John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

On Providing Learning Support for the Students You Actually Have

Appeared in the The Chronicle of Higher Education, MARCH 28, 2016
On Providing Learning Support for the Students You Actually Have
By John N. Gardner

I was quoted in a recent commentary in The Chronicle by Ashley Thorne, and while the quote was accurate, it was used to describe a point of view that I definitely do not hold. In the name of many thousands of faculty, staff, and administrators who dedicate themselves to what has become known as “student success” or “college success” work, I must disavow this point of view inaccurately attributed to me.

The essay was titled “Students Will Rise When Colleges Challenge Them to Read Good Books,” and I agree that this is one component of the beginning college experience that can contribute to student success. But it is just one of many necessary components. The real issue is what constitutes “good books” — titles being advocated by the National Association of Scholars, of which Thorne is executive director, or those selected by campus committees overseeing many “common reading” or “summer reading” programs.

Thorne quoted me as follows: “Plan for the students you actually have, not those you wish you had, or think you used to have, or think you used to be like.” I did make that statement in a presentation at a recent national conference on the first-year experience. And I stand by it.

Before the essay’s publication, Thorne extended to me the professional courtesy of attempting to confirm the quote in question. I provided her not only with the precise wording of what I had said, but also with the context for my statement, as follows: “Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the quote alone lacks the context for the statement. To be sure, I was not saying we shouldn’t aspire to have better students. I was speaking to the reality of the current demographics of U.S. higher education and the fact that many institutions do not align their policies and practices to the students they actually have — and that in turn leads to higher failure and attrition rates.” Thorne chose to ignore that context.

She went on to interpret my comments by writing, “In other words, be realistic; don’t expect too much of students.” I did not make or imply that statement, and it in no way represents my opinion. I do not know any serious academic or college-success professional today who would argue that we should expect little of students. To the contrary, the entire first-year-experience movement, of which I am a founder, and many other powerful undergraduate-reform initiatives have been focused on raising expectations for college students and institutions.

Most students attending colleges today are not those for whom American higher education was originally designed. I firmly believe that there is a direct correlation between what we expect of our students and what we get. We know that higher expectations generate greater learning. But we also know that higher expectations alone are not sufficient. Greater learning also results from support — support that can be provided, for example, by college-success courses in which common readings are often used.
Thorne argues that those of us responsible for the first year, especially those of us who select common readings, choose to “dumb down reading lists” and have a prevailing attitude of “resignation and low expectations.” As one who has spent nearly 50 years working with colleagues from hundreds of institutions, that is not my experience.

Ashley Thorne and I would probably agree on more than we disagree. I respect her calling for higher standards. I respect her pursuit of what she would regard as “excellence” in undergraduate education. We both want “better” students.

But, she argues, “the choices colleges make drip with condescension.” The colleges I see, in contrast, are significantly ramping up their offering of “high-impact practices,” out of both respect and concern for their students. They do not condescend; they admire the students’ courage, motivation, resilience, and drive to overcome enormous obstacles that privileged white men like me never had to encounter.

Most students attending colleges today are not those for whom American higher education was originally designed, and the first-year-experience movement has been working to adapt our colleges to the students they actually have. We believe and we see that students can and do become “better” when we provide them with “challenge and support,” to use the phrase of the 1960s-era psychologist Nevitt Sanford.

Where I think many first-year educators disagree with the National Association of Scholars is not the importance of challenge but the importance and extent of support given students whose levels of preparation provided by America’s public schools are unequal and inadequate. And, admittedly, we also disagree about what we would have our students read and think about. A college degree is needed more than ever for upward social mobility and for the opportunity to appreciate the kinds of “good” books that Thorne argues we should be providing.

Colleges are microcosms of our larger society; thus, academics represent different belief systems about what constitutes good books, good standards, and good practices. I know that if the work on increased success for all students is to have even greater impact, we need all points of view in our tent. I need to consider the views of the National Association of Scholars and how those views might help make students more successful.

I and thousands of other college-success advocates have strived to put together partnerships with colleagues from all points of view in the academy. We must all work together to address the enormous challenges of helping students “rise.” So I hope we we can join together to seek common ground instead of impugning the standards and belief systems of our colleagues.

