Early Identification of At-Risk Student System (EIASS)

Working Group Recommendation to Eliminate the Practice of Midterm Grading in General Education Courses

Summer 2008

 

Working Group Members: Lori Anderson (Academic Advising Center), Chris Bakkum (Registrar and Convener of group), Telitha Bean-Thompson (Multicultural Student Services), Mary Coady (Disability Resource Services), Amelia Dittman (College of Business Administration), Betsy Morgan (Psychology faculty member), Troy Richter (College of Liberal Studies), and Mark Sandheinrich (Chair, Biology Department).

 

Task:  Examine current practice of requiring midterm grade reporting in General Education courses and make a recommendation whether or not to continue the practice.  Explore ways to identify and assist academically at-risk students before they experience academic distress.

 

Background:  An exploration of our current midterm grading policy in General Education courses revealed a faculty participation rate of 16%.  With the implementation of the new PeopleSoft Student Information System, a recommendation was made to eliminate the General Education midterm grading process.  The Academic Deans gathered feedback from the department chairs on this recommendation.  All three colleges were in agreement with the recommendation to eliminate this practice; however, the Dean of Students requested further feedback from student services areas that might be using the information to assist academically at-risk students.

 

As a result, the Provost suggested that a working group meet during the summer of 2008 to explore the issues and make a recommendation.  This working group examined the current system, collected some data from students, and explored other ways of ensuring identification of and support for academically at-risk students as a systematic, campus-wide responsibility.  The group recommends eliminating the current practice of requiring General Education instructors to submit mid-term grades.

 

The group then explored a number of ways to identify and support academically at-risk students or to encourage these students to self-identify and seek assistance early.  Below are some thoughts expressed by the group:

  • Send a message to all new students (including transfer students) with information about important drop/withdrawal dates.  This could come from the Dean’s Offices and be copied to faculty
  • Work with Residence Life academic prep teams to alert residents to midterm drop dates
  • Explore ways to utilize D2L in alerting students to early academic progress (or lack thereof)
  • Add info to Freshmen Orientation to reinforce these messages
  • Include info to parent’s on important drop deadlines and encouraging parents to talk to students about how they are doing academically and to encourage students to talk with faculty about their academic progress
  • Add info to New Faculty Orientation about the importance of keeping students informed of progress prior to midterm and of support services available to students

 

Attached is additional information gathered by the working group from students in an attempt the student experience. This is by no means a full-blown study on this issue but it does provide some insight into what students think.


 

 

Informal Sample regarding Mid Term Grading

Summer 2008

 

Submitted by Troy Richter

In your classes, do you generally know how you are doing by the 4th week of the semester?

 

  • No because a lot can change with the final.
  • No I do not know generally know how I am doing four weeks into the class.
  • I would say no because it's way too early to tell.  If it's typically a lecture course, chances are there isn't any feedback or assignment to let you know how you are doing.
  • NO
  • yes
  • I usually do not know exactly how I am doing.  Some classes you may not  have many grades in the book so you don't really know were you stand.
  • Roughly, not always exactly depending on the detail/depth of the syllabus, and how much the professor has returned graded.  I'd say I know basically, but it may be an educated guess, comparing my previous track record in the subject and myself to other classmates. 
  • no
  • Yes
  • yes
  • Yes, most teachers let you know how you can find out your grade.
  • I usually have a pretty good idea but sometimes ts is hard to tell.  If the instructor uses D2L it makes it easier not only to see your progress but it can be a helpful reminder.  It also can give you a clue about the class when you're only a few weeks in.

          

In your classes, do you generally know how you are doing by the 7th week of the semester?

 

  • Still no, but there is a better indication.
  • Again I don't really feel that I do how I am doing seven weeks into the class, except for the few number of classes that actually use D2L and keep it up to date. 
  • I would say yes.  By this time I usually know my professors and there are usually exams or quizzes to examine how I am learning.
  • 60-75% of the time I have a pretty good idea, but rarely do I know for sure
  • Yes
  • If the class has uploaded grades onto D2L then I usually know where I am.  In some other classes it is hard to tell for sure. 
  • Same as #1. 
  • yes
  • Yes
  • Yes
  • Yes
  • It is easier to determine how well you're doing the longer you're in the class.  Usually by this point a few assignments have been handed back, etc. 

 

 

Do you know the policy and procedure for dropping a course? 

