Dennis is a Senior Consultant with Collegiate Project Services.
Latest posts by Dennis Day (see all)
- Student Success: It is personal! - June 21, 2016
- What Role does Predictive Learning Analytics play in Student Success? - April 26, 2016
- What does sport analytics have in common with student success? - February 23, 2016
The first year of my career, I taught public school in a state that had just issued a requirement that students graduating must pass a proficiency test. This was the first time a “measurement” had become so important in my professional career. As time passed and the world of higher education became my sandbox, new “measurements” were introduced as markers in my responsibilities.
As I became more aware of my surroundings and understood what was being asked of me by the upper administration, I had an epiphany. The goals to meet, the metrics to collect, and the standards to maintain were all very personal to a small group of decision makers. They are personal for very good reasons; those making those decisions were thinking of what is good for the institution, they are trying to meet legislative requirements, they are striving to satisfy governing body concerns that would keep them in their positions.
Student Success Measurements are Personal
Deciding what the meaningful metrics are for your institution is not an easy task. Sorting out all of the competing personal priorities and agendas can be complicated and daunting for most schools. We all want to be respectful of each other’s thoughts and motivations; we want to support our presidents, our chancellors, and our chief administrators. Let’s face it: keeping the education leaders in their positions, in most cases, keeps you in your position. So it is all very personal.
In recent years increased scrutiny about graduation rates, student completion, lower student loan levels, and validating the degree requirements has dominated the collective conversation. Knowing which dimensions are right for your institutions is not as simple as picking one. Each of these measurements have various layers of information, different paths of impact, many possible variables, and all have a myriad of interpretations based on the results.
Too many times those personal motivations affect how we sort all this out. Consciously or unconsciously we can make decisions about operational processes that benefit or maintain our own status with the college or university that we represent. Worrying about the inputs and not the outputs can be self-serving and not have the long range affect that may be needed.
Let’s Not Forget the Students
Do you know who these measurements are even more personal to? The students. In that first year of teaching, I taught to the test because rightly or wrongly I believed that if the students did not pass, then I was not truly teaching. My second year, I began to understand how to weave the “test material” into the “learning material” that would help the students get to their next level. The method and the learning process became more important to me and for the students, than Item 5 on the state proficiency test.
For college and university students, understanding what is important to them is a must for any institution. Developing a plan to meet those needs or expectations takes a wide sweeping strategic plan. Knowing that the needs and expectations have been met or are still in progress is more critical today than it was five years ago. Getting the entire campus community to be active partners with the students in meeting their needs or expectations can be daunting.
Filtering through the Noise
With all the dissonant noise in the higher education environment, with all the posturing in the political world and the call for better positioning in the world stage; our job as higher education professionals is to provide students the best education possible. Doing this for the students without interjecting our own personal agendas will actually provide more benefits to the students, to your institution and ultimately to you personally.
Take a moment and think of five colleges or universities that you think get it right. What is it about those five schools that makes them successful at student success? What about these institutions can you and your campus emulate that will benefit your students? This process is a start; the rest is up to you and your colleagues to provide that environment, to design those processes, to show those results and to dedicate the planning and preparation to accomplishing the results you all have agreed upon.
Now take a moment and remember a student walking across the stage or telling you about their first day in their new career. It is personal!