Student Enrollment in a Supplement Course for Anatomy and Physiology Results in Improved Retention and Success

Article excerpt

The rate at which college students persist and graduate from academic institutions has become a major focus for universities and the state governments that fund them. As a result, the University of Southern Indiana (USI), a nearly open-enrollment public university enrolling just over 8,000 full-time undergraduate students, established a task force on enrollment and retention management. The USI task force recognized the need for systematic data collection, and individual course data tracking student persistence and grade distribution are now available. Similar to national trends, Anatomy and Physiology I (A&P 1) has one of the highest failure and withdrawal rates on the USI campus. The primary goal of this project was to address the issue of student retention and success in A&P 1 on the USI campus. The objectives were to improve student success (defined as students earning a C or better) and reduce the number of students who withdraw from A&P 1 during the semester. Faculty have observed that students who successfully complete the prerequisite A&P 1 course are much more likely to be successful in A&P 2. Therefore, successful intervention during the first course of the two-course sequence would hopefully increase the number of students who progress within their desired degree program and persist through graduation.

Numerous studies have focused on factors that enhance student persistence. Such factors as time management, study skills, motivation, attitude, goal setting, and student and faculty interaction have all been shown to affect student performance (Astin 1996; Baker and Pomerantz 2000; Beal and Noel 1980; Braxton, Bray, and Berger 2000; Braxton, Milem, and Sullivan 2000; Braxton and Munday 2001; Dale 1995; Frierson and Munro 1988; Johnson 1997; Johnson 2000-2001; Lotkowski, Robbins, and Noeth 2004; Nagda et al. 1998; Nelson and Nelson 2003; Schroeder and Hurst 1996; Schutz, White, and Lanehart 2000-2001; Tinto 1999; Tinto 2006-2007; Woodard, Mallory, and De Luca 2001). In Enhancing Student Persistence: Connecting the Dots, Tinto (2002) presents five conditions that stand out as supportive of persistence. Students are more likely to persist in settings that (1) expect them to succeed; (2) offer clear and consistent information about programs of study and help students understand how to achieve personal goals; (3) provide academic, social, and personal support; (4) value students as members of the institution and provide high frequency and quality of contact with faculty, staff, and other students; and (5) foster learning by actively involving them and asking them to spend more time on task. Based on techniques and strategies discussed in the literature, and Tinto's description of the appropriate setting, a one-hour, for-credit Biology 123 Supplement to A&P I (Supplement) course was developed. Instead of relying on the generic support students receive from various academic support services offered across campus, the Supplement course taught by A&P 1 faculty sought to address academic success within the context of the A&P 1 classroom.

Methods

The Supplement course was offered for the first time as an experimental course in the spring semester of 2008. Primary goals of the instructor for the Supplement course included the following: (1) identifying early those students who were at higher risk for failing or of withdrawal from the course; (2) understanding the demographics of enrolled students and the unique problems associated with each demographic; (3) using a multifaceted approach in the classroom to address the individual needs of each student; 4) developing a strong sense of community by providing opportunities for student-to-student interaction as well as interaction between students and faculty. Response to this course offering was much greater than anticipated. Of the 125 students enrolled in the investigators' section of A&P 1, more than 50 students voluntarily enrolled in the experimental Supplement course. …