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Santa Fe College the College... · Santa Fe College 4 II. BROAD-BASED INSTITUTIONAL PROCESS IDENTIFYING KEY ISSUES Process Used to Develop the QEP Inherent in Santa Fe College’s

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  • Santa Fe College



    In keeping with our values and goals, Santa Fe College, a comprehensive public institution

    of higher education serving north central Florida and beyond, adds value to the lives of our

    students and enriches our community through excellence in teaching and learning,

    innovative educational programs and student services, and community leadership and



    Located in north central Florida, Santa Fe College (SF) is a public four-year college offering

    educational opportunities to more than 18,000 students taking credit classes and 12,000

    more taking non-credit classes. An open-door institution with seven campus sites in

    Alachua and Bradford counties, SF is committed to providing educational opportunity,

    community enrichment, economic development and innovation in the public interest. Under

    the leadership of President Jackson N. Sasser since January 2002, SF offers the Associate

    of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Bachelor of

    Applied Science (BAS), Bachelor of Science (BS), and Bachelor of Science degree in

    Nursing (BSN), as well as certificate and community education programs.

    SF values academic excellence, academic freedom, and intellectual pursuit; individual,

    social, and global responsibility; honesty, integrity, and civility; cultural diversity and equity;

    collaboration with our community; open access; lifelong learning; assessment,

    accountability, and improvement; and sustainable use of environmental, social, and

    economic resources.

    Enrollment statistics are relatively stable. In fall 2011, 54.2% of SF students were female

    and 45.8% male, and students’ average age was 25. SF benefits from an ethnically diverse

    student body; in fall 2011, 63.6% of the student population was white, 18.1% African

    American, 10.7% Hispanic, and 7.6% other minorities, including Asian/Pacific Islander and

    American Indian. Students from 57 foreign countries attended SF in fall 2011. Though a

    majority of students (52%) were from the Alachua/Bradford district in the fall 2011, a

    significant number of out-of-district Florida resident students (44.1%) attended SF, which

    enjoys a close affiliation with and proximity to the University of Florida. In fact, SF sends

    more students to the University of Florida than does any other institution, averaging nearly

    1,000 transfers each year.

    There are 734 full-time employees, of whom 255 are members of the faculty. Part-time

    employees total more than 900, of whom nearly 300 are students. The annual budget

    exceeds $77 million.

    Dr. Lisa Armour, Vice President of Assessment, Research, and Institutional Effectiveness,

    is the Accreditation Liaison for Santa Fe College.

  • Santa Fe College



    I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY……………………………………………………………………... 3 II. BROAD-BASED INSTITUTIONAL PROCESS IDENTIFYING KEY ISSUES………………..…. 4 Process Used to Develop the QEP…………………………………………..…..…….. 4 Identification of the QEP Topic…………………………………………..……………… 5 Narrowing the Focus of the QEP Topic………………………………..………………. 10 III. FOCUS AND DESIRED OUTCOMES............................................................................... 18 A Plan Vital to Long-Term Improvement of the Student Learning Environment....... 18 Goal and Associated Outcomes of Navigating the College Experience……………. 20 IV. LITERATURE REVIEW AND BEST PRACTICES……………….……………………………. 24 Early Academic Warning (Early Alert)………………………………………………….. 27 Progressive Advisement…………………………………………………………………. 32 V. ACTIONS TO BE IMPLEMENTED AND TIMELINE………………….………………………... 37 Actions Associated with the Early Alert Initiative……………………………………… 37 Actions Associated with the Progressive Advisement Initiative……………………… 38 Implementation Timeline…………………………………………………………………. 40 VI. ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE………………….………………………………………... 46 VII. RESOURCES……………………………………….……………………………………….. 48 VIII. ASSESSMENT………………………………………………………………………………. 55 IX. REFERENCES………………………………………………………………………………. 62 X. APPENDICES……………………………………………………………………………….. 65 APPENDIX A: Project Personnel (Work Groups)………………………………………. 66 APPENDIX B: Concept Systems Data: Topic Suggestion Cluster Maps…………….. 69 APPENDIX C: Topic Suggestion Statements (ordered by cluster)…………………… 70 APPENDIX D: Concept Systems Data: Go Zone Plot Graphs……………………...… 75 APPENDIX E: Institutional Research Data for Selected Gateway Courses……...….. 76 APPENDIX F: Academic Advising Syllabus (proposed)……………………………….. 84 APPENDIX G: Progressive Advisement Process (working document)………………. 85 APPENDIX H: Progressive Advisement Checklists (proposed)………………………. 88 APPENDIX I: Standards for Planning and Performance for QEP Director....……….. 90 APPENDIX J: Total Budget………………..……………………………………………… 92

  • Santa Fe College



    Navigating the College Experience (NCE) is Santa Fe College’s five-year plan designed to

    enhance SF’s learning environment to cultivate students’ educational persistence

    and academic perseverance. Aiding students to stay on track toward educational goals

    and providing timely assistance if they get off track, this project advances the College’s

    mission to add value to the lives of students and enrich the community by offering

    innovative student services in support of excellence in teaching and learning.

    Through implementation of two initiatives, SF will offer an enhanced learning environment

    to better support students as they navigate the college experience. A new early warning

    system will enable students to better chart their progress and connect to resources that can

    help them achieve academic goals. This system will also augment the College’s ability to

    alert and intervene with students who show signs of being academically at risk. The early

    warning system will be coupled with a new process for academic advising to offer ongoing,

    personalized developmental advisement that can advance learning associated with

    academic perseverance and enable students to take ownership of their educational goals.

    During the five-year period from fall 2013 through spring 2018, the NCE initiatives will be

    introduced and gradually expanded to target groups. The success of the project will be

    measured by increased persistence and retention rates in designated gateway courses and

    enhanced engagement and academic perseverance among participating students.

    This plan emerged through a broad-based institutional process involving students, faculty,

    staff, and the community. After identifying key issues to be addressed by the plan, a

    steering committee led multiple design teams through a development process, considering

    current research-based best practices as well as the College’s institutional culture and

    context to craft a feasible plan that identifies actions likely to enhance SF’s learning

    environment in support of student learning. Measurable outcomes and a comprehensive

    assessment plan have been identified to allow the institution to assess the efficacy of the

    project initiatives. Committed to sustaining the project long term, SF has planned an

    appropriate allocation of resources and designated organizational support for the

    continuation, ongoing assessment, and improvement of the plan’s actions. An

    implementation team and an assessment team, composed of key personnel and led by a

    QEP Director, will execute and oversee the plan’s actions and effects.

    SF expects that this quality enhancement plan will strengthen the College by

    Encouraging student responsibility and action in the learning process;

    Ensuring personalized support for students working towards goals;

    Making student learning central to advising support services;

    Improving communication and building accountability;

    Fostering collaboration in support of student academic achievement;

    Increasing efficiency; and

    Providing for ongoing professional development for advisors, counselors, and faculty to

    support student learning.

  • Santa Fe College



    Process Used to Develop the QEP

    Inherent in Santa Fe College’s mission is a commitment to excellence in teaching as well as

    to innovation in educational programs and student services. In its 2010-2015 Strategic

    Plan, SF states goals for institutional improvement, including to “strive to enhance our

    educational excellence by encouraging, engaging in, and developing best and promising

    practices in support of intellectual, social and personal development” (Strategic Initiative:

    Excellence in Teaching and Learning) and to “nurture and retain those [students] the

    College already has” by deploying a “strategy for managing and nurturing Santa Fe’s

    interactions with its constituents” (Strategic Initiative: Constituent Relationship

    Management). This quality enhancement plan (QEP) dovetails with institutional efforts to

    improve student learning and retention to advance the College mission, and it reflects SF’s

    dedication to assessment, accountability, and improvement. By offering innovative student

    services in support of excellence in teaching and learning, Navigating the College

    Experience (NCE) will add value to the lives of students and enrich the community.

