John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

A Preview of Coming Attractions

September 8, 2014John N. GardnerInsights0

John N. Gardner

You are starting a new academic year. I am too. And I want to share what are going to be some of the priorities of my work, especially with the non-profit John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education in this coming year.

  • As the developer of the registered trademark and concept “The First-Year Experience” I am now being quoted as saying: “The REAL first-year experience is the gateway course experience.” So this fall we are launching our second national cohort for a national effort to improve student performance in high failure rate gateway courses. This is our process G2C ®, Gateways to Completion ®. The results from our first year of this process are most encouraging—that campuses will join such an effort and can actually conduct a rigorous self-study of their high failure rate courses and take steps to redesign them. As my colleague, and Executive Vice President, Drew Koch, is fond of saying, “We are not a technology firm but we have some sweet technology!” The G2C process includes a “sweet” data platform into which the institution uploads a wealth of data that it has never collected before regarding gateway courses. This data provides evidence for multiple decisions about course redesign. It also provides evidence that persuasively correlates performance in gateway courses by each course with retention rates of students who receive grades of D,W,F,I, in those selected courses. In the second year of the three year G2C process our new predictive analytics process kicks in providing dashboards for all institutions to monitor student progress in the aggregate for each targeted course, and an optional version of predictive analytics to follow and intervene with individual students. This work on improving gateway course performance is my true capstone work and probably the most important work of my career. Our application deadline for G2C is September 30. See:
  • We are launching in November of 2014 our newest service to increase student success: Retention Performance Management ™, RPM ™. This is the most time and cost efficient service we have ever offered. It is also the first form of support we will provide that will be priced as a function of enrollment size. This will mean that for small institutions under 3000 students their cost will be only $15,000. Our goal here has been especially to embrace smaller, private colleges but we are finding a significant number of larger and private institutions interested as well. RPM will provide a process to yield improvements within a relatively short time frame of six months. It will also feature our new “sweet” technology platform for data collection and analysis; and a new student retention survey, which will be the first survey we have ever offered directly from our organization. The application deadline for RPM is also September 30. See:
  • We will be offering our twelfth national/international cohort of Foundations of Excellence (FoE) ® since 2003. FoE is a voluntary, comprehensive, self-study and planning process, externally guided by our staff, that leads to an action plan that when implemented to a high degree has been found to correlate with significantly improved retention rates (8.2% in the aggregate for all institutional types). We have had 256  institutions from six countries participate previously. For this fall we have also introduced our “sweet new technology” to further enhance the power of this process. Our application deadline is October31. See:
  • We will be offering our third national Academic and Student Affairs Leaders’ Institute on Student Success, in the January-February 2015 window, location TBA in southern California. This will continue the promising work we have already done in two previous meetings in November 2012 and January 2014. The basic idea here is to bring together institutional teams to put them through a process that will enable them to produce a take home plan for a major partnership student success activity. We are very encouraged by the outcomes from more than 100 institutional teams that have experienced this process previously. Our first convening produced a major statement on how to pursue this work which is available gratis on our website: Seven Principles of Good Practice for Student Success Partnerships:
  • I am very pleased to announce that we will be hosting our third annual national and international Conference on the Gateway Course Experience. This will be held in Charlotte, N.C., April 12-14, 2015. See:  his is in keeping with the highest priority of our non-profit organization to be the world leader of a major effort to improve student performance, and this retention, in association with the impact of gateway courses.
  • And I am going to be atypically coy and cryptic in inviting my readers to follow my blog and our website for an announcement of a major new event we will be hosting later in 2015, something I have wanted to do for sometime but just hadn’t gotten to it. But the time is ripe and this to be announced convening is needed more than ever and will fill a gap in support for educators whom I would classify as my kindred souls.
  • In addition I am working with four colleagues, Betsy Barefoot of our Institute, Charles Schroeder an independent scholar and consultant, and Peter Felten and Leo Lambert of Elon University, on a new book to be published by Jossey-Bass in 2016.

The above litany is/are my highlights only. I think those and the items I did not mention will keep me busy, off the streets, and out of trouble. I write this after just seeing Tony Bennett perform live three weeks after his 88th birthday. And as a fellow man of the 20th century I feel even more inspired to stay at the top of my game for –yes, my own pleasure and satisfaction, and also the betterment of higher education. I hope you will consider joining me for any of these activities.

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