Center for Teaching and Learning
GNST 115 History utilized the established framework of English 115 to provide individualized tutoring for students enrolled in History classes. To accommodate more students, the tutoring sessions involved up to three students. In addition, workshops were created to provide instruction on and discussion on basic skills related to student success in history courses. These included specific skills such as reading, contextualizing and analyzing source material and more general skills such as the textbook reading and note-taking, lecture note-taking, exam preparation and history paper writing.
Instructors in the History discipline were provided with information about GNST
115 and encouraged to discuss it with their classes. In addition, after
assessments in their classes, instructors were encouraged to approach individual
students and discuss the benefits of individual tutoring. Enrollment in GNST 115
during the semester of Fall 2009 was very good. There were 32 students enrolled
(above the 25 students at which English 115 sections are capped). Approximately
75 percent of the students enrolled were concurrently students in one of my
History classes. Ideally, the percentage of students enrolled in GNST 115 taking
History courses by other instructors will grow as the offering and its success
become more widely known. During the first eight weeks of the semester, I
visited a few sections of other instructors to provide information, answer
questions and recruit students.
The WRAC Center provided the infrastructure for GNST 115 (Thanks Alisa, Chasity
and everyone involved!) Because this section was so closely modeled on English
115, it was relatively easy to plug into the existing structures. Increased
capacity was achieved by allowing for small group (up to three students)
meetings. In addition, I provided discipline specific handouts (see Attachments)
to aid students and begin conversations about reading, note-taking and writing
papers in History classes.
Discoveries to Date
Individual and small group instruction appear to have been the most effective
and productive interventions and led more directly to improvements in test and
papers scores. In contrast, the workshops were not particularly well attended
and might have to be re-imagined or scrapped. Despite the fact that students
received equal credit for attending workshops and individual (or small group)
sessions, they overwhelming prefer the smaller settings. The "one size fits all"
intervention model didn't seem to have much draw for students who want to see
improved results on individual test scores and papers.
Of, perhaps, equal importance to these improved results is the manner in which
they have been achieved. Certainly, smaller settings appear to be more
effective. In addition, the structure of a class (even one as loosely structured
as 115) appeared to focus many student efforts. I presently hold both my office
hours and my 115 tutoring sessions in the WRAC center. Students see me present
in the Library for hours at a time. They, as I do, see distinctions between my
office hours and my tutoring time. Students of mine drop by casually to ask
questions and seek assistance during my office hours. Those students enrolled in
115, however, tend to view our meetings less casually and more as a part of a
larger ongoing process to address their skills needs. They approach our meetings
much more like a class (which, of course, is what it is).
he desire for more individualized tutoring created greater demand for
individual or small group appointments. Often, “my” students and I took over the
WRAC Center, occupying most of the tables. Also, I often found arranging
appointments outside of the established hours to accommodate student needs.
Expanding the number of available hours for appointments would create the
potential for more student and faculty participation.
Interpreting the Data
Overall Success Rates in History 7, 20, 22 (Comparing students enrolled in GNST 115 and not enrolled):
Therefore, overall success for students in History taking 115 >1% was slightly lower than rest of students taking history.
How should I interpret these numbers? On the surface they seem somewhat disappointing (though not entirely surprising.) It is possible, however, that the students enrolled in GNST 115 represent a narrower range of students than are present in the general population of students in the listed courses. Students enrolled in GNST 115 are seeking out and in need of tutorial assistance. Does this success rate represent the overall insignificance of this intervention or does it represent low-performing students being raised to the average outcome? I simply don’t know.
Success Rates in History 7, 20, 22 (Comparing students who received CR to NC for
Therefore, success for students taking History and receiving CR 115 <14% (greater) than those not enrolled in 115. Taking 115 and receiving CR is indicated in success in History.
These numbers are encouraging and I would like to take full credit for them. I would, however, like to have a more specific picture of these “successful” students. What is their starting point? What skills and attitudes are they bringing into GNST 115? Is GNST 115 more effective for those students that already the possess skill sets and attitudes that enable them to engage and persist?