John N. Gardner is president of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and a distinguished professor emeritus and senior fellow at the University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Association of American Colleges & Universities: Peer Review

 

Like other community colleges, Lansing Community College (LCC) has experienced many challenges in its efforts to increase completion rates for students pursuing credentials and degrees. In its good-faith efforts to address these challenges, LCC has learned that piecemeal, isolated approaches, though helpful in many ways, will not ameliorate the larger, systemic problems that prevent the maximizing of student success.

With this understanding in mind, LCC has enthusiastically embarked on a bold, comprehensive, culture-changing initiative aimed at ensuring success for all students wishing to obtain certificates and degrees or transfer to a four-year school. Entitled “Operation 100%: Achieving Excellence in Student Learning and Success at Lansing Community College,” this initiative sets as its goal 100 percent completion for students in degree, certificate, or transfer pathways. Central to the successful implementation of Operation 100% is an understanding that its goal is more an attitude than a measure, more a commitment to expected institutional behavior supporting student learning and success than an aim for perfection. To this end, we have initiated many new measures and processes to advance our own internal work as well as our work with both a state-based and a national student success pilot program.

Instituting New Campus Student Success Measures 

Operation 100% involves several major redesigns. For example, understanding the crucial importance of advising to the completion agenda, and recognizing the often burdensome caseloads for advisors, LCC is in the process of automating its registration system to ensure that students stay on track in their programs and that automated, real-time alerts are provided to faculty and advisors when students experience difficulty. This automation will enable advisors to have regular contact with students during the semester so that they can offer students just-in-time, personalized, ongoing, high-level support that will help ensure that students either remain on track and receive immediate, relevant intervention when necessary or change tracks appropriately.

To help ensure college readiness, LCC is developing advising protocols for connecting advisors with students before the students enter the college. In addition, the college has radically redesigned its application for prospective students; the new application is populated with predictive analytic questions aimed at helping the college understand from the start a student’s strengths and challenges prior to the student’s beginning to take classes. LCC is also undertaking a major overhaul of its intake, orientation, and student support processes (orientations will be ongoing, and support will be provided to students even prior to their taking classes). By the end of the 2015–2016 academic year, all new students will have education plans, that will be regularly reviewed and updated and that will both contain realistic timeframes for completion and establish the criteria for accurate tracking of student progress. Given the importance of support networks to a student’s success, LCC is also creating a model for support teams that will include peers, mentors, faculty, advisors, and when appropriate, family and community members.

Space does not permit a full accounting of all Operation 100% major projects (such as, for example, the redesign of the college’s website, the increased use of contextualized instruction within programs and within linked and team-taught course sections, and the redesign of general education into a nondistributive, integrated learning model). Nevertheless, as promising as all of these initiatives are, LCC has realized two essential undertakings pertaining to the success of Operation 100%. First, because many students—especially those from historically underrepresented groups or those with otherwise underprivileged backgrounds—struggle to succeed in gateway courses, LCC has committed to ensuring tha tall students succeed in these courses. Second, the college recognizes that, per the seemingly popular notion, students “do not do options well.” However, rather than blame the victim by holding the student responsible for not understanding how to navigate our often mystifying paths to completion, LCC has committed to offering students only well-conceived, highly structured academic programs containing only those options that will lead to student success.

Engaging with Partners for Student Success

To these ends, LCC is engaged in two major pilots, one national and one statewide. In its ongoing effort to ameliorate the completion impediment caused by high rates of attrition in gateway courses, LCC is among a handful of colleges participating in the Gateways to Completion (G2C) national pilot project undertaken by the nonprofit John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (the Gardner Institute). LCC was the first community college accepted to participate in the G2C pilot and is one of only three community colleges in the nation taking part in the Gardner Institute’s inaugural cohort of thirteen G2C institutions. Similarly, as part of its ongoing work to construct guided program pathways for all of its academic programs, LCC is among the first cohort of twelve community colleges in Michigan to participate in the Michigan Center for Student Success’ statewide “Michigan Guided Pathways Institute.”

Gateways to Completion

The G2C program is a comprehensive course transformation pilot process that mobilizes institutions—particularly faculty at the institutions—to substantially improve student learning and success in historically challenging gateway courses. The Gardner Institute launched G2C in response to lessons learned from its previous work, as well as from national research that correlates lack of success in gateway courses with higher attrition and lower completion rates (Adelman 2006).

