Student success: the role of instructors

Inspire, Challenge, and Support

Questions or comments? Please contact Jo Arney - UWL's Director of Student Success.

Why do students leave school? What predicts retention?

Research indicates that retention is based on several factors:
• High school preparation (ACT/SAT, GPA)
• Worrying about not being smart enough
• Worrying about not belonging
• NOT: interest, grit, self control, IQ, goals, motivation, # hours working

UWL and Retention
• UWL has an overall high retention rate (~86% from 1st to 2nd year)
• However, our retention rate is the lowest it has been in over 20 years.
• Our retention rates are lower for first generation students, students of color, and students who are undeclared.

UWL question: What can UWL do to help retain smart, capable students who are not persisting at college?

During transitions such as a new university, students ask:

  • Is this normal?​
  • Does it get better?​

UWL - Instructors play an important role in helping students answer these questions with a 'yes' – particularly when conveying the results of early graded work in first year classes.


UWL – Instructors can convey positive messages to students about belonging.  UWL as a campus sends the following video to all new students.

CATL’s resources on belonging


UWL encourages instructors to think about how they implicitly and explicitly  convey mindset beliefs to students.  Instructors may also wish to discuss mindset theory with students and to embed mindset interventions into their curriculum.

Several resources are provided below:

  1. A video of UWL students discussing mindset. 
  2. A worksheet instructors can use in class in relation to the video.
  3. A list of potential mindset discussion options for classrooms.
  4. A mindset image that instructors have found useful for discussing the ideas with students.
  5. An approachable article on mindset.

 CATL’s resources on mindset

Video development credits:  Nathan Warnberg, Tesia Marshik, Tim Dale, Jeff Kerkman, Fue Yang and each of the students starring in the videos.

High Impact Practices (HIPs) are teaching and learning practices shown to be beneficial for college students from many backgrounds. ​

UWL and HIPs – 96% of UWL students report having completed at least one HIP (NSSE, 2017).  However, UWL has a goal of providing these experiences earlier in a student’s college career and having students complete more than one.

Common HIP list:​

  • First-Year Seminars and Experiences​
  • Common Intellectual Experiences   ​
  • Learning Communities ​
  • Writing-Intensive Courses ​
  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects ​
  • Undergraduate Research ​
  • Diversity/Global Learning ​
  • Service Learning, Community-Based Learning  ​
  • Internships ​
  • Capstone Courses and Projects​
  • Portfolios​

CATL's Guide to High Impact Practices

UWL100 is a one-credit course in General Education traditionally taught by pairs of instructors (often one academic and one student affairs instructor).

UWL and First Year Seminar – Recent data on UWL100 shows a higher retention rate for students who completed the course than the general population of students.

Interested in teaching UWL100?  Contact Tim Dale in Political Science/Public Administration.

Re-Imagining the First Year (RFY)  is a AACSU project aimed at ensuring success for all students, particularly those who have historically been underserved by higher education: low income, first generation, and students of color.

UWL is one of a coalition of 44 member institutions that will work together for three calendar years (2016-2018) to develop comprehensive, institutional transformation that redesigns the first year of college and creates sustainable change for student success.

UWL’s RFY goals have been rolled into the overall strategic plan for Transformative Education.

The team leaders for  UWL are Provost Betsy Morgan and Tim Dale.

Gateway courses are traditionally high enrollment and foundational in nature for additional coursework or majors.  

UWL and Gateway Courses – The Office of Institutional Research, Assessment & Planning can provide programs with data on student success in courses parsed by key demographics associated with underserved populations.

Prefix & Number

Course Name/Description


General Biology


General Chemistry I


Communicating Effectively


College Writing I


World History


College Algebra


General Psychology


Elementary Statistics

ECO110 &120 are also considered gateway courses at UWL for many purposes.