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Subject:

Re: ROI on Academic Support Services? -- Different Take

From:

Nic Voge <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 9 Jan 2014 18:18:03 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (360 lines)

Dear Colleagues,

I don't mean to digress from what I see as a very valuable  
conversation, but I am struck by what I am assuming is selective  
skepticism  on the part of faculty and administrators about the  
performance of students who utilize academic support and thus the  
outcomes of such support.  For instance, Marisa wrote, "Your response  
is exactly what I seem to be dealing with regarding our SI program."

These faculty and administrators are willing to hypothesize a  
motivational difference (what evidence is there that use of support  
services is a reliable indicator of the kind of motivation they think  
leads to high attainment?) but unwilling to accept the hard data you  
provide.

Do they also hypothesize that the students who do well in their  
courses  are simply the "good students" and would have performed well  
regardless--their teaching had no impact?  Working from this  
hypothesis would undermine the attribution of learning and achievement  
to features of the course/instruction for all the high-achieving  
students in their courses.  Might there be a double-standard operating  
here?


Similarly, when  data reveal that academic support is not the magic  
transformative bullet  hoped for,  do these same folks trot out the  
reciprocal hypothesis: "these are 'bad' students, no matter how good  
the academic support was, it wouldn't have made a difference"?

It seems to me that these latter two hypotheses are just as reasonable  
as the skepticism evinced about the effects of academic support, but  
somehow I never hear them articulated in discussions about teaching  
and academic support. Another way of saying this is: if motivation is  
such a crucial factor  when evaluating the effectiveness of academic  
support, why don't we use it when evaluating other aspects of the  
institution?

Another thing I don't like about this conceptualization of the issues  
is the unstated but implied corollary of the assumption about  
motivation. If students succeed because they are motivated, then the  
implication is that the one's who don't succeed must not be motivated.  
Thus, it's all up to the student, faculty and the institution are off- 
the-hook all based upon assumptions about motivation, a topic which  
most faculty place outside the scope of their responsibility and which  
they know very little about. (In my opinion motivation is one of the  
most complex, if not messy, research topics in education.) I'm   
skeptical of this kind of self-serving explanation.

Because "proof" is so hard to come by in our work, I am very hesitant  
to engage in these kinds of ROI conversations in the first place. What  
is the ROI of the sociology department? The president's office? Why  
are those questions so rarely asked? Not all "returns" can be measured  
in retention rates, it seems to me. Assuming that academic support can  
be measured in this way diminishes academic support in my opinion.

If, as seems to be the consensus of those posting, it is very  
difficult for any unit to justify its funding based on ROI because  
determining the impact of specific, discrete services in light of so  
many potential  "factors" then the question of WHICH units must  
justify the ROI and which do not have to do so becomes that much more  
important. If the situation is so complex that no data will be  
persuasive, then I don't think it wise to be in the position of having  
to persuade people with data.


Who gets scrutinized and who doesn't--and in what ways--is the real  
issue to my mind. I wonder if reducing our work to a question of ROI  
is a slippery slope. It may be unavoidable in some cases--as I seem to  
be reading in most of these posts--but that doesn't mean we shouldn't  
critically examine the assumptions undergirding a ROI perspective. My  
sense is that academic support provided by those who have posted here  
does far more than increase retention rates and generate revenue, but  
these other "returns" can become  obscured if the ROI perspective is  
privileged above all others.

Best,
Nic
__________________________________
Dominic (Nic) J. Voge
[log in to unmask]
(609)258-6921
http://www.princeton.edu/mcgraw/us/

Associate Director
McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning
328C Frist Campus Center
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

Individual Appointment Times:
By request





On Jan 9, 2014, at 11:00 AM, Marisa Passafiume wrote:

> Sara,
> Your response is exactly what I seem to be dealing with regarding  
> our SI
> program. Might you be willing to share your interpretive  
> report...off of
> the list serve? I would love to begin showing our data to critics in  
> a more
> comprehensive way.
>
> Most fondly
> Marisa Passafiume
>
>
> -----------------------
>
> *Marisa Passafiume*
> *Director, Center for Academic Success*
> *Tutor Trainer, National Tutoring Association*
>
> Riverdale, NY 10471
> Phone: 718-862-7796
> Fax: 718-862-7791
> [log in to unmask]
> www.manhattan.edu
>
>
> On Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 10:14 AM, Sara Weertz  
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>> Ah, I love this question...one I think I can answer because this  
>> used to
>> be a typical response to Supplemental Instruction (SI) which has a  
>> history
>> of empirical evidence indicating that students who use SI on a  
>> regular
>> basis get better grades. Faculty often opine that SI students would  
>> have
>> gotten successful grades no matter what; they argue that SI  
>> students (or
>> those who self-select) are already the "good" students.   Faculty  
>> continued
>> their criticism of the numbers even after I added qualitative
>> data--feedback from the students themselves, in their own words,  
>> saying
>> they excelled in their coursework because of SI.
>>
>> It was, however, more difficult to be critical of my interpretive  
>> report,
>> which pulls the following data on students enrolled in SI-supported  
>> classes:
>>
>> * GPA (at the beginning of the term)
>> * ACT/SAT scores
>> * Classification
>> * Ethnicity
>> * Residency (on/off campus)
>> * Major/Minor
>> * Academic Standing
>> * Cohort attributes such as athletics, provisional status,  
>> international
>> student, etc.
>>
>> If I run the interpretive reports at the beginning of the term, I  
>> get a
>> bird's-eye view of the class, which allows me to also create  
>> individual
>> student profiles.
>>
>> The beauty of the interpretive report is its use as a tool to make
>> predictions about the students in our SI-supported classes. An  
>> example
>> would be to examine how a freshman with several at-risk factors and  
>> low ACT
>> scores (which tests science acumen) might fare in a traditionally  
>> difficult
>> biology class. Since our SI support focuses on traditionally  
>> difficult
>> classes where many students struggle, we then make predictions on  
>> success
>> (A, B, or C) depending on whether the less proficient students and  
>> those
>> considered at-risk attend SI, how often they attend, and when they  
>> attend.
>> The interpretive report allows us to compile some fascinating  
>> reports for
>> variety of departments and student services. Our measurements  
>> consistently
>> show that no matter how many at-risk factors a student may have,  
>> the more
>> SI visits, the higher the final grade.
>>
>> While something like an interpretive report is more difficult to  
>> generate
>> with tutoring, it can be done.
>>
>> sal
>>
>>
>> Sara Weertz, M.Ed.
>> Executive Director, First Year Experience
>> ASU Station #10915
>> Angelo State University
>> San Angelo, TX  76909
>> (325) 942-2595
>> [log in to unmask]
>>
>> CRLA President-Elect 2013-2014
>> www.crla.net
>>
>> ****************************************************
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:
>> [log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Marcia Toms
>> Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2014 8:32 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: ROI on Academic Support Services? -- Different Take
>>
>> That is great, Leonard.
>>
>> One question, though: Do students voluntarily come to your center?   
>> If so,
>> how do you address the motivation issue?  In other words, who is to  
>> say
>> that these students wouldn't have higher retention rates anyway?
>>
>> Best,
>> -Marcia
>>
>>
>> On Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 9:06 AM, Roberta Schotka <[log in to unmask]
>>> wrote:
>>
>>> Leonard,
>>>
>>> That is brilliant, especially since it is so difficult to link  
>>> grades
>>> directly to tutoring, given all of the other contributing factors.
>>>
>>> -Roberta
>>>
>>>
>>> On Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 4:52 PM, Geddes, Leonard G.
>>> <[log in to unmask]
>>>> wrote:
>>>
>>>> Melissa and any others who are interested,
>>>>
>>>> I have attached part of a report that I sent up to the "powers   
>>>> that
>> be"
>>>> about the influence our services are having on the bottom line --
>>>> retention. In the past, we communicated how we were affecting
>>>> academic performance.  However, when it seemed like reporting how
>>>> students were improving academically was not generating the  
>>>> traction
>>>> that we thought it deserved, I decided to speak the  
>>>> administration's
>>>> language by adding a retention element to the report.  In short, we
>>>> compared the re-enrollment rates of students using our services to
>>>> general student retention,
>>> athletic
>>>> teams, etc.  Our numbers rocked!  (I've attached an abbreviated
>>>> report since I don't think the administration would like us to  
>>>> share
>>>> financial info publically.)
>>>>
>>>> In the actual report, we put figures to the report by factoring in
>>>> the "real" revenue that is generated per student. For example,
>>> hypothetically,
>>>> if the overall retention rate was 70%, but our numbers were 86%,
>>>> then we showed numerically how much revenue 16% more students added
>>>> to the bottom line, thus showing that we are revenue generating.
>>>>
>>>> As a result of changing to reporting this way, our reports have  
>>>> been
>>> going
>>>> all the way up the chain to the Board.  Recently, they specifically
>>>> referenced our center and services in the new strategic plan!  We
>>>> are now preparing for a significant budget increase as well -- yay!
>>>>
>>>> I hope this is useful.
>>>>
>>>> Leonard Geddes
>>>> Associate Dean of Co-Curricular Programs Director of the Learning
>>>> Commons Division of Student Life Lenoir-Rhyne University www.lr.edu
>>>> [log in to unmask]
>>>> (828) 328-7024
>>>> (828) 328-7702 (fax)
>>>>
>>>> The LearnWell Projects Blog:
>>> http://www.thelearnwellprojects.com/thewell/
>>>>
>>>>
>>>
>>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>>> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
>>> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your  
>>> web
>>> browser to http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html
>>>
>>> To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> Marcia Toms, Ph.D.
>> Associate Director
>> Undergraduate Tutorial Center
>> Division of Academic and Student Affairs North Carolina State  
>> University
>> Campus Box 7118 / 101 Park Shops Raleigh, NC 27695-7118
>> 919.513.7829
>> http://www.ncsu.edu/tutorial_center/
>>
>> Public Record Reminder: All electronic mail messages in connection  
>> with
>> State business that are sent to or received by this account are  
>> subject to
>> the NC Public Records Law.  They are retained and may be disclosed  
>> to third
>> parties.
>>
>> Confidentiality: Nothing in the NC Public Records Law diminishes the
>> privacy protections afforded by federal law (e.g., FERPA, HIPAA,  
>> etc.)
>>
>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
>> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your  
>> web
>> browser to http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html
>>
>> To contact the LRNASST-L owner, email [log in to unmask]
>>
>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
>> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your  
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>> browser to
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>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> To access the LRNASST-L archives or User Guide, or to change your
> subscription options (including subscribe/unsubscribe), point your  
> web browser to
> http://www.lists.ufl.edu/archives/lrnasst-l.html
>
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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