For purposes of the G2C effort, the Gardner Institute has defined gateway courses as credit-bearing and/or remedial education courses that have both high rates of failure (as measured by rates of D [drop], F [fail], W [withdraw], and I [incomplete] grades—DFWI rates) and high enrollment within or across sections. Developmental education courses are included in this definition because, in effect, they serve as gateways to the gateway courses.

The G2C process takes into account various forms of instruction—face-to-face, blended, and online. The process also provides analytics tools that allow institutions to collect and analyze historic DFWI rate data, and predictive analytics tools that allow faculty to intervene with at-risk students currently enrolled in their courses. In addition, G2C provides a teaching and learning academy that helps deepen faculty knowledge and increases application of engaging pedagogies in gateway courses—pedagogies that are associated with increased student learning and success (Freeman et al. 2014).

The thirteen pilot institutions involved in G2C are already reporting positive student and institutional-level outcomes, including

  • increases in first- to second-term retention rates;
  • decreases in numbers of students in poor academic standing;
  • increases in A, B, and C grades;
  • decreases in D, F, W, and I grades;
  • lower course repetition rates; and
  • higher performance in the next course in the sequence.

LCC’s experiences with G2C have yielded comparable results.

After holistically and carefully examining the college’s top high-enrollment, high-DWFI courses, LCC elected to transform five courses as part of the three-year G2C process. These five courses are key to popular majors or are key transfer courses that touch many other disciplines. The selection process was thorough, involving collaborative, cross-functional efforts by, among others, faculty from many disciplines, divisional administrative leaders, and persons working in the college’s Center for Data Science. All of these efforts were guided by the G2C Steering Committee, and the project, initiated by faculty, has been faculty-led from the start.

The five selected courses are Principles of Accounting I, Biological Foundation for Physiology, US History: 1877 to Present, Intermediate Algebra, and Composition I. To date, four of the five courses have seen overall decreases in DFWI, and several courses have seen some decreases in DFWI rates among students of color. Faculty have used the G2C process and concomitant analyses of data to engage in important revisions of course learning outcomes (for example, Composition I faculty developed information literacy and collaboration and discussion learning outcomes for the course); faculty have begun having “Promising Practices” meetings to facilitate information sharing; in their regular department meetings, faculty have now begun sharing information about high-impact practices; faculty have been engaged in cross-disciplinary aligning of learning outcomes; both teaching and non-teaching faculty have worked to increase access to tutoring and supplemental instruction; and so on. In short, the G2C initiative has been transformative for the college, allowing faculty to engage in exciting, data-informed course revision marked by engaged, cross-divisional collaboration. It is now commonplace at the college for faculty to discuss both why the college needs to and how it can most effectively implement or augment student-learning-focused continuous improvement efforts.

Considered a leader among leaders in the national G2C work, LCC has presented at various regional and national meetings, including discipline-specific meetings (in accounting and history). Entering the third year of the pilot, LCC is focusing its G2C work on achieving even greater success for students taking the five chosen gateway courses and on applying G2C-developed best practices to strengthen other courses at the college. In addition, because the G2C work has resulted in data-informed best practices, the college is integrating this work into the program-level work undertaken in the Guided Program Pathways initiative (see below). Important correlations discovered in measuring student success—for example, that students who successfully completed Composition I succeeded in US History: 1877 to Present at a higher rate than did students who did not take Composition I first—have yielded valuable information that is being used as faculty construct course sequences in Guided Program Pathways. And, since both the G2C and the Guided Program Pathways projects involve many faculty (including many of the same faculty), the integrated work for these two projects approaches an ideal level of collaboration and seamlessness.

Guided Program Pathways

As key as gateway or other individual courses are to a student’s successfully completing a degree or certificate or transferring successfully to a four-year school, ultimately, completion and transfer goals are best met when the student follows a well-conceived, well-designed, carefully constructed program of study that contains only relevant courses, a high degree of integrated learning, and clear pathways through these experiences. LCC’s Guided Program Pathways project, a key part of Operation 100%, is being implemented in collaboration with the Michigan Guided Pathways Institute (GPI).

