Campus Life

Student success at the heart of RRIP project


Providing students with the tools and resources for success is at the heart of the Student Success Subject Matter Team (SMT), which was formed as part of the Recruitment Retention Integrated Planning (RRIP) project.

Focus groups with students, faculty and student service resource departments identified a wide variety of needs and created a number of recommendations for increasing academic support for students.

Tutoring was the most common recommendation, and not just within a discipline but also for developing students' academic skills, including effective studying, note taking and time management. The team recommended three related items: a pilot tutoring program, expanded learning strategist services and a revitalized writing centre.

RRIP project
Increasing academic support with pilot tutoring projects has proven to be very successful with helping students achieve their goals.

The Academic Writing Program and the Department of Biological Sciences participated in the spring 2012 pilot tutoring project and designed programs they felt would best serve their students. About 240 students from WRIT 1000 were offered weekly, apprentice-style workshops that encouraged student initiative, while the Department of Biological Sciences offered the 200 students enrolled in BIOL 1010 a combination of study skills and review sessions. In both instances, students whom instructors considered at risk of failing or withdrawing were offered one-on-one sessions with peer tutors.

Once completed, students were asked to evaluate the two pilot tutoring programs. Eighty percent of biology students who participated found the sessions useful, and data showed that these students also achieved higher mid-term grades than those who did not attend. As well, a higher percentage of students successfully completed BIOL 1010 in the spring semester compared to the previous spring when no formal review sessions were offered.

The study skills sessions were also well received by BIOL 1010 students. Attendance at these sessions was 85 per cent of the class enrollment, with 98 per cent of those rating the sessions as useful.

Feedback from academic writing students was also overwhelmingly positive.

"Students seemed to enjoy the opportunity to meet informally, outside of the classroom, to discuss concepts from Writing 1000 with instructors, tutors, and their peers and to put their rhetorical skills into practice in a workshop format," says Dr. Cliff Lobe, co-ordinator of the Academic Writing Program. "The workshops gave students another forum in which to develop as academic readers, writers and thinkers."

Based on such positive student feedback, the tutoring programs will return for the fall 2012 semester.

"It's important that we connect with our students early in the term and make them aware of these sessions before anyone becomes discouraged or disengaged," says Dr. Roy Golsteyn, associate professor of biological sciences. "Most students will benefit from review sessions, because they offer a new way of hearing lecture material and an engaging environment in which to ask questions."

The pilot tutoring program will be expanded in the fall with the addition of courses from management, health sciences and possibly fine arts. It should be noted that some departments, including mathematics and computer science have been running effective tutoring programs for several years, and much can also be learned from their success.

In addition to the need for discipline specific tutoring, the Student Success team identified a need for supporting students to become more effective learners. As a result, a full-time learning strategist, Jennifer McArthur, was hired to assist students in both individual and group settings to learn skills such as time management, reading a textbook effectively and preparing for exams.

The third prong of the SMT recommendations was to revitalize the writing centre. A full-time writing centre director, aligned with the Academic Writing Program, will be hired over the summer to address this need.

Heidi MacDonald is the Leader of the Student Success SMT

This story first appeared in the June 2012 issue of the Legend. For a look at the entire issue in flipbook format, follow this link.