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CLASS: Coordinated and Linked Approaches to Student Success

CLASS Initiative IV

FOCUSED ACADEMIC SUPPORT

The CLASS Taskforce on Focused Academic Support focused its attention upon how peer-to-peer student success initiatives could increase first-to-second year retention rates. Their method was to first identify the courses with the highest DFW rates and then isolate from those the ones that also yielded the most non-returning students. Then, they looked at best practices in peer-to-peer programs in those specific courses. Finally, they looked at which of those practices were most applicable to the infrastructure of UTSA and consistent with the Chancellor’s Quantum Leap initiative on student success. 

In the end, they focused on how UTSA could at once produce a better retention rate by assisting low performing students while also engaging a significant number of higher performing students, students who we might be in danger of losing due to transfer out or financial difficulty, in peer-to-peer education. Moreover, they sought to strengthen UTSA’s culture of peer-to-peer contact, as that has proven very effective in the first-year mentoring program. 

Following the success of Math Matters, the Task Forces suggests fully implementing the math emporium model. They also suggest focusing attention on creating a similar peer-to-peer coaching model in Composition. For this latter initiative, many of these Composition classes can be linked with other key courses. Such key courses would be ones in which Supplemental Instruction (S.I.) is a major component of the course. The coaches would serve as both Composition tutors and S.I. instructors simultaneously, effectively reinforcing the learning of material and skills of both courses through their coaching. Since nearly all first-year students would be in Math, Composition, or another key course, this would mean almost all students would have interaction with at least one peer academic coach, thus making peer-to-peer academic engagement a part of our culture. 

The key to much of this is to focus attention on the training and recruitment of peer leaders. As such, we propose that all tutors be trained to national standards, tutoring be centralized as much as possible, and a Peer Academic Leader program be created for peer tutors/coaches. Such strategies would increase on-campus employment opportunities, which also positively impacts graduation rates. 

CLASS Strategies for Focused Academic Support

  • Expand Math Emporium Model
  • Align existing student support services with high DFW courses
  • Implement composition peer coaches paired with instructors
  • Implement Peer Academic/Tutoring Ladder;
    • Simplify tutoring HR process;
    • 3-year STEM/BASH program;
    • Hire/train 60-90 students per year