    This QEP was developed strategically in two phases, using a leadership team to guide the

    College through the topic selection process and a second team to steer design and

    planning for implementation once the topic had been selected. Leadership changed during

    this process to allow for greater involvement of key constituents in the design and planning

    of the QEP, and continued participation of selected members of the initial leadership team

    provided for continuity, despite some personnel changes.

    As evidenced in the following sections, both teams encouraged ongoing broad-based

    participation from the campus community, allowing for topic selection and design

    development to be accomplished through a collaborative process with participation of and

    input from faculty, staff, students, and community members. In all, 20 individuals served on

    two leadership teams that included students, faculty, and career service and administrative

    staff to shepherd the College through the QEP development process. Forty-two (42)

    student, faculty, staff, and community volunteers evaluated topics; nine working teams

    composed of 78 student, faculty, and staff volunteers contributed to design and planning.

    (See Appendix A for project personnel.) Leadership teams solicited and received 370

    written topic suggestions and 255 written responses to surveys soliciting design or

    implementation feedback. Feedback about the topic or design was also encouraged

    through 25 sessions targeted to faculty, staff, students, or community members as well as

    in two town halls and through the QEP web site. Presentations to groups including the

    Board of Trustees, the Coordinating Council, the Advising Council, the Research and

    Planning Council, the Career Service Council, the College Senate, and the Student Senate

    kept major constituencies informed about and involved in the development process.

    The efforts of many have shaped a QEP designed to enhance SF’s learning environment to

    cultivate students’ academic perseverance and educational persistence. The dedication of

    the campus community to its development enables this QEP to reflect our values, fit our

    culture, and support our mission.

  • Santa Fe College


    Identification of the QEP Topic

    The identification of the QEP topic arose through an iterative process that began formally in

    the fall of 2010, when a leadership team tasked with gathering appropriate topics from a

    variety of constituents began its work. The QEP Topic Selection Team (Phase One

    Leadership Team) consisted of representatives from students, career service, faculty, and

    administrative and professional staff.

    QEP Topic Selection Team

    Member Name Title

    Eugene Jones* Department Chair, Information Technology Education; QEP Phase

    1 Leadership Team Chair (August 2010 – May 2011)

    Dave Yonutas Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; QEP Phase 1

    Leadership Chair (June 2011 – October 2011)

    Lisa Armour Associate Provost/Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs

    (beginning June 2011)

    Lola Christian Chair, Career Service Council; Human Resource Support


    Vilma Fuentes Associate Professor of Political Science (beginning June 2011)

    Kim Kendall* Assistant Vice President for Academic Technologies/Open

    Campus Director

    David Price College Senate President; Associate Professor of History

    Dan Rodkin Director of Student Life

    Carlos Sosa* Student Government Representative

    Clay Smith Associate Professor of English

    Marilyn Tubb* Associate Vice President for College Relations

    * has retired or left the institution

    To capture perceptions of the College’s most pressing concerns, this group organized a

    website to collect topic suggestions from interested parties associated with the school and

    community in response to the prompt “What one recommendation would you make to

    improve learning or the learning environment at Santa Fe?” By February 2011 when the

    survey closed, 370 responses had been submitted through the website. The responses

    were culled to eliminate off-topic suggestions and duplicate statements, resulting in 104

    statements for further assessment.

    Three criteria were established for evaluating topic suggestions: importance, relationship to

    student learning, and number of students impacted. Using these criteria to evaluate the

    104 statements guaranteed the top-ranked ones would result in projects likely to

    accomplish the College mission by addressing an issue of substantial importance to the

    quality of the institution, improving student learning, and having a meaningful impact on a

    significant number of students.

    Statements were rated for each criterion by a work team of faculty, administrative and

    professional staff, career service employees, students, and community members using a

  • Santa Fe College


    five-point Likert scale with 1 signifying little to no correlation to the criterion being rated and

    5 signifying high correlation to the criterion being rated.

    In addition to being rated, statements were independently sorted into categories.

    Individuals were encouraged to create as many groupings as seemed appropriate to

    capture related suggestions in defined topic classifications, with no “miscellaneous”

    categories permitted. Sorters created, on average, 11 categories. Once the statements

    were rated and categorized, the data was checked for validity (no one rater giving all 5’s or

    1’s). This rating and sorting process was completed by May 2011.

    Data analysis ensued using the Concept Map and Go-Zone approach from Concept

    Systems, Incorporated, in Ithaca, New York, to indicate trending topics. The Concept Map

    software placed statements into clusters, creating maps for each assessment category

    (importance, relationship to student learning, and number of students impacted) to provide

    for relative ranking of clusters of topics. The software allowed users to determine how

    many clusters they would like to have created.

    Regardless whether it was asked to create three to eight clusters, the Concept Systems

    software consistently indicated “advisement” as a top-rated topic category across the three

    Composition of Topic Sorting and Rating Work Team

    Category Participants Initial Volunteer Pool

    Administrative/ Professional 15 15

    Career Service 8 8

    Community 3 5

    Faculty 10 10

    Students 6 10

    Totals 42 48

  • Santa Fe College


    specified criteria. The “advisement” cluster created by the software included suggested

    topics categorized by sorters/raters with the following designations: advisement, student

    advisement/guidance/retention, student advisement/mentoring, student assessment,

    faculty/student interactions/mentoring, student support, and student success. In the

    preceding sample cluster map, statements ranked for “importance” are sorted into five

    clusters. As the map indicates, the top statements ranked for “importance” (those ranking

    from 3.39 to 3.50) are encompassed only within the advisement cluster. Maps created for

    the other criteria resulted in similar findings. (See Appendix B for additional cluster maps

    and Appendix C for topic suggestion statements ordered by cluster.)

    To create an overall ranking of suggested topics within the advisement cluster, Go-Zone

    analysis allowed for systematic comparisons between the three criteria (importance,

    relationship to student learning, and number of students impacted) for each of the

    statements. (See Appendix D for Go-Zone plot graphs.) Seven statements appeared in all

    three of the importance/relationship to student learning, importance/number of students

    impacted, and number of students impacted/relationship to student learning parameters:

    1. Increase participation in the use of Academic Progress Reports

    2. Increase program advisement throughout all campuses

    3. Improve early alert systems that identify and provide timely support for students

    demonstrating poor academic performance

    4. Develop an innovative student retention program

    5. Improve study and test-taking skills and support for study

    6. Strengthen the safety net for students (planning, mentoring, assisting)

    7. Prepare students for their in-class responsibilities before the first day of their first


    Collectively, these top-ranked suggestions reveal pressing concerns to be anemic support

    for academically at-risk students, insufficient personalized advisement and assistance for all

    students, poor student preparation for college classes, and retention. Thus, the category

    termed “advisement” should be understood to encompass student support more broadly.

    Many of the top-ranked suggestions also point to an underlying deficit of meaningful

    communication among faculty, advisors, and students. A need for better mentoring and

    support for students had been suggested by the results of the most recently administered

    Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), which captures students’

    perceptions of their college experience. The 2010 Key Findings report indicates that the

    College in fact fell short of cohort institutions on several items associated with support for

    learners, including the frequency of academic advising/planning and helping students cope

    with non-academic responsibilities, and on a specific student-faculty interaction, working

    with instructors on activities other than coursework.

    With this information as a backdrop, the topic selection team embarked on a series of

    meetings in August and September to gain insight into lapses or gaps in student support

    systems and to identify opportunities the institution might have to strengthen student

  • Santa Fe College


    support and advisement. The team visited the Executive Council of the College Senate, the

    Career Service council, the Student Government, and fourteen other departments/units

    including Building Construction, Business Programs, Clinical Laboratory Science, English,

    High School Dual Enrollment, Humanities and Foreign Languages, Information Technology

    Education, Institute of Public Safety, Math, Natural Sciences, Nursing, Sciences for Health

    Programs, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Student Development Instruction. At these

    meetings, the presenters gave a quick overview of the process and findings to date and

    elicited suggestions for advising- and support-related initiatives that would promote student

    learning and academic achievement.