GPI, funded by The Kresge Foundation, is a three-year initiative of the Michigan Center for Student Success (MCSS) to build awareness of and capacity for guided pathways among Michigan’s twenty-eight community colleges. With evidence increasingly pointing to structural problems at institutions as a fundamental contributor to the low completion rates, the overwhelming number of programmatic choices, coupled with poorly aligned support systems, presents significant challenges to students as they attempt to get on (and stay on) a clear path toward a credential. Leveraging the pioneering work of several national initiatives that have sought to tackle these institution-wide structural issues, GPI is designed to create a sustained community of practice among participating colleges, with substantial technical assistance from leading experts at the Community College Research Center, Jobs for the Future, the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement, and Public Agenda.

To be a part of a GPI cohort, colleges must commit to fully and actively participate in a series of in-person and virtual convenings; to identify a GPI lead (or co-leads) who will be supported to ensure that the project remains on track; and to designate a cross-functional steering team including representatives from faculty, advisors, academic and student services administrators, and other stakeholders as needed.

Institutions begin their participation with GPI by mapping programs, defining default course sequences, and prescribing appropriate general education and elective options. They will complete this process for all of their campus programs in broad strokes, proceeding to more detailed scenarios, including sequences for full- and part-time students and the incorporation of developmental instruction where required. The expectation for the first cohort of colleges (including LCC) is to have implemented guided pathways and make them available for new students registering in fall 2016. Each pathway will include the following design principles, which are adapted from Davis Jenkins’ work at the Community College Research Center:

  • clearly specified further education and employment goals for every program;
  • a full-program curriculum map with a default semester-by-semester sequence of courses to complete the program;
  • exploratory or “meta-majors” to help entering students choose a program of study;
  • identification of critical courses and other milestones students are expected to attain in each semester;
  • program learning outcomes aligned with the requirements for success in further education and employment, with necessary assessment strategies in place;
  • policies for intentional advising at intake to assist students in selecting a program; and
  • policies and procedures to provide timely feedback to students when they meet benchmarks or get “off track” in their selected program.

Once an initial pathways “system” is implemented, the first cohort of colleges are expected to continue to refine and sustain their efforts and to commit to sharing data and lessons learned with other Michigan colleges and with MCSS.

The first group of LCC academic programs to be created within a Guided Program Pathways model includes the electrical technology program and the fashion technology program, which will serve as guided program pathway models for programs in the college’s Technical Careers Division, and most of the programs from the college’s Health and Human Services Division (for example, child development, surgical technology, and diagnostic medical sonography), which are already fairly well structured. The college will continue developing Guided Program Pathways throughout the 2015–2016 academic year, and both students and advisors will use Ellucian’s “Degree Works” to ensure that students remain on track in their Guided Program Pathways.

A faculty member coordinates both the college’s Guided Program Pathways project and the work of the project’s steering committee. The steering committee, in turn, has established eight work groups, each of which is charged with making recommendations for best practices in creating the following key components of all program pathways: program mapping; career communities (e.g., exploratory, meta-majors); accurate tracking of students’ progress and timely support for students; predictable semester- and program-level schedules; contextualized instruction opportunities; bridges to college for high school students and adult learners; seamless transfer opportunities; and dual admission/guaranteed transfer agreement opportunities for students wishing to pursue baccalaureate degrees.

A set of key principles underlies and guides the work of the Guided Program Pathways project: (1) pathways will be developed and reviewed with a focus on quality assurance and transfer/career relevance; (2) students will not need permission to register for a course along the path but will need to consult with an advisor if they wish to register for a course not on the path or if they are having trouble staying on track; (3) career communities will be created so that students can explore more general areas of study without losing time or taking unnecessary courses; (4) all courses within a career community will also be on the specific program pathway (in that community) that a student eventually chooses to follow; (5) to the extent possible, required math and writing courses will be program-specific, and general education courses will align with technical coursework; and (6) faculty will continue to develop ways to minimize students’ time in so-called developmental education courses without also compromising these students’ chances of succeeding in their college-level courses.

Throughout its history, LCC has engaged in many important endeavors to help students succeed. Our work with the Guided Program Pathways project has already proved to be one of the most significant initiatives ever undertaken by the college. A strongly collaborative effort, it involves the active participation of faculty and staff from across the college. Most important, time and again students have vocally expressed their gratitude that the college is involved in this work and their wish that the pathways were already in place.

Conclusion

The completion problem nationally is both urgent and demanding. It calls for nothing short of bold, culture-changing solutions. Although many of us at community colleges have known for quite some time that large numbers of students fail to complete the certificate or degree that they had hoped to achieve, until relatively recently comprehensive remedy options have not been readily available to us. Such is no longer the case. In the interest of our students and citizenry, there is no time to lose in drawing from the effective models of systemic change—such as G2C and Guided Program Pathways—that advance the cause of success for all students.

