What Works: High Impact Programs for Student Success… A Classroom Perspective Becki Williams Chemistry Professor
For more than 30 years, Richland College of the Dallas County Community College District has focused on teaching, learning and community building. The student body of more than 14,000 college credit students and about 5,000 continuing education students at Richland is internationally and ethnically diverse, speaking more than 79 first languages.
A Process of Change… In 1995, as a result of findings from a recent SACS reaffirmation of accreditation process, Richland placed a greater emphasis on professional development for faculty with a focus on student success. Faculty identified ways that their classrooms and teaching strategies addressed the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” Sample lessons and teaching strategies were “made public” for others to use and adapt.
Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education Encourages contacts between students and faculty. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students. Uses active learning techniques. Gives prompt feedback. Emphasizes time on task. Communicates high expectations. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning. Gamson & Chickering, AAHE, 1987
Research revealed that many of these principles could be achieved by utilizing cooperative learning strategies. A faculty team studied over a 3 year period with the Johnsons at the University of Minnesota and became certified to lead workshops at Richland. More than 500 faculty and staff have completed 15-hour Cooperative Learning workshops since 1996.
Learning Outcomes Promoted by Cooperative Learning Higher achievement and increased retention. Higher-level reasoning, deeper-level understanding, and critical thinking. Greater social competencies with more positive relationships honoring diversity. Greater psychological well-being and self-esteem. Johnson and Johnson, 1989
“The best answer to the question, ‘What is the most effective method of teaching?’ is that it depends on the goal, the student, the content, and the teacher. But the next best answer is ‘Students teaching other students.’ There is a wealth of evidence that peer teaching is extremely effective for a wide range of goals, content, and students of different levels and personalities.” Wilbert McKeachie, et al
Students not only must learn to work together, but also must be held responsible for their teammates’ learning as well as their own. Slavin 1996 Cooperative learning strategies provide powerful tools to enable students to teach others, to optimize their own learning and to accept responsibility for the learning of others.
The transition from a teaching-centered to a learning-centered academic culture motivated faculty to rethink traditional models for student support. The Science Corner was created to provide “appropriate” space for teaching and learning for science students.
The Science Corner was created by moving tables, chairs, and a room divider into a hallway formerly occupied by 8 study carrels. The proximity of this space to labs, resources, faculty, and other students is important.
the Science Corner Open area Adjacent to labs and faculty offices Periodic table Marker boards Tables and chairs
Science Corner Activities… Study group meetings Help/review sessions conducted by faculty Drop-in tutoring with faculty conducting office hours “outside” their offices Drop-in tutoring in the science building instead of going to a campus-wide center at a distant location Adjunct faculty/student meetings Science Success Workshops Special Topic Workshops
Full time faculty conduct one or more office hours per week in this location. Tutors (graduate students from area universities), volunteers (former students, retirees), and adjunct faculty also staff the Science Corner. More “formal” activities are scheduled as well; science success workshops to help students identify resources and learn study skills specific to laboratory courses, special tutorials on subjects that students routinely find difficult, and workshops to address specific topics.
Instead of one professor in one office working with one student at a time, faculty office hours are now provided in open areas in locations adjacent to classrooms and laboratories. Faculty have the opportunity to interact with many students, not just those in their classes.
The Science Corner currently provides 48 hours of tutoring each week for chemistry students, even though there are only 4 full time chemistry professors (who can collectively provide only 20 “office” hours each week.) A comparable number of hours are provided for Biology and Physics students, too.
Not only are more hours of tutoring available in the Science Corner, faculty report an increase in the number of students taking advantage of tutoring. Many students are reluctant to “interrupt” professors in their offices. The Science Corner sets up a neutral, less intimidating space to teach and learn. In addition, a community of learners is created that takes advantage of the fact that students learn best when they teach others.
CTLC, The Center for Tutoring and Learning Connections In addition to traditional campus-wide tutoring services, the CTLC offers study skills and content specific “CONNECTIONS” workshops. These workshops, conducted for small groups of students by highly qualified content specialists, are designed to connect all the elements associated with being a successful student, both in and out of class.
Connections Workshops Workshop topics such as critical thinking and problem-solving are made subject-specific, and when combined with others such as test anxiety and time management, help provide students with the tools they need to succeed in all of their courses.
Master Lab In the Fall of 2005, an interactive learning experience called MASTER LAB was created to improve student success in Economics and Accounting courses. Master Lab incorporates strategies from lessons learned by the CTLC and the Science Corner. Students enrolled in Chemistry courses this semester are now participating in Master Lab activities, as well.
Students who chose to participate in Master Lab, an optional experience, are required to fulfill 30 hours of supervised activities outside of the classroom.
Economics and Accounting Enrollment in Master Lab
Economics and Accounting Success Rates
Continuous improvement/ continuous change … A key factor in the design and implementation of the Cooperative Learning initiative, the Science Corner, the CTLC and Connections Workshops, and the Master Lab program is an institutional focus on student success in learning-centered environments. Faculty engage in meaningful conversations to identify student learning outcomes, develop and administer assessment activities and use the results of these activities to improve student learning.
For additional information, please contact Becki Williams email@example.com Richland College Math/Science Division 12800 Abrams Road Dallas, TX 75243 972-238-6362