    The formal meetings stimulated sustained discussion across campus over the two-month

    period, and this conversation began to clarify the central issues participants hoped a quality

    enhancement plan would address. Consensus developed that many incoming students

    have poor preparation for the responsibilities and skills associated with being a college

    student and that the College needs to address such deficits more intentionally, early in

    students’ academic journeys. But there was also consensus that better processes need to

    be in place to ensure students are appropriately assisted in negotiating college. For

    instance, SF’s system for academic progress reporting is widely viewed as flawed by both

    support staff and faculty, and there is a perceived “advisement gap” in which a majority of

    students are not getting the kind of specialized feedback, attention, and support afforded to

    special cohorts. Students and staff also noted that institutional practices too often leave

    students with the sense that they are getting “the run-around” as they interact with various

    offices and personnel; thus, improved communications between various units/personnel as

    well as with students was identified as a priority to improve efficiency and to better direct

    students to available support resources without overwhelming them with too much


    The team agreed that the focus of the QEP would be to improve the learning environment

    through an innovative program of student support designed to help students navigate the

    college experience. A September 2011 campus-wide town hall meeting marked the

    completion of the topic identification process. The departmental/group meetings had

    culminated in a series of proposed initiatives to address the aforementioned problems:

    1. Create a new academic advisement model

    2. Establish a broader mentoring program

    3. Widen opportunities for counseling

    4. Develop academic support labs

    5. Improve internal communications and systems

    6. Improve efficiency of information delivery to and from students

    7. Improve community outreach efforts

    Approximately 90 faculty, staff, and students participated in the town hall to record feedback

    about the seven proposed initiatives. This collection of data was given to the QEP Steering

    Committee, which was convened in November 2011. In consultation with the Phase One

    Leadership Team, the Provost identified personnel whose leadership in design

  • Santa Fe College


    development would be desirable, given the selected topic. The steering committee

    consisted of representatives from academic affairs, student affairs, the student body, and


    QEP Steering Committee

    Member Name Title

    Jodi Long Department Chair, Sciences for Health Programs; QEP Phase 2

    Leadership Team Co-Chair

    Rhonda Morris Associate Professor of English; QEP Phase 2 Leadership Team


    Lisa Armour Vice President of Assessment, Research, and Institutional


    Kathleen Arnold Department Chair, Mathematics

    David Durkee Student

    Sharon Loschiavo Interim Director of Advisement and Counseling

    Takela Perry Advising Specialist, Academic Foundations

    David Price Associate Professor of History; College Senate President

    Dan Rodkin Director of Student Life

    Laurel Severino Associate Professor of Reading, Academic Foundations

    Jen Thomas College Prep Advisement Coordinator

    Bob Wolfson Director, Watson Center

    Dave Yonutas Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs

    The steering committee sharpened the project’s focus by collecting and reviewing

    institutional data alongside the qualitative feedback received during the topic selection

    process, comparing practices of other institutions with those of Santa Fe College, and

    researching advisement processes and interventions that promote learning and educational

    achievement. During this second phase, effort was made to communicate the design

    taking shape to the campus community and to elicit feedback to inform the design through

    e-mail , website updates, and forums.

    Headed by steering committee members and composed of volunteers representing all

    campus constituencies, work teams focused on research and data collection, advising

    resources and implementation, an electronic portal and information hub, advising and

    retention software/programming needs, an early warning system for intervention with at-risk

    students, peer coaches, and marketing. In all, 78 individuals (including staff, faculty, and

    students) served on nine independent work teams, with many individuals working on more

    than one team, service that facilitated exchange of information. In this way, the Phase Two

    Leadership Team ensured broad participation in the development and design phase, so

    that the plan benefited from a wealth of perspectives and in-house area expertise.

  • Santa Fe College


    Narrowing the Focus of the QEP Topic

    A review of institutional data substantiated the topic selection, leading the steering

    committee to identify three key issues that ultimately shaped the project’s focus on

    enhancing the learning environment to cultivate students’ educational persistence and

    academic perseverance. Quantitative and qualitative assessments of the institution reveal

    problems with persistence in designated gateway courses, achievement challenges

    unrelated to academic competency, and student support challenges.

    Key Issue 1: Problems with Persistence in Gateway Courses

    As indicated by the College’s strategic initiatives, student learning, success and retention

    are ongoing concerns. An August 2010 executive summary from a presidentially convened

    Enrollment Management Strike Force notes that in fall 2009, Santa Fe College “lost”

    students in numbers equivalent to the entire high school graduating classes from all in-

    district schools. The steering committee recognized that while some students may leave

    college for reasons beyond institutional control, many may not persist because they

    encounter challenges that overwhelm them.

    In an effort to identify who might be having the most trouble navigating the college

    experience, the steering committee focused initially on persistence of students taking

    perceived “gateway courses.” Department chairs identified fifteen core courses that could

    impede students’ matriculation to an educational goal if not passed. The Department of

    Institutional Research measured retention in these courses by determining the percentage

    of students taking at least one of the fifteen gateway courses in the fall 2010 who re-

    enrolled at Santa Fe in spring 2011 and again in fall 2011.

    2010/11 Fall-to-Spring and Fall-to-Fall Retention for Designated Gateway Courses

    Gateway Courses


    Fall 2010

    Percent Retained

    Spring 2011

    Percent Retained

    Fall 2011

    BSC2010 374 84 70

    BSC2085 536 85 63

    CHM1025 360 85 73

    CHM1030 275 85 67

    CHM2045 305 87 48

    ENC0015 (Prep) 235 73 40

    ENC0025 (Prep) 664 74 44

    ENC1101 2181 84 61

    MAC1105 1400 85 69

    MAT0018 (Prep) 1028 75 45

    MAT0028 (Prep) 605 72 46

    MAT1033 2014 83 61

    REA0007 (Prep) 287 74 41

    REA0017 (Prep) 650 75 43

    REA2205* 568 72 52

    *elective required for College Prep sequence

  • Santa Fe College


    The data reveal that from fall 2010 to fall 2011 term, Santa Fe College failed to retain an

    average of 57% of students enrolled in college preparatory gateway courses, 39% of

    students enrolled in the high-enrollment college credit gateway courses (ENC 1101 and

    MAT 1033), and 37% of students enrolled in all college credit gateway courses in the fall

    2010 term.1 (It should be noted that some students may have been enrolled in more than

    one of these gateway courses, so statistics may be influenced by duplicated head counts.)

    Considering an additional year’s worth of retention data for the English and math courses

    students would likely encounter early in college reveals a downward trend in first- to

    second-year retention:




    Fall 2009



    Fall 2010


    Fall 2010



    Fall 2011

    Difference in




    ENC0015 200 41 235 40 -1

    ENC0025 641 47 664 44 -3

    ENC1101 2259 64 2181 61 -3

    MAT0018 971 47 1028 45 -2

    MAT0028 531 51 605 46 -5

    MAT1033 1968 64 2014 61 -3

    Filtering retention data by course grade, the steering committee was able to conclude that

    from fall to spring as well as from fall to fall, predictably, students who did not perform well

    in gateway courses were less likely to enroll in the subsequent term than those who

    performed better academically. The loss of large numbers of the least successful students

    informs the quantitative retention data for high enrollment gateway courses and their

    “feeder” prep classes, indicating that a significant number of students who were not

    retained likely stopped attending college altogether, rather than transferred elsewhere.