Retention Rates in History 7, 20, 22 (Comparing students who took 115 and didn't and retained in their History class):
Therefore, retention rates in History were <11% if a student was enrolled in 115.
Retention Rates in History 7, 20, 22 (Comparing students who retained in History AND received CR or NC in 115):
Those students who received CR in 115 retained either <11% greater or <23% than students not enrolled in 115.
Again, these numbers are encouraging. Simply enrolling in a supplementary class likely indicates a willingness to engage in sustained effort.
Case Study: Medium Performance Student
Jacob enrolled in GNST 115 having just failed a quiz in his History class. He
and other students from the class formed what became a permanent study group led
by me through GNST 115.
The efforts of this study group focused on the series of study questions and
review sheets students received in the class. At the beginning of his
participation, it became clear that Jacob was not entirely organized in his
efforts. His notes tended to be incomplete and out of order. Our focus became
putting his notes in order and, with the help of the other students in the
group, completing them.
Establishing this order seemed to motivate Jacob. He received a grade of “B” on
his next quiz. In addition, this order allowed him to begin engaging in higher
order thinking. That is, he began not only to answer the study questions more
completely, but also see the relationship between the questions and their
importance in developing an historical analysis. The focus of the study group
began to develop in this direction as well.
This shift for Jacob was very important. It allowed him to move from cramming
information toward creating a framework for learning. The study questions became
a means through which he could begin creating an analytical narrative.
Jacob received credit for GNST 115 and received a “B” in his History class.
Case Study: High Performance Student
Spencer was not particularly weak in any area when he enrolled in GNST 115. As a
student in one of my sections, he took advantage of every opportunity of improve
his comprehension and writing skills. Simply put, Spencer was a student who was
very focused and worked very hard to improve.
Our sessions generally focused on working on his papers or on a particular
week’s reading. Critical thinking and higher order analyses were the areas in
which Spencer needed additional work. Making the connections between primary
documents and the textbook became the center of many of our conversations.
Developing a system for organizing his reading and understanding of the course
material was important to his success. One strategy we developed involved using
the sub-headings of the textbook as a basis for breaking down the readings into
discrete, but connected modules. Establishing study questions around these
modules led to greater comprehension.
Spencer seemed to live at the WRAC Center. Whenever I was there, he was there.
His consistent presence enabled us to have mini-appointments during which he
would ask me specific questions about the reading or a paper topic. This is how
Spencer worked. He was a grinder, who worked at something until he got better at
it. (He seems to apply the discipline imposed upon him as a member of the
baseball team to his performance in the classroom.)
Ultimately, Spencer’s disciplined work achieved results. I provided a framework
for his efforts, but also realize that Spencer came to me motivated and ready to
Spencer received credit for GNST 115 and an “A” in his History class.
Case Study: Low Performance Student
Hanaa is an English language learner. She is not currently an ESL student, but
self-reports to be at a pre-collegiate level of English. Hanaa's primary
difficulties involved following lectures, note-taking, synthesizing the textbook
with lecture notes and understanding the exams.
Initially, our sessions focused on in-class strategies. I advised her to ask
questions during lecture. (This is advice I give all students, including my own.
This practice not only helps students achieve a higher level of comprehension of
lecture material, it also slows the pace of lectures and keeps students
engaged.) Hanaa was hesitant to interrupt her instructor. I assured her that if
she asked questions that others would quickly follow. Slowly, she found the
courage to ask a few questions.
Hanaa and I also developed strategies to complete the reading and incorporate
her understanding of the lecture into her reading notes. Generally, this process
took a great deal of time for Hanaa to complete on a weekly basis. Her English
reading skills, while pretty good, aren’t quite at college level.
This issue also made it difficult for her to succeed consistently when taking
exams. While we developed a test-taking strategy, she often found that her
comprehension of the exam questions was not at level that allowed her to move
quickly from question to question.
Ultimately, Hanaa did not pass her history class. Certainly, her reading skills
played a significant role in this result. I also feel that this particular
history class was a poor match for Hanaa’s particular needs. This is not a
pedagogical criticism of a colleague, but, perhaps a realization that all
teaching methods do not fit all students.
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