Monday, November 23, 2015
Once More, with Feeling
So I turn to my wise and worldly readers to shed light. Is there another angle on this question that sheds useful light? Is there a better answer?
The university had a policy:
-Max 3 attempts on a given course
-max 5 retakes per degree
-GPA only counted from the best attempt.
(Another way to limit is to make all attempts count to cgpa - too many retakes = low GPA = fail the program.
We (eventually) implemented a good solution:
-students could use their 5 repeats on their own but got an intrusive advising invitation at the fourth global retake.
-students needed to meet an advisor to unlock the third attempt at a given course.
The last layer was what happened on exceptions. In our case, we had a generous enough policy on withdrawals for extenuating circumstances. Those didn't count against anything and we trusted the office responsible to decide whether any individual case met the bar.
We did, however grant exceptions.
Exceptions were predicated on a student writing a convincing case that they were at a different level of preparation today than their last attempt. If they needed additional overall repeats (the most common case), then they needed to show that they were likely to graduate from the program with no new failed classes. The gold standard for a yes was 2 semesters of significant course load taking courses of similar difficulty meeting a GPA standard of >2.4 (C+/B-) with no D or F grades. Less than that and ou had to make a really good case - only very rarely did such a case exist.
The downside: this was labour intensive and often involved teaching the students what we needed in terms of professionalism and reflective thought was that needed on the appeal.
The up side: it opened up conversations, showed we were not just there to say no, but also made clear what the student needed to do. It also gave us a pretty bomb proof reply to the refrain "but I promise I will work harder next time". This was in many ways my most impactful advising.
I will email your gmail in case you want to chat further.
At Indiana University Northwest (1987-2012), there was (and is, so far as I know) no limit either on the number of times you can enroll-and drop, or even take-and-retake a course. I had a student take intro econ from me in three successive semesters, completing the course all three times (D-D-C; he had to take the course for his major, and he had to get a C in it for it to count). Also, IU has a policy called F-x--if you fail a course, you can re-take it, and if you pass it, the F is removed from your transcript altogether (but you can only do that for 10 credit hours worth of courses).
I actually have no clear idea of what is an optimal policy.
One exception is that I will allow a student with only one course left on their degree as many retries as they need, after counseling them to do something different on this attempt. Unfortunately, one course that has repeatedly served as that "last to complete" course is one I teach. (Students can do that "one last course" without being matriculated students, at a much lower cost than registering even as a part-time student.) I have had students fail my course 4 or 5 times—making no progress from one year to the next, despite the assignments being essentially the same each year, and despite advice that they take a programming course at a community college between annual attempts, to get their skills up to a passing level. I did have one student pass it (barely) on the 4th attempt.
It is not fun for me or the students to see them give up on the 2nd or 3rd week of the quarter year after year. Their unwillingness to do anything to prepare for the course suggests to me that they believe that passing a course is just a matter of luck, and if they roll the dice often enough they are bound to pass sometime.
1) Withdrawals are allowed until about halfway through the semester. Each student is allowed up to 16 hours of course withdrawals. Retaking a course after withdrawing from it does not count against course repeats described in point 3.
2) Withdrawals for extenuating circumstances (for example, medical issues), are not counted against the 16 hours of regular withdrawals.
3) If a student does not withdraw and gets a grade, they can retake the course only if their grade is below a C.
a) The first time a student retakes a course, they can replace their grade with the new grade. After the first time retaking a course, grade replacement no longer applies. Instead, both grades count towards their GPA.
b) Students are allowed grade replacement for a maximum of three courses. They may retake as many courses as they choose, but after the first three, the original grade will remain as part of their GPA.
At my CC, we allow two repeats of graded courses. However, withdrawals without earning a grade are not counted, and there is no limit on the number of withdrawals students may take.
Universities that I know about have a mix of policies. Most only allow two repeats for a course required in their major (as distinct from gen ed requirements), but vary on whether the repeated grade is forgiven and/or on how many withdrawals are allowed. Those end up with a student on academic probation (and off to a CC to get their transcript laundered) long before they can repeat very many classes.
As you note, repeating students tend to fall into the A or F category depending on whether they repeat it by changing what they do in a dramatic fashion or merely repeat exactly what they did the first time. I always schedule a first-week conference with students repeating the class for just that reason, but the F students don't bother to show up to discuss a plan. The folks who think retention is our responsibility don't seem to appreciate that detail!
But the reason I kept repeating wasn't because I liked the class - it was a core requirement that I needed in order to get my degree.
So what happens if a student hits their maximum number of retries and still needs that credit for degree completion, and isn't allowed to substitute another course for it?