    Fall 2010-Fall 2011 Retention% by Course Grade for Six Gateway Courses

    A_B+_B C+_C D+_D F_W

    ENC0015 67 50 22 8

    ENC0025 66 57 30 14

    ENC1101 76 67 45 30

    MAT0018 69 48 34 12

    MAT0028 66 55 43 20

    MAT10332 78 72 63 42

    1 The Department of Institutional Research noted that the low fall-to-fall retention rate for CHM 2045

    (48%) likely resulted from students transferring out of the institution; eliminating this course raises the average fall-to-fall retention rate in college credit gateway courses to 65% overall. 2 MAT1033 was selected over MAC1105 for further consideration due to its high enrollment and

    significantly lower retention rates, particularly among students earning a C+ or lower. Rates were an average of 10 percentage points lower per grade grouping in MAT1033 than in MAC1105 for fall-to-fall retention in 2010-2011.

  • Santa Fe College


    Clearly, first- to second-year retention correlates positively to course grade, reflecting that

    students with stronger academic achievement re-enrolled in greater numbers than students

    with lesser academic success, as indicated by course grades.

    Further, re-enrollment in subsequent terms was unpredictable among students earning the

    same course grade in gateway courses. This variable result provides insight into

    persistence. Predictably, variability in student retention increased as the grade decreased in

    both the spring and fall 2011 terms, indicating that students earning higher grades in the

    designated gateway courses persisted more consistently than did their peers earning lower

    grades in these courses.

    2010-2011 Retention% Statistics by Course Grade for Fifteen Gateway Courses (Spring and Fall)

    Course Grade Variance Mean Standard


    Median Range

    Spring 2011

    A_B+_B 6 91 3 90 8

    C+_C 21 90 5 91 17

    D+_D 104 81 10 79 40

    F_W 501 50 22 57 67

    Fall 2011

    A_B+_B 73 69 9 69 33

    C+_C 277 61 17 60 58

    D+_D 347 48 19 45 54

    F_W 420 31 20 30 57

    Graphically, the data clearly indicate a surprisingly wide variability in first- to second-year

    retention associated with the grades earned in gateway courses. In the following box plot,

    the boxes represent the middle 50% of the data, and the horizontal line in each box shows

    the median value (with the “whiskers” or lines below and above each box representing the

    lower and upper 25% of the data, respectively):

  • Santa Fe College


    The box plot for the students who earn a B or better in the gateway courses is quite

    compact, meaning that the retention rates are similar for all these students, and the median

    retention value is relatively high. However, for other groups of students, those earning C+

    or lower, there is a wide variability in retention rates for the gateway courses, and the

    median retention rate steadily drops.

    The large variability in re-enrollment among the sets of students earning lower than a “B” in

    gateway courses suggests that the College is missing an opportunity to intervene with

    these students to help them persevere towards educational goals. A desirable outcome

    would be to raise the median retention rates for “C+/C,” “D+/D,” and “F/W” grade earners

    and to compress the spread, particularly for the middle 50% of the data, so that there is less

    variability concerning retention across the gateway courses and more students persevere.

    These findings suggest that although students who earn higher grades in gateway courses

    are more likely to persist, even those students who pass do not always persevere to

    navigate the college experience successfully. Students earning grades lower than a “B” for

    gateway courses are at increased risk of leaving college altogether, so the institution has

    just one semester after students receive first-semester grades to intervene to improve

    students’ educational persistence.

    Key Issue 2: Achievement Challenges

    Given the campus-wide conversations during the topic development phase, the steering

    committee was mindful that a poor course grade does not always indicate that a student

    had problems with content mastery. Many faculty members noted that unsuccessful

    students often do not attend class regularly, do not complete homework regularly, and fail

    to submit required assignments. The 2010 CCSSE results confirm that Santa Fe students

    may engage in some poor academic habits at higher rates than their counterparts at cohort

    institutions. The percentage of Santa Fe students who report they skipped class “very

    often” is nearly double that of students at cohort institutions (3% compared to 1.6%), and

    whereas nearly 52% of students at cohort institutions report “never” skipping class, only

    38% of Santa Fe students say they “never” skip (item 4u). And in an item identified as an

    area of lowest student engagement for part-time students, less than half of all respondents

    (48%) indicated that they “often” or “very often” worked harder than they thought they could

    to meet an instructor’s standards or expectations (item 4p), an indication that Santa Fe

    students may not feel especially engaged or motivated to achieve.

    One suggestive finding about the relationship between grades and student behavior

    described learning outcome achievement in ENC 1101, one of the designated gateway

    courses. The English Department reported in 2012 that for two consecutive years, more

    students achieved the General Education Learning Outcome (GELO) of communication

    than passed the course in which they were enrolled. For instance, 76.7% of ENC 1101

    students in fall 2011 met the GELO requirement, but only 68.7% earn a ‘C’ or higher grade

    for the course. This eight percentage point gap indicates that 186 students with sufficient

    communication skills to demonstrate learning outcome achievement in the fall 2011 term

    failed to meet minimum requirements to pass the course. The gap between ability and

  • Santa Fe College


    success in ENC 1101 is twice that found in the next course in the English sequence, ENC

    1102. The discrepancy between outcome achievement and success in this entry-level

    college course suggests that the College has an opportunity to better “teach students how

    to be students.”

    A need to better assist students meet non-academic challenges is reinforced by 2010

    CCSSE results. A lower percentage of SF full-time students (-5.3%) than at cohort

    institutions responded “quite a bit” and “very much” to item 9d, “How much does this college

    emphasize helping you cope with your non-academic responsibilities (work, family, etc.).”

    In fact, nearly 40% of students (39.6% of non-developmental and 38.4% of developmental

    students) reported that the College helps them cope with non-academic responsibilities

    “very little.” Students can learn strategies for balancing school with the other demands of

    life, but occasions for these lessons seem to be limited at the College.

    Understanding that poor grades correspond to poor persistence rates but that poor grades

    can result from an absence of studious behaviors, lack of engagement, or life stresses

    rather than from weak academic ability, the steering committee concluded that the College

    needs to develop strategies for improving student learning in support of academic

    perseverance. Strategic, timely intervention targeting particularly those students newly

    embarking on college careers should focus on helping these students acquire skills and

    behaviors that support academic achievement and sustain progress towards educational

    goals. Intervening more intentionally as early as possible to help students acquire behaviors

    and skills to effectively navigate the demands of college life could improve academic

    success and persistence.

    Key Issue 3: Student Support Challenges

    Instructors indicate that within the first few weeks of a class, they can often predict which

    students will succeed and which will fail, but it is not clear that at-risk students, particularly

    those just transitioning from high school, understand early enough in a term to seek

    assistance that they are academically at risk. Although the College has developed some

    specialized programs to support academic success, it lacks a formalized early warning

    system that offers progress alerts and that directs any academically at-risk student to

    appropriate support. Currently the institution supports formal progress reporting that

    includes current grade average and performance indicators of attendance, assignment

    submission, and class preparation only for cohorts of students (those tracked by Academic

    Counseling, High School Dual Enrollment, International Student Services, My Brother’s

    Keeper, Student Athletics, and Student Support Services, for instance), but students who

    do not belong to a cohort are not provided the same level of institutional assistance as

    students who do.

    Furthermore, academic progress reports are sent from faculty to advisors associated with

    cohorts, not to students themselves. In fact, the institution does not require that students

    themselves receive formal reports of academic standing prior to course grade assignment.

    Instead, faculty are expected to provide timely assessments of students’ work, and students

    are expected to seek out the resources that the College makes available to assist them

  • Santa Fe College


    when they experience challenges. But anecdotal evidence raises questions about whether

    incoming college students know how to make effective use of academic performance

    feedback provided by individual instructors to be proactive in seeking assistance and

    whether feedback comes promptly enough to engage students in timely action. The 2010

    Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (CCFSSE) results revealed an

    interesting discrepancy between faculty and student perception. Whereas 92% of faculty

    indicated that their students “often” or “very often” received prompt feedback (written or

    oral) from instructors on their performance (Item 4o), only 56% of students agreed. The

    steering committee concluded that despite faculty efforts, performance feedback may not

    be communicated to students in a way that students perceive as helpful. Students may

    even have a misimpression about their academic standing in any given class because of a

    lack of uniformity in providing progress information to students.

