The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas, conducted focus group study of community college student persistence, Listen to Me. This study provided the first-hand experience of first-time community college students in the hopes of understanding why roughly 40% of college students drop out in the first year. Although this study focuses on college students, there are many conversations that may sound very familiar from our students and it may help your school begin to look at the your school’s experience from a student perspective.
Some of the emerging conversations in the research were:
- The First Day – Student come in with nervousness, fear, excitement, concerns, hope. How do we welcome them? How do we connect them with others? How do we engage students, validate their state of being, and keep them coming back? How many students do we lose before they get started?
- Before Classes Begin – Are students prepared for learning? What registration processes do students have to get through? What orientation do we offer? Does the orientation set students up for success or just tell them information? Do our teachers reach out before classes start? Are students ready?
- Academic Plan – Are students clear about their goals and have a plan at your school? Do they have a timeline and an idea of where they are headed? Do they have a why and a path? Does your school ensure all students receive academic planning?
- Academic Support – What strategies does your school have in place when students need help academically? Is there a student success course that include study skills and time management?
- Ongoing, Intrusive Advising – Does your school have regular check-ins with students? What happens when a student gets off track? Is your counseling strategy hit-or-miss and focus on only on students who ask for help?
- Systems to Track Progress – Does your school have a system to track progress? What intervention happens when?
This study provides a first-hand look at students’ experiences with many of these items. Additionally it includes conversations about high-impact teaching, motivation and confidence, widening the safety net and other questions for consideration.
It is a good read as it puts a face and stories our processes and practices. It just might start a conversation at your site on we can start to better meet the needs of our students.