LCC’s Operation 100% substantively engages this imperative. The stakes are too high and both the risks and the benefits—to students, families, communities, and the nation—are too great for us to do otherwise. We welcome and embrace the opportunity to act, and we are working with all deliberate speed to effect the desired ends.

Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge and thank Martine Rife and Christine Conner not only for their leadership of the G2C (Martine) and Guided Program Pathways (Christine) initiatives, but also for their invaluable assistance with relevant aspects of this article. We also thank Khallai Taylor for helping with the initial phases of our Guided Program Pathways work and for offering suggestions for this article.

References

Adelman, Clifford. 2006. The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School through College. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.

Bailey, Thomas, Shanna Smith Jaggars, Davis Jenkins. 2015. “What We Know About Guided Pathways.” New York, NY: Community College Research Center. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/what-we-know-about-guided-pathways-packet.html.

Freeman, Scott, Sarah L. Eddy, Miles McDonough, Michelle K. Smith, Nnadozie Okoroafor, Hannah Jordt, and Mary Pat Wenderoth. 2014. “Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (23): 8410–8415.


Richard J. Prystowsky, provost and senior vice president of academic and student affairs, Lansing Community College; Andrew K. Koch, executive vice president of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, and project lead, Gateways to Completion; and Christopher A. Baldwin, senior director at Jobs for the Future, and former executive director, Michigan Center for Student Success

17 More Institutions Choose JNGI’S Gateways to Completion® Process to Improve Teaching, Learning and Success in High-Failure Rate Courses

February 19, 2016adminInsights, Institute News0

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI), a national non-profit leader in helping colleges and universities increase student learning and success, is pleased to announce 17 higher education institutions have joined the 2015-2016 JNGI Gateways to Completion (G2C) cohort.

JNGI’s G2C provides institutions with a process, guidance and analytics tools to support faculty in their efforts to redesign teaching, learning and success in lower division and/or developmental level courses that historically have high-failure rates.

The following institutions join the 13 institutions in the G2C Founding Cohort, and over 300 other colleges and universities that have worked with JNGI to build and implement comprehensive strategic action plans to yield a new vision for enhanced student learning and success.

  • College of Micronesia
  • East Georgia State College
  • Georgia Highlands College
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Georgia Southwestern State University
  • Gordon State College
  • Kennesaw State University
  • Middle Georgia State University
  • Montana State University Billings
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
  • Qatar University
  • South Georgia State College
  • University of Southern Mississippi
  • University of West Georgia
  • Valdosta State University
  • Western Michigan University

Because success in foundation level courses, such as accounting, math, chemistry, biology, history, psychology and writing / English is a direct predictor of retention, JNGI designed G2C to help institutions and their faculty create and implement evidence-based plans for improving teaching, learning and success in historically high-failure rate courses.

“This G2C process directly and intentionally involves faculty,” said Drew Koch, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Leadership & Innovation Officer, John N. Gardner Institute. “Far too often, student success efforts have left out or even bypassed faculty. Not surprisingly, these efforts frequently have not yielded their anticipated levels of success. Gateways to Completion addresses this issue, and it provides faculty with the structure and tools to maximize their time on task.”

“In addition,” added Koch, “G2C is an effort that helps address issues of social inequity, since data shows that historically underrepresented and underserved students fail gateway courses at alarmingly high rates. Therefore, by helping faculty analyze data and adopt engaging pedagogies and support practices, G2C is helping to advance the completion agenda, the quality agenda, and the equity imperative.”

“We are very pleased to welcome seventeen more institutions to the G2C movement,” said John N. Gardner, President, John N. Gardner Institute. “Since fall of 2013, institutions that have been working with G2C have seen significant increases in retention rates, academic performance as measured by grades, and higher levels of students in good academic standing for students who are in the G2C redesigned courses Through the Gateways to Completion process, faculty and staff at these institutions are clearly showing that they are committed to improved teaching and learning with the byproduct being better student outcomes.”

JNGI is currently accepting applications from colleges and/or universities interested in joining the next JNGI cohorts. For more information, visit jngi.org.