 

  • somewhat
  • No I don't know how to drop a class.
  • No, all the information students usually get are the "final dates" for dropping a course.  Also, I think many students don't know where they stand in a course until it's too late. 
  • YES, however I think an exit survey should be given anonymously if you withdraw from a class with some open ended questions and a chance for students to give feedback, for example instead of Did you find this class too time consuming, or too hard, or whatever, ask  What aspect of this course made you decide to withdraw? That way, you get all kinds of different answers. If I were a teacher and I had students dropping my class, I’d want to know why and what I could of done to help them out more.
  • Yes
  • I just know that you can by certain deadlines. 
  • Yes.  Get a drop slip signed by advisor and professor and turn into GMH office. 
  • yes
  • Somewhat
  • Yes
  • Yes, you drop it on Talon, but you have to make sure you drop it before the deadline so you don't get a F on your transcript.
  • I don't know it to the letter but I do know that the professor has to approve and your academic advisor is in on it.  It involves a few forms and a few signitures, which is expected with a change in the schedule.

 

What would be helpful for you if you were doing poorly in a class? 

 

  • To have the prof personal go over the tests and give more one on one help and more and make it more on your level.
  • Yes, I do think it would be helpful to know if you were doing poorly or doing well in classes.
  • I would like to meet with the professor and, if possible, redo assignments that were difficult for me.  I've found that tutors are also really helpful to me.
  • A COMPLETE grade posting with all grading information and remaining points available for the semester
  • study groups; appointments with professors
  • Maybe an e-mail.  Looking ahead to see if you would be able to bring that grade up or not. 
  • Yes, but I think I would know if I was doing bad before a professor would tell me.  And it depends on which standards we are going by, UWLs or mine.   
  • Work harder on the material.  Take better notes.
  • help from the teacher or tutor
  • It would be helpful to know exactly what my grade is all the time and what I can do to study differently or get extra help.
  • I'm not sure, I guess the instructor and a tutor would be the most helpful. 

 

How would you make the decision on whether or not to drop a course? 

 

  • If I was failing within the time limit to drop the class
  • I would base my decision on dropping a course depending on how I was doing in the class.  Anything lower than a C I would drop.
  • I would look at my motivation to finish the course, the professor's opinion and my grade thus far.
  • Based on remaining points possible and the probability of achieving enough of those points to raise my grade.
  • if I didn't think I had enough time to raise my grade (especially if it was a science or math class with more credits)
  • I would probably go to my advisor.
  • Can I afford to retake the class in the future time wise, and financially.  How much effort have I already put in, is the class a prerequisite for other classes that I need next semester. 
  • Whether or not I think I can improve the grade to a B or better.
  • Depends on how I feel I could do in the class, how it would affect my gpa, if I could take it a different semester
  • if i have time and money to retake it
  • If I am doing very poorly in the course and know that I am not going to pass or if during the first week or so I know that the course is too hard for me.
  • If I am positive that I am going to fail and I can't really raise my grade, dropping the course would definately cross my mind. 

 

How many of your courses do the instructors use the D2L grade book?

 

  • about 2 every semester of out five classes.
  • Only half use D2L and some never get updated until the end of the semester which doesn't help either!
  • About half.
  • Less than 50% and less then 10% use it to its full potential or even list all grades, most list only exams. It would be much more helpful if they updated all grades so I could always have a detailed report of what I’ve done for the semester and what areas I need to work more on, I can keep track of how many tests I do well on or not so well on myself, but a lot of times it’s the daily homework, participation, quizzes, etc that can have a huge impact on the final grade, especially for people who use participation as a large portion of the final grade, ie a particular English professor had something like 20% of the final grade based on class participation but never really gave any feedback, I found that extremely unfair especially when he came off as a rather biased professor, therefore I dropped his class and will probably never take one with him, in my opinion that doesn’t help further anyone’s education. Participation is a great thing to grade on, but there should be some way of reporting that and being able to communicate with the professor about how to improve your participation in class. I think classes that emphasize participation can be a great learning tool, but using D2L to track that would be even better and give more incentive to participate if you could see weekly fluctuations in your grade, just a thought.
  • about half, but I think all should!! D2L makes it soooooo much easier to keep track of your grade and to communicate with other classmates (classmate list)
  • All of my science classes have used D2L.  I would say that most of my gen. ed. classes did not.  I do really like the D2L gradebook.  You can calculate exactly were you are as well as check for mistakes. 
  • Not enough, and if they do, most don't use it to it's full potential or update it frequently enough.  75%
  • Usually about 3 per semester
  • 2-3
  • Last semester ALL of my instructors used it and I liked it a lot because then I could always see what my grades were.
  • About half of the instructors I have had so far used the D2L grade book.  I personally think it is nice because if you are ever unsure of a grade or a due date maybe and you can't find the course syllabus, D2L is right there. 

