Improving Course Success without Adding Content

As an instructor, I often feel that the end of a semester is both the most joyous and most disappointing time of the semester. I am able to reflect upon the positive achievements of those who have successfully completed my  course, but my mind tends to gravitate towards the students who were not successful. I find myself constantly thinking about what I could have done differently in the course and the measures I could implement that could positively impact student success. I have now concluded that it is not as much about changing the resources I am using to teach as much as how I am supporting students who are at risk of not being successful.

In April of 2015, I participated in Teaching Methods 2.0 and was challenged with the task of looking at data and then to modify my teaching methods to meet the needs of my students. What I quickly discovered was that I have an overwhelming amount of resources available to students, but perhaps not enough guidance with who needed to use the resources. Based on this conclusion, I decided to ask myself the following questions:

  • Who is at greatest risk of being unsuccessful in my class?
  • How can I intervene to positively impact student success?

After analyzing different factors, I discovered that a failure in students’ previous Med-Surg theory course or just “squeaking by” were huge risk factors for being unsuccessful in my current course. Furthermore, I discovered that a passing grade on their first exam typically yielded great success in the course.

  • So what the heck did I do with the evidence?

I’ll get to the point now…I promise.  The nursing team now keeps a document with all of the students who failed theory courses. I now automatically make referrals to academic coaching for my students who failed their previous course or who have just “squeaked by” prior to the start of the course. Furthermore, I hold a faculty advising session with all of these students so we get the chance to build a personal connection before the start of the class. We discuss their plan for success, barriers to achieving success, come up with a plan to overcome the barriers, and review important resources available to the students. After reviewing the resources with the students, additional referrals to student support services can be made and learning resources used within the program can also be reviewed with the students. Student attendance in academic coaching has ultimately improved and the students who have attended academic coaching regularly are consistently outperforming those who are not attending coaching.

  • So has this improved student success?

The short answer is YES!!!

Complex Health Alterations 2 Course Success (courtesy of the NWTC DataMine)

  • 2014- 70.69%
  • 2015- 73.98%
  • 2016 – 86.31% (the first full year that the interventions were implemented).

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