As we get closer and closer to the 5th week of the semester, we come closer to the first time of this school year that we will be receiving student progress reports. We have had professors fill out these 5-week reports for a few years now, and each year the process only gains more and more of their support. When we first decided to implement this idea, I went to the deans of each of our schools as well as the heads of each department with a sample report that we felt would both give us the best possible information on a student’s progress and be simple enough that an instructor could fill it out without it being a burdensome time commitment. In the end, we whittled the form down to five multiple choice questions:
1. Is the student completing the assignments?
yes no some
2. Has the student missed classes?
If so, how many?
3. How are the student’s writing skills?
good average poor
4. Do you think the student understands the material?
yes no somewhat unsure
5. Does this student participate in class?
yes no somewhat
After these basic questions, professors can choose (or decline) to fill out two more, optional questions.
1. What is the student’s approximate grade so far in your class?
2. Do you have any other concerns about the student’s well-being, academic or otherwise?
Completing these progress reports is always optional, and early on, many saw it as just another thing that they had to do. (And as a former teacher not unfamiliar with the trials and tribulations of bureaucratic paperwork, I can relate.) But over the years, we have found the percentage of professors who complete and return these reports to us is steadily increasing. Not only that, but more and more professors are willing not just to fill it out but to be specific with their comments and concerns. We now are more apt to know, for example, when a student comes to class bleary-eyed, or is always falling asleep. This feedback has contributed enormously to the success of our program because the minute we know what a student is doing, we can get on it. The minute we know that a student doesn’t understand the material, or has missed class, or is not turning in assignments, we can begin to remedy the problem. Once, I had a student who had been telling me for weeks that math was her strongest subject. “Don’t worry about math!” she would say, “it’s my best.” Well, week 5 came along and I learned from the progress report her math professor sent me that, well, it turned out that she had not been to class…at all. Nope. Nada. Not once.
Success coaches wear a lot of hats, but our job is always most effective when we are a part of a team of people invested in a student’s success. These progress reports now play a crucial role in increasing our ability to catch (and begin to solve) problems as they occur.
Susan Marion is the Coordinator for Success Coaches at Tiffin University, in Tiffin, Ohio. She was instrumental in starting success coaching at the institution in 2007. The program now has fifteen part-time success coaches and supports almost one hundred students who are at risk academically.