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When Tutoring is Not Enough

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2021 CoNECD


Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day

Publication Date

January 24, 2021

Start Date

January 24, 2021

End Date

January 28, 2021

Conference Session

CoNECD Session : Day 3 Slot 2 Technical Session 2

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Submissions

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Paper Authors


Edwin Wendell Lee II Ohio State University

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I am the Program Manager for Retention and Student Success in the Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University (OSU). I completed my doctoral work in electrical engineering at OSU in November 2016, and I am establishing a comprehensive retention program for underrepresented students in engineering at OSU.

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Ana' M. Bell M.S. Ohio State University

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I am a Graduate Assistant working with the Program Manager for Retention and Student Services in the Office of Diversity, Outreach & Inclusion in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University (OSU). I support the program manager in monitoring the development and implementation of comprehensive retention programs for underrepresented students in engineering at OSU. I am also a PhD Candidate in the kinesiology doctoral program at OSU.

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When Tutoring Is Not Enough

Administrators in the (institution office) in the College of Engineering at (institution name) have organized staff and programming to provide academic, advising and career exploration support to students in its Minority Engineering Program (MEP) and Women in Engineering (WiE) program. The structure of admission to the college requires students to enroll as pre-majors in engineering and navigate an application process to enter the major after completing 1 – 2 years of prerequisite courses. Because of this admission structure, success in initial engineering courses (i.e. physics, chemistry and Calculus) is a key part of student retention. The issues of sense of belonging and self-efficacy often attendant to underrepresented students (defined here as women and underrepresented minority (i.e. Black, Latinx and Native students) in engineering) in these programs make academic support a priority in student engagement and retention. While the tutoring services do the work of providing a space for students to work and, in ideal situations, learn in community, the limitations of tutoring as a stand-alone academic support loom large. Limited resources to compensate academic coaches, lack of availability of students with expertise in broad subject areas, inconsistent academic coach training and the lack of lasting impact on learning all limit the ability of tutoring on its own to be a sufficient response to the need for inclusive academic support among underrepresented student populations. This presentation will discuss the growth of the student academic success program for underrepresented students at our institution, detailing the motivation and process for its expansion from offering rudimentary tutoring services to training academic coaches to lead sessions metacognitively and eventually offering supplemental instruction. It is our goal that those who receive the proposed presentation will identify the limitations associated with simply providing tutoring as an academic support resource without designing it to function as a learning development tool and gain insight on the intricacies of administrative implementation of an supplemental instruction program at a large, R1 institution. We also aim to detail the return on investment we have observed as it pertains to student performance in their prerequisite engineering courses and detail the initial steps of developing embedded supplemental instruction. Our office has operated its tutoring program with the purpose of engaging underrepresented students academically. Tutoring programs exist in academic units throughout our institution, but those spaces often unintentionally reinforce isolation and exclusion that underrepresented students experience in the classroom as most attendees and tutors identify with non-minoritized backgrounds in engineering. We aimed to provide a more inclusive tutoring space within which attendees from our target groups could seek academic assistance from students within the demographics of our program. This reinforces student self-efficacy and helps to connect the broader underrepresented engineering community at our institution. Not only did we aim to provide an inclusive tutoring program, but we also designed the program to ensure that sessions addressed students’ academic needs beyond completing an assignment on time. Tutoring attendance is often deadline driven, with spikes around the due dates of assignments and exams. The deadline driven utilization of tutoring services results in students aborting the learning process in order to complete assignments. Without specific training, academic coaches miss opportunities to lead students through thinking about and solving problems themselves in lieu of meeting the students’ immediate need to meet a deadline or obtain a solution. We trained our academic coaches to approach coach/attendee interactions methacognitively [1]. In training, the coaches learn to lead students rather than giving them answers or telling them how to solve problems. We train coaches to consider how a student is approaching a problem and to guide them through the thought process that leads to solving it by asking questions. These questions force the student to engage with the problem and help to ensure that attendees are not just completing their assignments, but also learning problem solving skills. This inclusive and metacognitive tutoring program has operated for three years, with attendance in the second and third years increasing by approximately 40% over its first year. While increased attendance provides increased opportunities for our office’s engagement with underrepresented students, we observe significant variance in semester GPA with respect to number of sessions attended. Increased individual tutoring attendance does not correlate with academic success broadly, and tutoring itself has limited impact on student academic success. Our office implemented supplemental instruction (SI) in Calculus I and II to explore more targeted metacognitive academic success programming. Our SI program uses the same inclusive model at the foundation of our tutoring program, with student SI leaders attending the class associated with the course they coach. Students who attend SI can focus on problem solving because the problem sets provided in sessions are not homework problems, removing the deadline-based motivation for attendance. The SI program for both Calculus courses showed significant promise in academic performance for students who attended 12 or more sessions in a semester over the course of four semesters. Students who met the benchmark averaged outcomes a letter grade higher than engineering students taking the same courses who did not attend SI at all. The students who attended less than 12 sessions had lower average scores than the rest of the college at large. Additionally, students who attended 12 or more sessions also had lower rates of C, D, F and withdrawal outcomes than those who attended less than 12 sessions in both courses. While these outcomes are promising, the number of students reaching the 12-session threshold was four and seven per semester in Calculus I and II SI sessions, respectively. Our supplemental instruction provides an inclusive space for problem solving practice with proven positive grade outcomes, but the voluntary nature of the program limits its effectiveness. Our office is facilitating an embedded course for supplemental instruction in Calculus I during the autumn 2019 semester to circumvent the limitation of voluntary attendance. Twenty-two underrepresented engineering students enrolled in the course. Moving our program to an embedded course model will help us determine whether the effects we have observed in a small group of students who attended voluntarily can be extended to a larger group whose attendance contributes to their grade in a pass/fail course. Students still lead the SI course, but we also evaluate enrollees based on their active engagement in sessions and their performance on examinations. This provides an opportunity for intervention should students show signs of difficulty in the course. We survey students throughout the course to evaluate its effect on their study habits and self-efficacy. Implementation of this expanded academic support program has required the administrative focus of one full-time staff member who trains and supervises approximately ten student workers to facilitate tutoring and supplemental instruction. The budget for the program is upwards of $10K per year.

[1] S. McGuire, Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills and Motivation, Steerling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC., 2015.

Lee, E. W., & Bell, A. M. (2021, January), When Tutoring is Not Enough Paper presented at 2021 CoNECD, Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day . 10.18260/1-2--36140

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