ERIC Identifier: ED284512
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Keimig, Ruth Talbott
Source: Association for the Study of Higher Education.| Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.
College Learning Improvement Programs. ERIC Digest 84-3.
Improving the quality of learning by college students is basic to raising academic standards. There is no way for current students to succeed academically in sufficient numbers to ensure the survival of American institutions and programs without the improvement of instruction. Research findings provide a base of practical knowledge that can guide faculty and instructional planners to those practices that have successfully improved learning. Successful, tested strategies and key operating decisions have been analyzed and ranked in a guide for decisionmakers by Ruth Keimig (1983).
WHAT MAKES LEARNING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS SUCCESSFUL?
Despite many differences, successful learning improvement programs that produce increased grade point averages (GPA) and retention share two essential characteristics:
--They are comprehensive in meeting student needs
--They are institutionalized into the academic mainstream of the college or university
WHAT TYPES OF LEARNING IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS EXIST?
Using the essential characteristics of comprehensiveness and institutionalization as the bases for differentiating programs, researchers have widely used and studied four basic program types. Most common and least effective are the Level I type, isolated remedial skills courses. In ascending order (for impact on GPA and retention) are programs that combine each of these additional elements with the basic skills courses:
--Level II, learning assistance to individual students
--Level III, course-related supplementary learning activities for some objectives
--Level IV, comprehensive learning systems in academic courses
WHAT PROGRAM FEATURES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH IMPROVED GPA AND RETENTION?
Critical variables for learning improvement can be grouped in the following categories:
--Goals and rationale
--Instructional methods and standards
--Institutional policies and standards
--Professional and paraprofessional staff and roles
--Evaluation of learning improvement programs
Even variables that do not seem related to achievement are important and can undercut the effectiveness of an institution's academic program. These variables include:
--The perception of the college's responsiblity to the student
--The local rationale for learning services
--The attitude toward nontraditional students
--Responsiveness to students
--Prerequisite skills development
--Course instructor's role
--Direction of students into appropriate courses and services
--Enforcement of competencies in academic courses
--Use of systematic advisement procedures
WHY IS LEARNING IMPROVEMENT BOUND TO INSTRUCTIONAL CHANGE?
The interdependence of two values--namely, improved learning and changed instruction--is the central message of the research literature. Keimig's guide suggests ways to inculcate these values at the college or university. Implementation of change requires the active involvement of administrators, counselors, and faculty in addition to the developmental studies program staff.
Interaction and shared problem-solving among academic and developmental educators is the fundamental factor in successful learning improvement programs, producing gains in GPA and retention that cannot be delivered by remedial/developmental personnel working alone in remedial settings. Isolated developmental or remedial programs are often ineffective.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR AN INSTITUTION?
Through cooperative decision-making for existing programs, faculty and administrators can produce greater control of learning outcomes than is commonly perceived. Effective decisionmaking can:
--Ensure the consideration of a full range of options
--Identify the best methods for bringing students to acceptable standards of achievement
--Foster long-term planning, interdisciplinary innovation, and evolutionary change
As one report put it, "The difficult task is to get overall thought and then to have the patience and the persistence to carry out its conclusions one at a time ..." (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 1977). Keimig's guide provides research-based "overall thought" to guide the pragmatic educator's "piecemeal actions" for improving instructional programs.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This Digest is based on Ruth Talbot Keimig's RAISING ACADEMIC STANDARDS: A GUIDE TO LEARNING IMPROVEMENT. ASHE=ERIC Higher Education Research Report Number 4. Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Higher Education, 1984. ED 233 669.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. MISSIONS OF THE COLLEGE CURRICULUM. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1977.
Grant, Mary Kathryn, and Daniel R. Hoeber. BASIC SKILLS PROGRAMS: ARE THEY WORKING? Washington, D.C.: AAHE-ERIC/Higher Education, 1978. ED 150 918.
Newton, Eunice S. THE CASE FOR IMPROVED COLLEGE LEARNING: INSTRUCTING HIGH-RISK STUDENTS. New York: Vantage Press, 1982.
Richardson, Richard C., Jr, and others. FUNCTIONAL LITERACY IN THE COLLEGE SETTING. AAHE-ERIC/Higher Education Research Report No. 3. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1981. ED 221 032.
Trillin, Alice S., and others. TEACHING BASIC SKILLS IN COLLEGE. San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1980.
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