Critical Interventions that Matter in the First Week – Intro to Psych

Faculty, staff, and admins at IUPUI have been looking into retention trends for all students (not just first-year first-time) and isolated the courses with high DFWI rates as a problem area to be addressed.

Professor John Kremer (psychology) was able to improve his DFWI rate from a high of 46% (average 32% over 4 consecutive fall semesters) to 21% through a series of data gathering/analysis phases to understand what was impacting his students’ success and by interventions to target each category type.

Lesson One: There is no silver bullet - it may take multiple interventions to fix the  multiple reasons why students fail. He looked at interventions in 3 ways: course design, course mentoring, and university support/policies and analyzed data according to the groups that fail, trying to find out why and what to do

His data revealed the following. DFWs fell into 4 categories:

% of DFWs Attend Class Did HWK Pass Tests
Non-attenders 25% No No No
Non-Compliers 40% Yes No No
Low Performers 25% Yes Yes No
Drop Outs 10% Yes Yes Yes

What impacts the success of the DFW group in general? No surprises there. He analyzed data (over ten years) and found that these were things that impacted them in general – (of more interest perhaps are the data when he breaks the group into the four categories – they follow this brief section of generalities):

General Impact

  • High school GPA and SAT..  HS GPA and SAT scores are usually highly correlated for predicting college success – but for ALL GROUPS?  No!! Not for the non-compliers, non-attendees, and drop outs.
  • Personal preparation, attitudes, and perceptions: test preparation, perseverance in studying, interest in doing homework, expecting success in study efforts
  • Current academic behavior
  • Current non-academic behavior (number hours working, life stress)

Specific Impact by Group

Explaining Drop-outs

  • Can’t be predicted – not related to HS GPA or SAT – but severe stress – working 40 hours/week and taking 6-15 hours of coursework PLUS one course that takes a lot of study time PLUS major life event

Support for stressed students

  • create flexible course schedule – completing online assignments for example
  • allow for dropping lowest test scores
  • allow to attend other sections if a class is missed
  • actively reach out
  • suggest advising/counseling

Explaining Non-compliers

  • High school to college gap in terms of homework load/study expectations – they just don’t believe it
  • HS GPA/SAT not predictive for this group either
  • Motivational factors explained only 21% of homework completion – implies many factors involved
  • Homework completed in the first week of the semester predicted total homework completed for the semester!!!

Support for non-compliers

  • Assign homework first day of class – collect it on day 2 – day 3, only non-compliers are told to attend class – as they work on the assignment, faculty member walked around to each individual student to find out why they hadn’t completed it – and address issues  immediately if possible

Explaining Non-attendees

  • Not related to HS GPA/SAT
  • no qt data predicted these students
  • unable to interview them or sometimes find them

Support for non-attendees

  • Contact on first day of class – phone call, e-mail – find out what’s happening
  • Created an institutional withdrawal policy based on  attendance and HWK completion – the threat of early withdrawal and followup phone call got a significant number back in the class and doing the work.

Explaining Low-performers

  • Study skill factors determine 58% of test performance – test prep skills (best predictor), expectancy for study success, homework points earned, hours working
  • HS GPA/SAT explained 32%

Supporting Low-performers

  • Develop study aids
  • Give student multiple test opportunitites
  • Drop a tes
  • Immediate feedback
  • Support to learn better test prep skills

Lesson Two - intervene in the first week - If absent or missing HWK – Interview, identify obstacles, problem-solve, set goals, follow-up with students EARLY – week 1 predicts 75% of DFWs

Lesson Three – use a big stick – threat of administrative withdrawal for attendance and HWK completion – more often than not opens the door for constructive conversations and change in behavior

Overall lessons learned:

  • Pre-college GPA and SAT (for Psych course) is limited in predicting success of DFWs, except for low performers on tests (25% of DFWs only) – had little relationship to other 75% of DFWs
  • High school to college gap: low failure rates in HS, low levels of HWK, HWK completion, test prep skills
  • Student come with high expectations for completing the course with grades of A or B and low expectations for the need to complete HWK and the need to improve test prep skills
  • Students come with low perseverance when faced with academic obstacles





Return to the Gateway Conference posting
Go to details of other strategies:

  • Econ course re-design makes big dent in DFWI rates; data collection tells the tale – UMBC
  • Dev Math sequence re-design: blended course/My Math Lab computer sessions = huge success! Univ. of Southern Florida
  • Intensive chemistry prep thru summer bridge – Cornell
  • Pairing ENGL 4 concurrently with ENGL 15 – same instructor – counter-intuitive?… but successful! Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) – CCBC
  • Physiology  re-design – content heavy courses – 42% DFWI rates drop to 11% in three semesters Cal. State Northridge
  • Interventions that matter in the first week!Intro to Psych – analytics drive change and success – key?  – IUPUI

One Response to Critical Interventions that Matter in the First Week – Intro to Psych

  1. Pingback: John Gardner Institute: Excellence in Gateway Courses Conference April 13-16 Indianapolis, IN | Suzanne C. Shaffer

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