    Institutional data suggest that the support Santa Fe College offers to cohorts of students

    associated with participating areas has positive results, despite shortcomings of the system

    for academic progress reporting. Students belonging to a tracked cohort benefit from

    intrusive advisement and ongoing attention of an assigned advisor. In the fall 2010, 5,397

    students were identified as belonging to a tracked cohort. Of the 40% of tracked cohort

    students who were not passing at the point an academic progress report (APR) was

    completed, 77% went on to receive a passing grade for the course. This result suggests

    that the kind of intervention done with selected cohorts of students could be applied to a

    broader population with similar positive results, but there is no formal procedure for a

    particular student who is not already part of a cohort to be identified as “at risk” by a faculty

    member and to receive intrusive advisement that can direct the student to appropriate

    support. Additionally, some faculty do not complete APR’s even for those students who are

    part of established cohorts because there is often a lack of feedback from the advisor to the

    faculty following up after academic progress reporting; therefore, faculty do not appreciate

    the value of reporting as it is not evident to them that anything is done with the provided

    information. Twenty-four percent (24%) of fall 2010 students who were part of established

    cohorts and did not receive an APR failed, which suggests that students who might have

    benefited from intervention did not receive it.

    The CCSSE report also identifies advisement as an under-utilized service at Santa Fe

    College. SF students attest to using academic advising and planning services less

    frequently than their counterparts at similar institutions, with 3.4% fewer students

    responding “sometimes” and “often” to item 13a1, “Indicate how often you use academic

    advising/planning services,” than at cohort institutions. In fact, almost 45% of non-

    developmental students reported using academic advising/planning services “rarely” or

    “never,” a rate five percentage points higher than at cohort institutions. Developmental

    students reported “rarely” or “never” using these services at a rate 5.4% higher (about 34%)

    than at cohort institutions. Given that surveyed SF students rate academic advising and

    planning services as “somewhat” or “very” important in higher percentages (4.4%) than at

    cohort institutions (item 13a3), the lack of use of those services is particularly jarring.

  • Santa Fe College


    So although 65.1% of all surveyed SF students rated academic advising and planning as

    “very” important and 29.5% as “somewhat” important to them, nearly 40% of students report

    “rarely/never” using academic advising and planning services. Only 11.2% of surveyed

    students indicated that a non-faculty academic advisor had been their “best source of

    academic advising” (custom survey item 8). Instead, larger percentages of students

    reported using faculty (33.1%) or “friends, family, or other students” (28.2%) as their best

    sources for academic advising, despite SF’s not having any formalized training of faculty or

    peer advisors. Yet the 2010 CCSSE report indicates that nearly 72% of all students

    responding said they “never” worked with instructors on activities other than coursework

    (item 4q). The August 2010 Enrollment Management Strike Force reported that 42% of

    part-time faculty spend zero hours advising students, and a significant percentage (76%) of

    all faculty report “sometimes / never” using services associated with academic advisement

    offices, with new faculty being especially unaware of advisement services (38% never use).

    The Strike Force concluded that “students with whom we get involved, succeed” but pointed

    to “systemic” weaknesses associated with advisement at the College.

    The steering committee found that advisement practices actually vary greatly across the

    institution, perhaps contributing to confusion or frustration that may lead to disuse of

    advising services. A review of the standards of performance for all the advising specialists

    (seventeen) and counseling specialists (nine) on campus revealed “pockets” of advisement

    in which the position scope and accountabilities of the advisor varied across campus and

    even within units. And while there was general consensus among advisors and counselors

    that “advisement is teaching,” there was no formal statement of the learning outcomes that

    students could expect to achieve by engaging in advising services at SF and no

    comprehensive program of on-going professional development offered to unify advisors, to

    foster opportunities for sustained collaboration between advising groups, and to share best


    Operationally, some departmental policies and practices likely contribute to problems noted

    above. For instance, because some offices such as A.A. Academic Advisement are areas

    devoted to the service of students on a walk-in basis, they have a policy of never closing

    the office; however, this policy does not allow for all-staff training and development.

    Additionally, because advisement offices typically do not make appointments, students

    cannot benefit from fully customized service and an ongoing relationship with a particular

    advisor. And unless participating as one of a tracked cohort of students, a student does not

    even have an assigned advisor, instead seeing the first available staff, a situation which

    also contributes to a lack of consistency in and personalization of advisement. The steering

    committee felt that these policies frame advisement as a single, service-oriented encounter,

    undermining the potential of advisement as a meaningful, sustained process of teaching

    and learning.

    An effective learning environment results from an institution’s active cultivation of student

    engagement by creating conditions that allow learning to flourish and encourage students

    as learners. Communicating effectively and intentionally arranging personalized

    interactions to both challenge and support students, an institution can promote academic

  • Santa Fe College


    achievement and learning, offer improved support, and increase students’ abilities to act as


    Ultimately, an institutional process for identifying key issues and consideration of

    appropriate actions led the steering committee to conclude that the College needed to focus

    its quality enhancement plan on strengthening student support systems to intentionally

    foster students' abilities to navigate the college experience and persist to reach academic

    goals. The focus of Navigating the College Experience is to enhance SF’s student

    learning environment to cultivate students’ educational persistence and academic

    perseverance by implementing an integrated system of intentional intervention and

    progressive advisement.

    QEP Focus: to enhance the learning environment

    to cultivate educational persistence and academic perseverance

    Problems with

    Persistence in Gateway


    Achievement Challenges

    Student Support


  • Santa Fe College



    Navigating the College Experience is a project designed to significantly improve the

    environment supporting student learning at SF. Improvements in student learning related to

    perseverance and increases in educational persistence will result from strategically altering

    the conditions and features of the educational setting by implementing an integrated system

    of intentional intervention and progressive advisement.

    A Plan Vital to Long-Term Improvement of the Student Learning Environment

    After review of promising practices, the committee developed a two-pronged strategy to

    enhance the learning environment: early, intrusive intervention coupled with developmental

    advisement delivered progressively. The first initiative calls for the creation of an early

    academic warning system to provide progress feedback for students in an easy-to-

    understand format and to employ early alerts to prompt students experiencing difficulty to

    act to resolve challenges by using helpful college resources. The second initiative calls for

    the implementation of a new academic advisement system strategically designed to elicit

    skills and behaviors that can assist students experiencing challenges in navigating the

    college experience.

    Discussion of literature about student development allowed the committee to focus on the

    trait of academic perseverance, being able to persist in the of face challenges, as crucial to

    students' persistence toward educational goals. The literature identified advising as an

    intervention that could assist with the development of key traits that seem to support

    persistence and perseverance but that may be lacking among incoming students: realistic

    self-assessment, informed decision-making, and proactive behavior. The committee

    agreed that the QEP’s efforts to enhance the student learning environment should focus on

    developing systems to support students’ acquisition of these skills and behaviors as well as

    students’ educational persistence.

    So that the initiatives could be adequately managed and supported, the committee focused

    implementation on targeted gateway courses, selecting the two entry-level college credit

    courses with highest enrollment, ENC 1101 and MAT 1033, and the two preparatory

    courses that precede them sequentially, ENC 0025 and MAT 0028. All of these courses

    have suffered from decreasing year-to-year retention rates from 2010 to 2011 (down 3% in

    ENC 1101, MAT 1033, and ENC 0025; down 5% in MAT 0028). (See Appendix E for

    additional data for the selected gateway courses.)

