An award-winning study of nine adult students who persisted at a Western community college finds that connecting with an instructor â€“ not with campus activities â€” made the difference, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Rosemary Capps followed older students who started in remedial reading, a high-risk group, for her 2010 University of Utah dissertation.
Now an academic developer at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University of California at Davis, Capps said colleges need to reach adult students â€in their classrooms.â€
Capps said in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education:
if colleges want to reach adult students with their retention efforts, they’re going to need to reach them in their classrooms, and not through the traditional kinds of advising centers and activities.
One of the strong patterns in my data is that knowing students personally and validating them can make a huge difference. I also believe strongly in faculty advising. You see that at elite colleges, and you see that in graduate study, but I think it should happen more at community colleges. Sometimes adult students don’t have time to go to an advising centerâ€”they have to rush out of class to get to some other obligation. But they might take three minutes at the end of class to talk to a faculty member they trust. “Do you have any ideas about what classes I should take next?” So I think it’s important for faculty to get familiar with general-education requirements and the major requirements in their fields, because students who feel comfortable with them are going to come to them first with those questions.
Colleges could do more to highlight the stories of their successful adult students. They could set up mentoring programs in which persistent adult students could reach out to adult students who are just starting out. I think that could be very heartening for everyone involved.
I think this last would be great. I think that maybe we could get the students involved with this by touting their success and how this mentoring/encouragement role, even just in speaking to a class for ten minutes later on, can be helpful in getting a job. If students have experience mentoring those who are coming behind them, they are going to be more successful in training and management.
One thing I am trying to emphasize in my developmental classroom is how far the students in it have already come, how far they’ve already gotten ahead, just by making it into the college classroom. I am not sure how successful I am with that, but I hope that hearing it helps.
What ways do you validate your students?
And on a totally different, but completely related, topic:
My data suggest that developmental classes have benefits that go beyond their academic content. Making sure that students have experience in a small class with a caring teacher before they get into the harder content and higher expectations of credit coursesâ€”for the nine students in my study, that process seemed to make a difference. Their developmental-reading instructors were champions for them.
That’s what I am trying to do in my developmental classes and I think I need to concentrate on doing it earlier, too, even before I’ve managed to get down pat all 75 students’ names.