PSU Takes an Intensive Look at Student Retention

January 28, 2016adminInstitute News0

KOAM-TV 7 –  PSU takes an intensive look at student retention

PITTSBURG, KANSAS – Ask any college student if they have considered dropping out at one point or another. Resoundingly, the answer is a yes. But for students who are not just joking out of frustration, the decision to “drop” could mean transferring to another university or putting college on hold altogether.

Pittsburg State University is taking an intensive look into their own retention numbers in a paired effort with John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI) to launch a new Retention Performance Management (RPM) process at PSU.

“So there’s a lot of reasons students might not be retained, but when they leave, they take a part of our experience with them,” provost and VP of academic affairs Lynette Olson said.

The RPM will look at data from as far back as six years in an attempt to track the circumstances surrounding students non-retention.

“Unless they just decide, you know, college isn’t for me and I’m going to go do something else, we want them to stay here and be a part of this experience,” Olson said.

Olson and other staff openly acknowledge that retention is a multi-faceted effort that considers academic and extracurricular matters. Students value the social aspect of college just as they do the education.

“At the end of the day its an investment in our future as a society. And there’s evidence that a college education increases earning power, for students for individuals that achieve that, so why wouldn’t we want to invest,” Olson said.

Olson will co-chair a steering committee for the RPM. The process will be long and intensive and will include a survey for all freshman and sophomore students.

PSU’s retention rate from freshman to sophomore year is 72 percent, which is higher than the national average, but officials are pushing for more.
“I think it fits our culture, we’re very focused on students. And we want students to achieve, we want them to have a good experience,” Olson said.

PSU sets its sights on improved retention rates

Six More Institutions Choose JNGI’S Retention Performance Management® Process to Improve Student Success and Retention Rates

January 19, 2016adminInstitute News1

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI), a national leader in helping colleges and universities increase student success, is pleased to announce six additional higher education institutions have joined the JNGI Retention Performance Management (RPM) process.

JNGI’s RPM process provides a flexible set of time- and resource-efficient processes and tools that help institutions create, implement and/or refine retention and completion plans.

The following institutions join the more than 300 that have worked with JNGI to build and implement a comprehensive strategic action plan to yield a new vision for enhanced learning and retention.

  • Bridgewater College
  • College of Micronesia – Federated States of Micronesia
  • Defiance College
  • Pittsburg State University
  • Rock Valley College
  • University of South Florida

“RPM helps institutions keep more of the students they admit – an outcome critical to fulfilling institutional mission and maintaining financial stability,” said Drew Koch, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Leadership & Innovation Officer, JNGI. “It involves faculty and staff in making data-based decisions about strategic retention and completion actions that they then implement to transform their institution and the students they serve.”

“These six institutions join eight others that have already elected to use RPM to improve retention,” added Koch. “These institutions are respectively using RPM to focus on their most critical cohorts, such as first-year, second-year or underrepresented male students. This shows just how flexible and powerful the process can be.”

“This collaborative and faculty-focused work can be extremely transformational for our institutions and their students,” said John N. Gardner, President, JNGI. “We are proud to partner with these strategically-minded organizations in assessing and planning for excellence in their entire undergraduate experience.”

JNGI’s proven student learning, success, retention and completion processes have been used by hundreds of institutions – including entire systems and/or districts – to improve the first-year and/or transfer experience as well as measurably improve student retention and related tuition revenue.

JNGI is currently accepting applications from colleges and/or universities interested in joining the next JNGI cohorts. For more information, visit jngi.org.

15 Campuses Join John N. Gardner Institute’s 2015-16 Foundations of Excellence® Student Success Cohort

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI), a national leader in helping colleges and universities to increase student success, is pleased to announce 15 higher education institutions that will work with the JNGI Foundations of Excellence (FoE) process during the 2015-16 academic year.

Bringing together faculty, staff members, administrators and students, FoE produces a strategic action plan to improve institutional performance with the new student experience and provides support for the crucial implementation of this action plan. Ten of the 15 institutions will be will be involved in the FoE self-study process and five will work with JNGI to implement their previously completed FoE action plans.

The following institutions join the nearly 300 that have worked with JNGI to build and implement a comprehensive strategic action plan to yield a new vision for enhanced student learning and retention.