    To encourage the seeding of environmental change more broadly, the committee took care

    to select gateway courses associated with two central advising groups, Academic Advising

    (for AA-seeking students testing into no or only one college preparatory course) and

    College Prep Advising (for students testing into two or more college preparatory courses),

    as well as with faculty teaching within some of the largest programs on campus: English,

    Math, and Academic Foundations. Advisors and faculty from these areas will implement

    intentional intervention efforts through early alert and progressive advisement, initiatives

  • Santa Fe College


    with the potential to improve the learning environment campus-wide. Within five years,

    nearly 20,000 students annually will be part of Navigating the College Experience, and

    more than 60,000 will have been involved in the project. Even if the initiatives are ultimately

    deployed only in these areas, because attitudes and behaviors are often set by students’

    experiences in these foundational areas, enhanced student engagement will likely be felt

    across the college. And certainly the college as a whole will benefit from improved

    communications systems put into place to support NCE initiatives.

    Successful implementation of these initiatives will enable the College to communicate more

    efficiently and effectively to promote academic achievement; offer more personalized

    feedback and support to students; offer advisement and intervention interactions with

    students to elicit learning related to perseverance; and increase student engagement

    (demonstrated by such activities as students’ attending class, submitting assignments,

    participating in academic planning, and seeking assistance to overcome challenges).

    These specific environmental changes will be experienced most directly by students

    enrolling into designated classes, though the steering committee anticipates that

    environmental changes will likely be felt much more broadly, particularly over time.

    Students will be entered into the program (designated as “NCE students”) by enrolling into

    an NCE section (taught by designated “NCE faculty”) of a targeted gateway course (ENC

    0025, ENC 1101, MAT 0028, or MAT 1033). The number of NCE sections will expand over

    the five-year period until all sections of the targeted gateway courses are participating in

    2018. NCE students who receive an early alert for or earn course grades lower than a B in

    one of the NCE-associated courses and students testing into a single college preparatory

    class are eligible to participate in progressive advisement. (Students who test into two or

    more college preparatory classes will be part of another institutional cohort.) Counseling

    specialists and advising specialists for the A.A. and College Prep programs will be

    designated “NCE staff” and be trained to assist NCE students by providing intrusive and

    developmental advisement.

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    Goal and Associated Outcomes of Navigating the College Experience

    The College aims to achieve four specific, measurable outcomes associated with its goal to

    enhance the learning environment. These outcomes and associated targets are outlined in

    the following chart:

    Goal: Improve the learning environment to cultivate educational persistence and

    academic perseverance for students enrolled in targeted gateway courses and/or

    participating in progressive advisement


    Outcomes Assessment Measures Targets

    Increase efficiency and

    efficacy of


    supporting academic


    Student Progress Reports filed

    Student notifications delivered

    90% of students enrolled in NCE

    sections will receive regular

    feedback about progress towards

    academic goals

    Student notifications


    Academic records audit

    80% of NCE faculty and staff will

    provide clear and timely prompts for

    student action related to completion

    of assignments, classes, and

    academic programs

    Student notifications delivered

    70% of NCE faculty and staff will use

    institutionally approved stock


    Provide personalized

    support for students

    working toward

    academic goals

    Student Information System

    Student notifications delivered

    100% of NCE AA-seeking students

    will be assigned an advisor

    Access and return visits to an

    assigned advisor/counselor

    85% of NCE students will see their

    assigned or requested

    advisor/counselor upon return visits

    Documented professional

    development/training for faculty

    and staff

    85% of NCE faculty and staff will be

    trained in current effective

    interventions and support strategies

    Make student learning

    central to advisement


    Documented professional

    development/training for staff

    85% of NCE staff will be trained in

    current effective developmental

    advisement methods


    session exit surveys,

    assessments, and associated

    documents (action plans, etc.)

    75% of NCE students participating in

    an advisement session will

    demonstrate a documented change

    in knowledge, attitude, or behavior

    Improve student




    Custom Surveys

    Discrete items on CCSSE/ SENSE

    show closing gap campus-wide and

    with cohort institutions over 5 years



    Custom Surveys

    Participating NCE students will have

    higher levels of engagement than


  • Santa Fe College


    The efficacy of environmental change resulting from the implementation of NCE initiatives

    will be indicated in part by participating students’ increased educational persistence. Key

    institutional measures of educational persistence include retention rates (percentage of

    students re-enrolling in subsequent terms), comparative persistence rates (percentages of

    students earning the same course grade who re-enroll in subsequent terms), and program

    completion rates (the percentage of participants completing a planned course of study in

    three years). Course success rates (percentages of students completing a course with a

    grade that allows progression to a higher-level course) correlate with increased persistence.

    The four outcomes associated with educational persistence that we expect to result from

    the improvements to the environment for student learning are outlined in the following chart:

    Performance Indicator 1:

    Increased educational persistence in targeted gateway courses


    Outcomes Assessment Measures Targets

    Improved retention in

    targeted gateway


    Fall to fall retention rates for

    targeted gateway courses

    1% increase in fall to fall retention in

    each year of implementation for

    NCE courses

    Comparative retention rates for

    preparatory and college credit

    targeted gateway courses

    Decrease gap between retention

    rates of NCE preparatory and

    college credit courses by 1% fall to

    spring and by 1% fall to fall for each

    year of implementation

    Greater consistency in

    persistence among

    students earning C+ or

    lower in targeted

    gateway courses

    The interquartile range (IQR),

    the difference between the

    third and first quartiles, in fall to

    fall retention rates for targeted

    gateway courses

    Reduction of the IQR in targeted

    gateway courses by 2018

    by 10% for F_W grades

    by 8% for D+_D grades

    by 6% for C+_C grades

    Improved student

    success in targeted

    gateway courses

    Number of students

    successfully completing the

    course with a grade of C or


    3% increase in successful

    completions in NCE courses by


    Improved program

    completion rates for

    students participating

    in progressive


    Comparative program

    completion rates for

    participating and

    nonparticipating students

    1% increase in program completion

    rates for NCE students participating

    in progressive advisement

    compared to students who do not

    participate by 2018

    Another indicator of the efficacy of environmental change associated with the successful

    implementation of NCE initiatives will be improved student learning. Specific student

    learning outcomes have been associated with the various interactions that would occur

    between an advisor and a student participating in the progressive advisement process.

    (See Appendices G and H for documents outlining advisement interactions.) Student

    learning will be demonstrated as a measurable improvement in skills and behaviors likely

  • Santa Fe College


    associated with academic perseverance, including informed decision-making, realistic self-

    appraisal, and proactive behavior.

    Performance Indicator 2:

    Student learning for students participating in progressive advisement

    Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Measures Targets

    Participating students will

    make information-based

    academic decisions

    1.1 identify an academic goal

    1.2 select a program of study

    aligned with their academic


    1.3 develop a semester-by-

    semester academic plan

    appropriate to life situation

    and academic goal


    session exit surveys

    65% of participating NCE

    students will apply institutional

    and self- knowledge to make

    informed decisions regarding

    academic goals and course


    Indicators of academic

    planning activities for

    participating students

    Annual surveys of students

    Filed My Academic Plans


    85% of participating NCE

    students will have a MAP on

    file by the time they have

    accumulated 15 credit hours

    Participating students will

    appraise their academic

    performance realistically

    2.1 monitor academic

    performance during and at

    the close of a semester

    2.2 identify academic strengths

    and weaknesses

    2.3 revise their academic goal

    and/or plan when necessary

    Random sample student and

    staff assessments

    65% of participating NCE

    students will realistically self-

    assess their academic

    progress, areas of challenge,

    and areas of strength

    Filed Action Plans

    Annual surveys of students

    Use of advisement services

    for participating students

    85% of students selected for

    progressive advisement will

    meet with advisor in first

    semester of enrollment and

    thereafter consult with advisor

    as needed

    Participating students will

    identify and engage in

    activities that support

    learning and academic


    3.1 complete assigned class

    work and fulfill course


    3.2 complete academic support

    activities identified in an

    early alert

    3.3 develop an action plan to

    address identified academic

    weaknesses or challenges

    3.4 complete action plan

    activities and re-assess

    Comparative indicators:

    GPA, course grades, filed

    early alerts, program

    completion rates

    65% of participating NCE

    students will successfully

    complete assignments,

    classes, and academic


    Filed Action Plans resulting

    from Early Alert and

    Closed/completed Action


    65% of participating NCE

    students who receive an early

    alert will develop and execute

    an action plan

    Rates of use of institutionally

    provided support services

    Increased use of institutionally

    provided support services by

    NCE students

  • Santa Fe College


    The College has identified specific, measurable outcomes for Navigating the College

    Experience, a plan vital to the long-term improvement of SF’s student learning environment:

    increased efficiency and efficacy of internal and external communications supporting

    students’ academic achievement, the provision of personalized support for students

    working toward academic goals, refined advisement processes that intentionally foster

    student learning, and increased student engagement. The outcomes reflect how SF’s

    learning environment will be improved to cultivate students’ educational persistence and

    academic perseverance. The College has also identified measurable administrative and

    student learning outcomes to ensure that environmental changes have the intended

    effective of increasing educational persistence and advancing student learning associated

    with academic perseverance. Section VIII of this document details an assessment plan to

    measure outcome achievement.

