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Nic,

Thanks for the insightful comments once again.  I agree.  I have some things I could share, but I believe the conversation have moved on - so I'll not beat the deceased Equus ferus caballus.

Just wanted to share my appreciate for your contribution!

Leonard Geddes
Associate Dean of Co-Curricular Programs
Coordinator 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/


-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Nic Voge
Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2014 6:18 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: ROI on Academic Support Services? -- Different Take

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/
>>>>
>>>>
>>>
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>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> 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/
>>
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>>
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