  • Alma College
  • Amarillo College
  • Arizona State University
  • College of Micronesia
  • Kennebec Valley Community College
  • Kirkwood Community College
  • McMurry University
  • MidAmerica Nazarene University
  • Northeast Lakeview College
  • Robert B. Miller College
  • Suffolk University
  • Texas A & M University – San Antonio
  • Texas A & M University – Texarkana
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Houston – Clear Lake

Two additional institutions, Maricopa Community College and Kellogg Community College, will collaborate with Arizona State University and Robert B. Miller College respectively to address the collegiate transfer experience.

“We’ve seen retention increases ranging from 4% to over 17% for those institutions that implement their Foundations of Excellence plans to a high degree,” said John N. Gardner, President, John N. Gardner Institute. “Through the FoE process, these institutions are clearly committed to making significant and comprehensive changes to improve their first-year and/or transfer student success experience.”

FoE is a multi-year, comprehensive, externally guided self-study and improvement process for the first year and/or transfer student experience. Campuses evaluate and assess institutional behaviors, policies and practices including: initial contact with students through admissions, orientation, and all curricular and co-curricular experiences.

“This collaborative and faculty-focused work can be extremely transformational for our institutions and their students,” said Drew Koch, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Leadership & Innovation Officer, John N. Gardner Institute. “We are proud to partner with these strategically-minded organizations. As a trusted third-party, we’re here to offer the on-going feedback, counsel, expertise and support needed to help institutions build and implement an action plan that makes a difference.”

FoE has been used by hundreds of institutions – including entire systems and/or districts – to improve the first-year and/or transfer experience as well as measurably improve student retention and related tuition revenue.

The Gardner Institute is currently accepting applications from colleges and/or universities interested in joining the next JNGI cohorts. For more information, visit jngi.org.

Seven Campuses Complete John N. Gardner Institute’s Foundations of Excellence® Student Success Process

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI), a national leader in helping colleges and universities to increase student success, is pleased to announce seven additional higher education institutions have completed the JNGI Foundations of Excellence (FoE) process. Bringing together faculty, staff members, administrators and students, FoE produces a strategic action plan to improve institutional performance and provides support for the crucial implementation of this action plan.

The following institutions join the nearly 300 in total that have worked with JNGI to build a comprehensive strategic action plan to yield a new vision for enhanced learning and retention.

  • Arizona State University
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania
  • Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
  • McMurry University
  • Suffolk University
  • Texas A&M University Texarkana
  • University of Central Florida

“We’ve seen increases ranging from 4% to over 17% in student retention for those institutions that implement their Foundations of Excellence plans to a high degree,” said John N. Gardner, President, John N. Gardner Institute. “Through the FoE process, these seven institutions are clearly committed to making significant and comprehensive changes to improve their first-year and/or transfer student success experience.”

FoE is a comprehensive, externally guided self-study and improvement process for the first year and/or transfer student experience. Each institution has been working to complete the FoE process for at least one-year. Campuses evaluate and assess institutional behaviors, policies and practices including: initial contact with students through admissions, orientation, and all curricular and co-curricular experiences.

“We offer a customizable approach to all of our retention and completion enhancement processes,” said Drew Koch, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Leadership & Innovation Officer, John N. Gardner Institute. “In some cases, these seven institutions worked with us before but returned to revise their action plan and/or receive the on-going feedback, counsel, expertise and support needed through their implementation phase. This shows high levels of commitment to continuous quality improvement and student success.”

FoE has been used by hundreds of institutions – including entire systems and/or districts – to improve the first-year and/or transfer experience as well as measurably improve student retention and related tuition revenue.

The Gardner Institute is currently accepting applications from colleges and/or universities interested in joining the next FoE cohort. For more information, visit jngi.org.

 

Conversations with John N. Gardner and Betsy Barefoot

Please click the link to enjoy a series of video interviews, Celebrating Excellence in Undergraduate Education, with John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot created in conjunction with the University of California, Irvine.

The University of Rhode Island, CELS News: Reinventing College Teaching

March 12, 2015adminInstitute News0

Biological Science and Kinesiology Assistant Professor, Kimberly Fournier has a passion for anatomy and biomechanics. To instill that same passion in her students, she’s revamping traditional teaching strategies to boost student learning.

Through her human anatomy course, she’s implementing new testing and teaching methods as part of a university-wide initiative to improve student performance in gateway courses.

“It’s a high enrollment class, required for most allied health programs,” Fournier says. “But students weren’t being successful from semester to semester.”