 

 


 

 

Submitted by Lori Anderson

In your classes, do you generally know how you are doing by the 4th week of the semester?

 

I got mixed responses to this question.  In general, students reported that if it was a lecture class, there are so few grades by the 4th week it’s almost impossible to know how they were doing or have any idea if they could still rebound from a low grade at that point.

         

In your classes, do you generally know how you are doing by the 7th week of the semester?

 

Most students reported it was pretty easy to know their progress at this point but much appreciated if the instructor is using D2L, as then grading is clearer.

The tougher question seems to be “Could I still recover at this point in the semester?”

  

Do you know the policy and procedure for dropping a course? 

 

Most students answered yes to this question but it is most likely because the AAC advisors proactively remind students of the drop/withdrawal dates, how to drop/withdraw and the implications of dropping/withdrawing.

 

What would be helpful for you if you were doing poorly in a class? 

 

Answers varied from more tutors, more times tutors are available, to more time to get in to see instructor after receiving mid-term report.  By the time the advisors in the AAC get mid-term reports and get an e-mail out to students encouraging them to go see their instructor, if they haven’t done so already, it’s too late to meet the withdrawal deadline.

 

I got some replies saying “more individual help from instructors” but no indication that the student actually made an individual appt to ask for this help.

 

How would you make the decision on whether or not to drop a course? 

 

The general consensus was they would drop it if they were completely lost in the class but fight through it if they felt they just messed up on one test and could still recover and earn a respectable grade.

I’m adding my opinion here – most 1st year students are not good judges of whether they’re completely lost or not.  They often times believe they can recover.  But they tend to believe it will just happen – they don’t need to put in any extra effort or change anything about their study habits.   

 

How many of your courses do the instructors use the D2L grade book?

 

The most widely submitted answer was half.

Sample of students from OMSS regarding Mid Term Grading

Summer 2008

 

In your classes, do you generally know how you are doing by the 4th week of the semester?

•  Yes, I generally do know how I am doing, but there are some exceptions

•  No, not really... During the 4th week you might have gotten a few assignments but realistically the professor hasn't corrected them or handed them back yet... so I just know how the class is going in terms of the professor and if I like the information.

•  In regards to your first question it depends on the instructor.  If the instructor includes class participation throughout the semester into a student’s overall grade it can be difficult to tell how well or poorly a student is doing by the 4th week.  However, if a class is just based on tests and assignments, it is easier to tell if the student is doing well or not so much by the 4th or 7th week; that also depends on if the pupil has taken his grades into account

 

In your classes, do you generally know how you are doing by the 7th week of the semester?

•  Yes.

•  By this time yea I guess you kind of know how you are doing... I think that it's still pretty hopeful for the course because you are like well you always have the next 2 tests to help your grade... I guess it all depends on how many points the course has because sometimes if there isn't a lot of pts then you are confused as to how well/ bad you are doing...

 

Do you know the policy and procedure for dropping a course?

•  Yes.

•  If it's within the first week you can do it on talon after that however you have to go get a drop slip from the office or the professor and have the professor sign the slip

•  I personally have dropped a class before so I do know how to drop one and the necessary steps to do so.

 

What would be helpful for you if you were doing poorly in a class?

•  Professor availability and/or tutoring.

•  Getting a tutor, finding a study group,

•  If I were doing poorly in a class, a student tutor whom I’d feel comfortable with, would help.  Some tutors do not give the proper teaching to help students, since they forget that the students they are trying to help are not as knowledgeable in that area or subject, and need extra attention.

 

How would you make the decision on whether or not to drop a course?

•  I would drop a course if I am doing poorly in it, and there seems to be now way I would get a passing or acceptable grade.

 

•  Look at how many points you have done, how many you have left, how bad you have done, what is the possible grade you could get out of the class and if that goal is realistic.

•  Deciding on whether to drop a class depends on a few circumstances, if I need the class as a prerequisite for another I probably would not drop it, but if I knew I could take it in the future without it affecting my overall schedule to graduating than I would.  Another thing that I have taken into account when dropping a class is who would be teaching the course in the future.  Sometimes dropping a class and retaking it with another professor who is not as helpful or knowledgeable or patient can really put a damper on your semester.

 

How many of your courses do the instructors use the D2L grade book?

•  1 or 2

•  Probably about 1/4 of the teachers use D2L of some other form of page with a grading system on it...

•  In my three years of going to UWL, I believe I have only had 2 courses that offer grades on the D2L website.  HPR and Eng 306.