Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Third Time’s the Charm
We have a regular study skills class PLUS one that is just for students with multiple developmental classes. They take the regular one when they get to college-level classes. Yes, that wastes some credits, but we had data that show it works. Not sure if it still works "at scale" with a broader group of faculty.
BTW, your comment about it might have been a throwaway, but we do have data on why students fail anatomy and physiology. They don't know any chemistry or biology, so the physiology part (the lecture course part) kills them. We can't add a prerequisite course because that would mean too many pre-reqs for nursing, and we can't have one that says "or HS bio and chemistry" (which would be OK for nursing) because our computer system can't handle that.
There is also a sequencing problem. They sometimes take a hard class before an easier one, or don't take a college math class to refresh their skills before dealing with the numbers in physiology. Others can't spell all those crazy greek and latin words in the anatomy part, but there is a terminology course that helps with that if they are in one of the majors that requires it, or luck out and get good advising.
At Indiana University Northwest, where I spent a quarter century, students could re-take a course as often as they wanted (IU, systemwide also had a policy locally called FX--if you failed a course, you could retake it, and, if you got a better grade, the F would disappear from your transcript...but you could do that for only 10 credit hours of Fs...but I digress). My second semester there (spring 1988), I had a student who was taking a course (intro to microeconomics) for the 8th time...he had passed it every time, lowest grade a D, highest grade a C-...it did not go well for him. He missed two tests, out of three, and didn't drop the course.
I later had a student taking intro to micro for the third time. He needed a C in the course for it to count toward his major (and it was a required course). It was, in fact, his third attempt taking it from me. He had a difficulty generalizing...walk him through an example, and he more-or-less got it. Give him essentially the same example, but with a different product or different numbers, and it was like he'd never seen the concepts before. But the third time, he (barely) got a C, and thanked me for spending time with him (averaged 2 hours a week, I think...but it meant someone was there for my office hours).
And, no, I have no magic bullets.
In fact, students taking a class for the second time pass it at lower rates than students taking it the first time. "
I imagine it's not really your point but pass rates is probably the wrong metric for comparing how students do on successive attempts at a course for the obvious reason that the stronger students pass on the first attempt. Is there any data on how each student's grade changes with successive attempts (i.e. from F to D to C-, etc)?
That's not what the data in that link show. They show that CCs have had grade inflation comparable to other higher ed over time. The last three points show a leveling or slight decline, but they also flattened from 1985-1995 before jumping over the next decade. Based on the apparent need to smooth the CC data to every 5 years while the 4-year data was plotted for every year, I suspect that the CC data is considerably noisier, so I wouldn't read much into an apparent brief flattening. On top of that, the CC data stop at 2011, so who knows how well that reflects 2016.
However, I've seen changing the pace of a class cause different students to succeed. For me, the best ways to take low-level math classes was in compressed summer terms, because I didn't have time to get bored, get busy with other stuff, and stop setting aside enough time to complete the grind of repetitive homework before every single class. I got through a year of majors-track calculus with A's and B's in a single summer that way after struggling in a regularly-paced class because I tended to flake out after a while and start trying to coast. (Interestingly, I had no problems with this in higher-level proof-based math classes because I found it a lot more interesting and kept setting aside the time for the work - I had no trouble taking, say, Abstract Algebra in the traditional year-long format. This also may have been a maturity issue since I was a younger teenager when I started college.)
I've also seen struggling students improve in a class taught at a slower pace (maybe 2 credits for two quarters each rather than 4 credits in a single quarter) if they need more time to absorb the material.
At the high school level, we seem to oscillate between having separate "repeaters sections" and mixing them in with the on-pace students, and both really have their own problems. We currently seem to be going through a "self-paced computer-based credit recovery" model for high school math repeaters, which sounds good in theory (students can test out of the parts they already understand and just learn what they missed the first time, which avoids the issue of the repeater who messes around for the first couple of months because they "already know this stuff" and then doesn't start paying attention when it hits the part the missed the previous time) but in practice tends to lead to students without the skills and mindset to work independently being expected to independent study the things they didn't learn in a structured class.
I'd love to see some other good options. The basic issue I'm always dealing with is that they need to get through three years of sequential math classes during their 4 years of high school (starting with, at the lowest, Algebra 1, regardless of their previous preparation level per state law), so they get a maximum of one "oops" before all of the remaining solutions are terrible and involve taking math classes at the same time as their prerequisite math course.
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