosophy of education.What can you do? Start with your core values/beliefs. These are the basis of everything you do. Translate that philosophy into a definition of student success and a philosophy about how to achieve that.
  43. 43. I suggest each of us needs apersonal philosophy of education.Here is mine…
  44. 44. 1. Successful access to and attainment in higher education is theprincipal channel of upward social mobility in the United States.2. Rates of failure and attrition are unacceptable and represent anenormous waste of human resources and capital. The largest amountsof failure and attrition during the college experience take place during or at thecompletion of the first year (or the equivalent thereof).3. Necessary changes in pedagogies, policies, and curriculummust be based on sound assessment practices and findings, butthis assessment must be mission-related and must payappropriate respect to the vast diversity of Americanpostsecondary institutional types. Institutions want and need to be able tocompare their performance in the first college year with peer institutions and/or withaspirational groups in terms of learning outcomes vis a vis recognized, desirablestandards.4. The public demand for accountability is increasing and willcontinue to do so. In order to satisfy this demand, campuses must have moredata on their student characteristics, what those students experience in college, howand what they are learning, and whether they are improving and receiving value-added knowledge and experiences.
  45. 45. 5. Any efforts to improve the beginning college experience must bemore connected to the K-12 pipeline than they are today. Althoughthere are many notable efforts, the pre-college and college experiences are stilllargely unconnected.6. Any effort to more seriously improve academic success duringthe first college year must involve more of the faculty and must belegitimized by the disciplinary cultures and bodies which measureand determine the criteria for success and advancement of facultyin their subcultures. A central issue is faculty resistance to change and theresulting need to vastly increase faculty buy-in to these proposed first-yearinitiatives.7. The roles of campus chief executive, chief academic and chieffinancial officers, and trustees are also critical for mobilizinginstitutional change, for determining priorities, and for finding andallocating necessary personnel and fiscal resources; more attentionmust be paid to the knowledge of the first college year possessed by these fourleadership categories and how they act upon this knowledge. In addition allimportant campus middle managers—deans and department heads—who eitherpromote or inhibit change, must also be addressed in like fashion. Another keycohort is the institutional research professionals and other colleagues who areresponsible for assessment and reaccreditation self-studies.
  46. 46. 8. The most dominant perception held by the public and its electedrepresentatives in terms of where responsibility for college studentlearning/failure rests is that the problems we face in highereducation attainment are most fundamentally due to the failure ofcollege students to take sufficient responsibility for their ownlearning.9. The first college year should be transformational; pedagogiesof engagement are known, necessary, and desirable, and studentlearning in the first year also must be tied to issues of civicconcern.10. The foundation of all the outcomes we desire from Americanhigher education, for better or worse, is laid in the first collegeyear. Unfortunately, most campuses have very little research-based data onthe effectiveness of their first college year, and thus more assessment of thatyear (and the tools to do so) is in order.
  47. 47. So What Can I Do Directly With Students?Think globally, act locally. This means incorporating into your practices the research based knowledge we have accumulated about what practices lead to student success in your setting.
  48. 48. Be approachable, practice appropriate self- disclosure (builds trust)*Success strategies for faculty Come to class early/stay afterwards to be available to talk to students Use your syllabus as a teaching tool Demystify what it takes to be successful in your course Require attendance Teach your students how to study in your course * For staff, too
  49. 49. Learn and use student names**Success strategies for faculty Test early/test often Implement your own “early alert” system Encourage students to participate in Supplemental Instruction (SI) (if applicable), first-year seminars, learning communities, and other high impact interventions* Give prompt and explicit feedback to students on tests, assigned work Inform students of helping resources* * For staff, too
  50. 50. Solicit regular feedback from students and share with them (e.g. one minute paper)*Success strategies for faculty Use multiple teaching modalities to accommodate different learning styles If you require a text, then actually use it. (Teach your students how to use the text.) Create/facilitate study groups Encourage faculty/student and student/student interaction outside of class* Suggest requiring early term out-of-class office visits * For staff, too
  51. 51. Encourage/require/reward students for using helping services – especially your LearningSuccess strategies for faculty Centers* Encourage/reward students for joining co-curricular groups* Leverage peer influence; if possible use peer leaders Give students opportunity/reward for taking initiative Explain where your course fits in to the Core Curriculum * For staff, too
  52. 52. Additional success strategies for staff 1. Maximize teachable 5. Make your unit’s space opportunities from your inviting role as supervisor of 6. Advise a student student employees organization 2. Practice developmental 7. Teach a college success academic advising – course informally or formally 8. Lead the horse to water 3. It’s all about 9. Be available to students; relationships invite them to your office 4. Adopt some mentees
  53. 53. Indirect ways to increase impacton students…
  54. 54. Impact strategiesPass the good “intelligence” you get from them up the lineReview the rules and policies that you either control or caninfluence in your own unit’s “sphere of influence”Be an advocate for policies, practices, and people thatinfluence student successVolunteer to serve on College committees, tack forces thatmay influence student success
  55. 55. Impact strategiesOpen doors for people less powerful than you and givethem feedback and opportunitiesConsider going over to the “dark side” (for a while!)Be active in campus governance activities – if you don’t selfgovern, you will be governed: power abhors a vacuum!Take assessment seriously; it’s not a flash in the pan: usethe results of assessment for planning and decision making
  56. 56. So many ideas, so little time… …Discussion anyone?
  57. 57. ContactJohn N. Gardner, President828-233-5874gardner@jngi.orgwww.jngi.org
  58. 58. FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE & COLLEGE SUCCESS STRATEGIES Town Meeting with John N. Gardner • What was your learning today? • What affective or gut reactions did you experience? • What will you do in your work settings as a result of this day? • What are your hopes for future discussion?