Success and Retention Strategies for STEM Gatekeeper Courses in a Community College
The purpose of this work in progress is to develop and implement a three-pronged approach to improve student success and retention in STEM gatekeeper courses. We defined a gatekeeper course as a historically difficult course with high failure and withdrawal rates. Engineering technology courses are especially targeted since early student failure in these courses typically leads to students abandoning engineering technology majors altogether.
Our three-pronged approach will consist of the following: 1) Implement an active learning strategy by starting most lecture classes with a conceptual question, 2) Improve student engagement with academic support services through novel use of learning management system course shells, and 3) Assign a student leader / embedded tutor to a class. Student leaders are students who took the course successfully in the past and who are available and willing to help current students. They run review sessions, share their own experience on how to effectively study for the course, and assist during labs.
Currently, we are testing this approach on one engineering technology course with good results so far. An early observation we have is that in addition to improvement in attendance and projected pass / fail rates, there is an increase in student collaboration in and out of the classroom.
Once the project has been fully defined and select gatekeeper courses have been identified, we will run a pilot program focusing on STEM and engineering technology courses. After the pilot is over, learnings will be analyzed, and the program modified if necessary, before a college-wide rollout.
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