Student Success In College—Creating Conditions That Matter

Authors:  Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt and Associates

Last June I was the first and happy winner of the newly minted “AACUSS Reads” contest.  I received a brand new copy of the 2nd edition of Student Success in College.  With seemingly vast stretches of time during the summer, I figured I’d knock off the review I promised to complete--writing a review was the contest catch—long before the summer was out, no sweat   Well, here it is almost December with end of term hysteria abounding all around and exams looming,  and I’m just now honouring my commitment.  Let’s just say my professional reading and writing road to hell was paved with good intentions. 

Student Success in College (SSiC)—Creating Conditions That Matter is one of those professional references that should be on every post-secondary educator’s bookshelf.  It is chock-a-block full of practices that promote student success and reveals how to implement them effectively. 

The Documenting Effective Educational Practice (DEEP) Project involved the study of 20 U.S. colleges and universities identified with higher-than-predicted levels of engagement and graduation.  Many of the practices highlighted in SSiC would be familiar to many of you.  The authors stress, “first year programs, learning communities, interdisciplinary seminars, and capstone experiences along with opportunities for community service, internships, and study aboard are nearly universal...what makes DEEP schools distinctive is that substantial numbers of students are involved in more of these effective practices….”  SSiC explains how these 20 schools achieved higher than predicted results and that’s what makes it a worthwhile read for post-secondary educators.

The text examines six overarching features common to the 20 DEEP colleges and universities.  It also presents examples of policies, programs and practices that can be adapted to enhance student engagement in the five areas of effective educational practice measured by NSSE—Academic Challenge; Active and Collaborative Learning; Student-Faculty Intervention; Enriching Educational Experiences; and Supportive Campus Environment. It summarizes and interprets the implications of the DEEP research findings and closes with a synthesis of what has transpired at the 20 institutions since 2005 when the first edition was published.

Here are ten DEEP school practices reported in SSiC that resonated with me:

  • Institutional values guide actions at DEEP schools. Policies and practices align with mission and values.
  • There is an unshakeable focus on student learning.  The schools experimented with engaging pedagogies and provided support for faculties to do so.
  • DEEP schools create pathways to show student what to expect and what success look and feels like.
  • Some examples of pathways—required 1st year seminars; robust advising services; capstone courses.
  • DEEP schools use active and collaborative learning methods and believe that every student can learn under the right conditions. 
  • DEEP schools host celebrations of educational attainment; progress toward degree completion and graduation.
  • Reward systems are used to recognize teaching excellence. 
  • DEEP schools are never quite satisfied with their level of performance. They continually strive to improve and innovate, even human and fiscal resources are thin.  They use data to inform their decisions and make improvements.
  • DEEP schools have effective partnerships among faculty and student affairs professionals
  • DEEP SCHOOLS SEEK TO BE BEST AT WHAT THEY DO WITH THE STUDENTS THEY HAVE.

Too be honest, I found this book a bit of a slog to read from cover to cover.  I do not recommend that you read it in bed!  If you are pressed for time and want to get right to the ‘nuts and bolts’, read Part Four where the findings are summarized and the recommendations are listed. Then you can skip back to earlier sections and chapters for more detailed descriptions of specific institutions’ practices. No matter how you approach your reading of this resource, I highly recommend it.

 

Jody Gorham

Acting Senior Director

Academic Success, a division of Student Services

University of New Brunswick, Fredericton