University approves pilot program

Madeline Diamond, News Editor

The University will begin an Early Signaling pilot program this fall, which will require professors to evaluate student behavior during the first four weeks of classes.

Vice President for Enrollment Management Bill Conley, the associate deans of the College of Arts and Sciences and of the College of Engineering, and a group of other administrators and faculty have created a degree completion working group to address the task of increasing student retention rates.

The degree completion working group released a report in 2013 stating two specific goals. The first goal is to increase first-year to sophomore retention rate from 94 percent to 98 percent, and the second is to increase the six-year retention and graduation rate from 90 percent to 95 percent.

The Early Signaling program is an initiative created by this group, as a way to positively influence these rates.

The program has instituted a red, yellow, and green light system, based on a student’s behavior as opposed to their grades. Since midterm grades–which are optional and only used by 20 percent of University professors–are released after six weeks, the program will ask instructors to evaluate students after four weeks of class in order to allow improvement before the marking period.

“What we’re looking at is student behavior versus student performance,” Conley said.

A group of faculty is currently creating a rubric for the signaling system, including the factors of absenteeism, tardiness, engagement, and participation.

The associate deans of each college will receive an output of the evaluations of each student and will be responsible for reaching out to students with yellow and red light assessments. Instructors are not required to take action with students based on their signals, and at this point in the program, academic advisers will not be notified of a student’s evaluation.

“[The associate deans] have the responsibility to intervene with students that are struggling and notifying them as such,” Conley said.

The exact criteria of what constitutes student notification will be handled on a case-by-case basis at this time.

Karen Marosi, associate dean of Engineering, already connects with students as part of her duties, and the Early Signaling program will continue to foster a connection between administrators, faculty, and students.

“The Early Signaling pilot program will help us gather a more uniform snapshot on everybody,” Marosi said.

“[The goal] is to get students the services they need as soon as possible,” said Rich Robbins, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Conley pointed out how the program, while targeted at all students, can specifically help first-year students in their adjustment to college as well as seniors who are struggling to fulfill all graduation requirements. He also noted how one of the main goals of the program is to help students become aware of the connection between behavior and academic performance.

In the future, the program might also include student self-signaling in addition to instructor evaluation. This semester, students will have access to the signaling rubric once it is finalized by the faculty group.

“[The program] is a great partnership between students and instructors,” Conley said.

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