    These identified outcomes are in line with College goals to provide learning opportunities

    and academic support to ensure the highest levels of academic performance (Goal:

    Educational Programs) and to provide a research-based, learner-centered program of

    services that supports access and student engagement from matriculation to goal

    attainment (Goal: Student Affairs).

  • Santa Fe College



    A learning environment, the conditions and features of an educational setting that influence

    student learning and development, is created through the wide range of actions and efforts

    of all institutional constituents, including the college leadership, faculty, staff, and students

    themselves. When efforts are “interrelated and integrated” in accord with the institutional

    mission and values, an effective learning environment can emerge (Upcraft, Gardener, &

    Barefoot, 2005, p. 121). Effective learning environments are both challenging to and

    supportive of learners, meeting five conditions identified by noted educator Ernest L. Boyer:

    They are purposeful communities. Educational pursuits are central, and faculty and

    students collaborate to strengthen teaching and learning. Divisions within

    institutions (business, academic, student affairs) are highly integrated and cohesive

    in their efforts to support students and learning.

    They are just communities. All individuals are treated fairly and valued, and all have

    equal opportunity to succeed.

    They are open communities. Civility and freedom of expression are embraced by

    all, promoting an atmosphere of tolerance and affirmation of all students, regardless

    of backgrounds and characteristics.

    They are disciplined communities. Individuals are responsible and accountable to

    the group and committed to the common good.

    They are caring communities. Personalized support and service to others guide

    actions. (Upcraft et al., 2005, p. 121-122)

    According to Vincent Tinto (2012), institutional environments shape student performance

    and behaviors by determining, in part, student expectations related to students’ roles as


    As a reflection of institutional action, student expectations are directly and indirectly

    shaped by a variety of factors, not the least of which are the expectations an

    institution establishes for its students, as represented, for instance, by the

    statements and actions of its administrations, faculty, and staff. Those statements

    and actions that most directly influence student retention have to do with the clarity

    of expectations and whether they are high or low. (p. 10)

    Citing Kuh (2007), Tinto (2012) reported, “Student perceptions of the level of effort

    expected of them by the institution are directly correlated with their level of effort and, in

    turn, with their success in college” (p. 13), adding the point that “[s]tating expectations, of

    course, is not the same as making them real through institutional behaviors” (p. 15). An

    environment that results from intentional collaborative action on the part of institutional

    constituents to “provid[e] students with a clear road-map and high expectations for their

    success . . . . not only will help its existing students to succeed but will attract many others

    who seek such environments” (Tinto, 2012, p. 23).

  • Santa Fe College


    A student’s development as a learner is predicated upon the institution’s “facilitation of the

    student’s mastery of the role of student,” and every interaction on campus can contribute to

    (or detract from) that fundamental learning outcome (Moxley, Najor-Durack, & Dumbrigue,

    2001, p. 95). The learning environment must provide an appropriate balance between

    challenge—being “provided with educational experiences that foster learning and personal

    development”—and support—being “provided with a campus climate that helps students

    learn and develop” (Upcraft et al., 2005, p. 11). Too little challenge and too much support

    can create students who are “bored, unmotivated, and disinterested in learning” as well as

    “apathetic and less focused on their learning and development” (Upcraft et al., 2005, p. 11).

    Tinto (2012) noted, “Too much challenge and/or too little concurrent support could prompt

    maladaptive coping strategies [from students] such as ignoring the challenge or escaping it

    by leaving college” (p. 24). An effective learning environment will thus engage students,

    fostering students’ high expectations of themselves, and will provide students with just the

    right level of concurrent support to ensure continued growth and learning.

    To enhance SF’s environment for learning, the steering committee worked to identify

    initiatives that would

    promote learning—particularly learning associated with affective behaviors and

    noncognitive attributes that correlate to student engagement, success and

    achievement—as central;

    engage students by deliberately fostering an atmosphere of challenge (high

    expectations) and support;

    allow for thoughtful, collaborative, cohesive action bridging organizational


    offer opportunities for all learners while also meeting individuals’ unique needs and


    foster responsibility and accountability among all constituents; and

    affirm individuals’ current abilities and experience while encouraging growth and

    ongoing achievement.

    In A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success

    (2012), the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCSSE) pointed to

    several initiatives that promise to strengthen the community college’s environment for

    learning, including mandatory orientation, academic goal setting and planning

    accomplished through regular advising sessions, and formalized early academic warning

    processes that alert struggling students to their academic difficulties and intervene to help

    students access support services. CCSSE cited research that links these practices to

    improved retention of at-risk students, student engagement, focus on goal-attainment, and

    long-term persistence, all concerns voiced during our institutional review.

    However, before deciding that an early academic warning system coupled with a formal

    program of ongoing proactive developmental advisement would best resolve key issues

    that had emerged in the institutional review, suit the institutional culture, and meet QEP

  • Santa Fe College


    requirements, the committee explored a variety of promising initiatives that could assist

    students in navigating the college experience, including a first-year experience program,

    career-focused academic programs, faculty mentors, peer coaches, supplemental

    instruction, a virtual academic success center, and a “one-stop” electronic portal. The

    committee’s literature review suggested that many of the considered initiatives support

    student success and persistence, but the committee felt that developing a strategic plan for

    advising and intervening with students early in their college experience and providing

    ongoing support as these students continued to navigate college would have the greatest

    impact on the campus environment, prompting both operational improvement and beneficial

    attitudinal changes among students, staff, and faculty. The committee also felt that the

    selected initiatives would provide much increased opportunity for the institution to enhance

    student acquisition of interpersonal, intrapersonal, and practical competencies that support

    educational achievement, and thus persistence (Kuh, 2006, p. 78).

    Definitions for the Early Alert Initiative

    Academic Progress Report


    An advisor-requested report of the academic standing of

    a student belonging to a cohort. Faculty report to

    support staff associated with cohorts. (Current practice.)

    Action Plan A student-authored strategy to overcome identified

    challenges, typically developed in consultation with an

    advisor, counselor, or faculty member.

    Early Alert (EA) A report filed by a faculty member as soon as a student

    shows signs of becoming at-risk academically. The

    report identifies resources and/or a course of action to

    resolve the challenge. Students and/or support staff

    receive the alert.

    Early Warning System The institutional processes of connecting students,

    faculty, and support staff to quickly and efficiently alert

    academically at-risk students to appropriate resources to

    resolve challenges.

    Student Progress Report


    An institutionally prompted report of students’ academic

    progress in a class, provided by faculty to students prior

    to the midpoint of the course.

