Excelling in the New Class

    After introductions are offered, the instructor begins presenting new information for the course ABC 325. The class is very small (n=20) and they are all good students.

1) The professor asks her/himself: “What is the objective of presenting relevant course materials to these students?”

  • simply presenting facts to the students for retention as preferred

  • presenting facts as well as qualitative and objective scenarios for consideration and application, with retention only at students’ discretion

  • presentation and testing without grading

  • presenting and testing for purpose of grading

  • presenting, testing, and remediation for under-performers until reaching a specific level of materials-specific competency and understanding

2) Later that week the instructor delivers a quiz to the class. The quizzes are graded yielding the following outcome:

  • two students scored 20/20

  • one student scored 16/20

  • twelve students scored less than 10/20

3) Upon consideration of the range of quiz scores, the instructor wonders:

  • Was the material too difficult to grasp or the content too voluminous?

  • Was the material inadequately presented?

  • Did an unexpectedly high percentage of this class not prepare for the quiz?

  • Was the test written poorly, not representing the materials as presented?

  • Are there other issues impacting the performance of the class? 

  • Do I believe that enough important was learned by the group to justify moving the entire class forward in the course materials?

    Better instructors regularly ask questions such as the above to avoid similar future outcomes. Neither the instructor nor the students expected failure. What was the student-instructor disconnect that requires resolution? Graduation rates, even when reported on a six-year basis, range from approximately 10 – 96 percent, with the median rate of only 50 percent. Although the test scores and student progress is generally not as skewed as in Question 2) above, similar outcomes occur regularly. Students are not excelling in classes, nor are they graduating. So, the schools’ instructors, administrations, and support staff should be asking:

  • Why are all of our students not succeeding all the time?

  • Do we wish to teach with the objective of high-level competency for all students?

  • As an institution can we produce performance outcomes with a much tighter distribution of satisfactory scores?

  • Are student performances on assignments, quizzes, tests, essays, research projects, performance pieces and so on, measures of both student and school staff performance?

  • Would scores distribute differently if the school admitted students of an alternative profile? Would scores distribute differently if we taught and managed academic performance differently? Would scores distribute differently if we taught and managed all aspects of student life differently? And, what would it then do with the low-performing outliers?

   School administrators claim to know and understand the nuances of their “class profiles”. As they offer letters of acceptance, they allege knowledge of the skills, academic strengths, and weaknesses of the students. The colleges purport to recognize personal strengths, challenges, some knowledge of the students’ personal support systems and limitations, as well as they understand themselves. But, sometimes everything goes wrong. By making an offer of admissions they are saying: “Join us. You fit, and should thrive here.”

    Societal and corporate leaders make their share of wrong decisions and choices, and these are supposed to represent our best and most capable. Likewise, college admissions staffs must acknowledge that historically half of them have not “gotten it right” at least fifty percent of the time annually, simultaneously avoiding making the most inept statements about students possible: “They must want to do better and make the effort!”  They should also acknowledge that students are young, still developing in many ways, needing significant guidance. Rather, than have students regularly stumbling through their growth, educational institutions should supportively engage every applicable resource available to assure that their students perform well until their success is a matter of habit and inertia.

   As you appraise the institutions in which you are interested, does it appear that the schools’ personnel are engaging all applicable resources to help every student succeed? ISG Success will help you select your colleges and universities very judiciously. Your success matters!