Students may be labeled by colleges as "at-risk" or "underprepared" on the basis of high school grade point average, SAT scores, the lack of particular courses, or placement tests. These measures reflect a combination of cognitive, social, and affective variables (Cross, 1976). There are numerous individual and institutional factors that can lead to success and failure among college students (Morrison, 1999; Upcraft & Gardner, 1989). At-risk students may have the ability to succeed, but they may lack the motivation to achieve or have not acquired the skills that result in greater academic success. Even students who express a desire to succeed in college may not have the necessary skills, values, or habits to meet their goals. Programs that address the needs of at-risk students should enhance the habits, attitudes, and behaviors of these students rather than only focusing on the improvement of cognitive skills (McGrath & Townsend, 1997).
The at-risk student may be more successful in college than in high school if academic behaviors that contribute to college achievement are acquired, whatever the reason for poor performance in the past. Previous studies (Grigsby & Bender, 1993; Stallworth-Clark, Scott, & Nist, 1996) have shown the effectiveness of programs in terms of academic progress as demonstrated by retention, grade point average (GPA), and scores on reading tests, but there is also some question as to the effectiveness of general study skills courses versus assistance related to specific course content. Research (Gebelt, Parilis, Kramer & Wilson, 1996) has questioned the amount of transfer between what is taught in a study skills course and the performance in academic classes. The perspective that general instruction in study skills may not transfer would argue for approaches that provide for the direct transfer of skills to course content through assistance in closely related material, in addition to attempting to change habits and behaviors. Finally, comprehensive programs have shown to be more effective than participation in isolated courses at improving student performance (Cross, 1976).
Traditional measures of the effectiveness of intervention programs include test scores, GPAs, and retention data. Some researchers (Higbee & Thomas, 1999; Wambach, 1993) have examined attitudinal and behavioral changes using students' self-assessment. However, instructors' observations of appropriate behaviors exhibited by program participants, as well as by students in a control group, provide another type of feedback in terms of demonstrating whether developmental skills courses have an influence on students in their academic classes. This study strives to determine whether faculty can observe differences in …