  • Santa Fe College


    Early Academic Warning (Early Alert)

    Researchers note the value of early intervention and “sustained attention at key transition

    points” for students, pointing particularly to practices such as “intrusive advising, early

    warning systems, [and] redundant safety nets” as leading to increased persistence as long

    as the programs are “customized to meet the needs of students” and “interconnected” to

    work as intended (Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, & Kinzie, 2008, p.555, 556). A group of researchers

    focusing on community colleges observed,

    [T]he best programs make monitoring [of student performance] a shared

    responsibility for faculty and advising staff. . . . Current theories maintain that

    affective factors such as attitude, motivation, and self-efficacy contribute toward

    academic achievement as much as a student’s cognitive ability. Though faculty are

    in the best position to monitor cognitive progress, advisers may have additional

    insight regarding affective factors. This collaborative monitoring model provides for

    the development of comprehensive interventions.

    Commonly, such monitoring is manifested as an “early warning system” . . . .

    (Boroch, Hope, Smith, Gabriner, Mery, Johnstone, & Asera, 2010, p. 90)

    An effective alert system would thus support a “strong, integrated connection between

    classroom instruction and support service providers,” allowing for feedback between

    interested parties, and would prompt positive student action through referral to support

    services and then monitor whether students use those services (Boroch et al, 2010, p. 43).

    Such a “case management” approach is employed successfully at the Community College

    of Denver, where participating students meet with an assigned advisor regularly for

    academic planning and to “designate appropriate services as they progress” (Boroch et al,

    2010, p. 90.) Participating students withdraw from classes at significantly lower rates than

    the student population as a whole (7.8% vs. 12.4%, as reported in Boroch et al, 2010, p.


    Tinto (2012) observed that learning environments that are rich in assessment of and

    feedback about student performance prompt increased student involvement in educational

    activities and more effective student self-assessment, leading to improved strategies for

    learning. In fact, Tinto (2012) reported that the cognitive dissonance that occurs when

    feedback from the institution differs from a student’s perception of his or her performance

    can prompt “profound changes in behavior,” especially during the first year of college (p.

    54). A study of college students who received an academic early alert indicates that

    freshmen particularly view an early alert notification as a “’wake-up’ call for me to do

    something” (Eimers, 2000). More than a fifth of students responding to a survey indicated

    that they had thought they were doing fine in the course prior to receiving notification that

    their grade was a ‘C-‘ or below. Analysis suggests, however, that a single alert coming

    after the fifth week of the term is likely not as effective as “multiple progress reports

    throughout the semester” to prompt the kind of positive student action that results in

    improved academic performance (Eimers, 2000, p.12).

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    Tinto (2012) argued, “Early warning is especially important in courses considered

    foundational to student academic skills because failure in those courses tends to undermine

    success in the courses that follow” (p. 59). Keller (2011) similarly noted the value of early

    alert for new community college students, particularly:

    Predicting student success early in the semester, particularly for new students, is

    perhaps even more important for community colleges than other types of higher

    education institutions because of the diverse student body. Community colleges are

    more likely to enroll academically at-risk students yet rarely have data to identify

    these students. Without effective methods to identify concerns and intervene within

    the first few weeks of a student’s first semester, the chances of a student

    successfully completing the semester are greatly diminished. (p. 24)

    A report published by the Pell Institute in 2004 identified such intentional, intrusive

    advisement practices as common to institutions with high rates of student retention and

    graduation, noting that such practices contribute to “a personalized educational experience”

    (Muraskin & Lee, 2004, p. 35). But it should be noted that while “the advising systems [at

    these schools] become particularly active” when students have academic difficulties, these

    institutions also require that students become active, asking them to develop and follow

    through on “action plans” to address challenges, to reflect on their performance and explain

    how they will improve before they register for a new term, and/or to meet regularly with

    advisors and faculty for directive assistance (Muraskin & Lee, 2004, p. 36). In prompting

    students to be accountable for their actions and to be proactive in resolving issues that

    impede academic success, these institutions empower students to be responsible and

    engaged. The Center for Community College Student Engagement stated that “in design

    and implementation of the collegiate experience, colleges must make engagement

    inescapable for their students” (2012, p. 5).

    Judith Scott-Clayton (2011), an assistant professor of economics and education at

    Teachers College, Columbia University, indicated that evidence suggests student advising

    “improves student outcomes” (p. 16) but pointed out at community colleges, “the level of

    assistance that can be provided by advisors and counselors is limited by extraordinarily

    high caseloads, which average one advisor/counselor for every 800 to 1200 students” (p.7).

    She continued that “traditional methods of student advisement could be fruitfully augmented

    (potentially at relatively low per-student cost) with improved technology in at least five

    areas: career/educational exploration, establishing and tracking student goals, course

    planning and recommendations, tracking progress toward meeting requirements, and

    providing early warnings when students fall off track” (pg. 17).

    Sinclair Community College in Ohio has developed a notably effective early warning system

    aided by award-winning technology. Its “Early Alert classroom assistance program” teams

    faculty, counselors, and advisors to identify and track at-risk students, intervening to prompt

    positive student action. The case-management Student Success Plan (SSP) software

    allows Sinclair to improve communications between faculty, staff, and students to help

    students complete their college careers with success. Using this technology-supported

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    intervention system for at-risk students, Sinclair identifies, supports, and monitors students

    who are at the greatest risk of failing, offering them holistic coaching, student services,

    academic alerts, and interventions. The system formalizes a “student action plan” as part

    of a desirable student response to an identified challenge while it makes identifying various

    helpful resources easy and accessible to all through an online tool (see

    https://resources.sinclair.edu/MyGPS/search.html). Sinclair has reported dramatic results

    for participating students:

    higher first term success rates (97% compared to 59% for students invited to

    participate but who did not, and compared to 79% for students not designated at


    more likely to return the subsequent term (a 37% higher rate of retention than that of

    students invited to participate but who did not, and a 26% higher rate of retention

    than that of students not designated at risk);

    more likely to return the following year (a 27% higher rate of retention than that of

    students invited to participate but who did not, and a 12% higher rate of retention

    than that of students not designated at risk);

    more likely to graduate (five times more likely to graduate within 6 years, 2005-

    2011, than peers). (Little, 2011, 2012)

    Retention software such as SSP is also available commercially through companies like

    Starfish and GradesFirst, both of which were invited to demonstrate their products on the

    Santa Fe College campus after a QEP work team’s evaluation of current retention software.

    Positive impacts in student success, persistence, and learning claimed to be afforded by

    such products must be understood as stemming not just from the application of

    technology—which, as Scott-Clayton (2011) pointed out, is a necessary tool to help

    manage advising workloads—but perhaps even more from the institutional systems,

    policies, and personnel in place to support quality advisement and support. A retention

    system founded on early identification of students in need of assistance coupled with early,

    intensive, and continuous intervention to improve students’ learning and progress depends

    upon people, not just technology. One researcher claimed that “early identification, proper

    diagnosis of the problems (both academic and social), and prescription of an

    intervention(s), over a period of time, with periodic check-ups, is the key to the successful

    student/college retention program” (Seidman, 2012, p. 277), not the software itself.

    Boroch et al. (2010) pointed to studies showing links between the kind of intrusive advising

    offered by colleges like Sinclair Community College and improvements in retention and

    credit hour completion rates, grade point averages, time to graduation rates, regularity of

    class attendance, and study skills (p. 42). Researchers Bourdon and Carducci (2002)

    similarly concluded that community college early alert programs “have a positive effect on

    students’ course completion and re-enrollment rates” (p. 19), noting

    Compared to students who were not involved in such a program, students involved

    in an early alert program:


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    Are more likely to successfully complete the course in which they were having

    academic difficulty

    Maintain higher rates of continuous enrollment by the end of the academic year

    Have higher persistence rates for two or more consecutive semesters

    Exhibit higher persistence rates four years later (including transfer students). (p.


    Research suggests the efficacy of a technology-assisted early academic warning system to

    provide students with early feedback about academic progress and identify potential deficits

    or problem behaviors to assist students in their academic efforts. Faculty communication