According to Fournier, this is a nationwide trend at universities with large, prerequisite classes. In fact, she said the drop, failure, and withdrawal rates in many of these courses, especially those in the sciences, can be quite high. Fournier and other professors around the country are trying to change all that by joining the Gateway to Completion (G2C) initiative. This initiative, supported by the Gardner Institute, is designed to help professors improve learning and retention in high-risk and high-enrollment classes.

“It’s about changing how these courses are taught so they better resonate with students,” explains Fournier. “Most of my students want to go into an allied health field and they hate anatomy because they are terrified of this class. We have to fix that; we have to do something.”

Now in its second year, the G2C initiative is implementing changes in five courses at each of 13 participating universities. Human Anatomy, overseen by Fournier, is one of the participating courses at the University of Rhode Island. Both sections of the course, each with 250 students, are being modified by Fournier and Lecturer Jason Ramsay.

Last summer, Fournier identified strategies for course improvement through the G2C review process. One of the highest priority goals was to reduce student test anxiety. That’s why Fournier, in conjunction with Joshua Caulkins, the Liaison for the G2C process at URI, is implementing two new education methods: a flipped classroom method, which encourages students to learn the basic material outside of class and practice material applications during class, and two-stage testing, which turns portions of tests into group activities.

In the case of the flipped classroom method, Fournier says students become responsible for initiating the learning process. They do reading or other basic activities before class. Then, homework-like lessons during class help to solidify critical thinking and material interpretation.

“It turns the classroom into a place of active learning instead of passive learning,” Fournier says.

Fournier plans to apply the flipped classroom concept to the hardest sections of her anatomy class later in the semester.

In Fournier’s implementation of two-stage testing, each of her students completes an individual exam worth 85 percent of her total exam grade. Then students move into pre-defined groups of approximately four students and fill out a group test. The group test is a subset of the individual exam questions. The grade on the group exam is worth the remaining 15 percent of each student’s grade. This method has been proven and pioneered by the University of British Columbia, Canada, and has shown to measurably decrease test anxiety. Additionally, it provides students with immediate test feedback and results in higher student achievement.

“It’s turned test taking into a learning exercise,” Fournier says.

In April, Fournier will share data from her teaching modifications at a G2C conference. She hopes these efforts will help to positively shape the future of our nation’s college-level teaching.

Gardner Institute Selects Eight Retention Performance Management™ Founding Institutions

February 18, 2015adminInstitute News0

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, a national non-profit focused on helping higher education institutions improve student learning, persistence and completion, is pleased to announce the eight institutions that have been selected as the founding cohort for the Retention Performance Management™ (RPM) process. The Gardner Institute’s new RPM process helps institutions develop and successfully implement a plan to retain the students they admit – an outcome critical to fulfilling institutional mission and maintaining financial stability.

Each institution will work collaboratively with the Gardner Institute for up to two years to analyze student data and subsequently create and implement a plan to improve retention. The colleges and universities will respectively focus on a specific cohort of students such as first year, sophomores or various subpopulations such as first-generation or low-income students.

The eight Gardner Institute RPM Founding Institutions are:

Brevard College, Brevard, NC
Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, NM
Montreat College, Montreat, NC
Rivier University, Nashua, NH
Texas A&M University – Kingsville, Kingsville, TX
University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama
University of Wisconsin – Platteville, Platteville, WI
Whittier College, Whittier, CA

“Our decade-and-a-half of experience as a non-profit focused on undergraduate excellence has firmly reinforced the lesson that taking substantive, evidence-based steps to improve retention can be a difficult process for any educational institution. But doing so is absolutely necessary for the institutions as well as the students and communities they serve.” said Dr. Andrew Koch, the Gardner Institute’s Executive Vice President.

“These eight institutions were selected to participate in the inaugural RPM cohort due to their strong commitment to student learning and success. They are working with the Gardner Institute to avoid ‘reinventing the retention improvement wheel’ while they create and then implement a comprehensive retention plan.” Koch added.

“We look forward to working with these institutions,” commented Dr. John Gardner, President of the Gardner Institute. “The lessons learned will shape both what these institutions do, and also what the Gardner Institute does with future RPM cohorts.”

The RPM founding institutions recently began their efforts. The Gardner Institute is currently accepting applications from colleges and/or universities interested in joining the next RPM cohort. The application due date is September 15, 2015.