Identifying and Reaching
Unprepared Students:
Strategies for Creating Success
in the College Classroom
Debra Dunlap Runshe
Goals for this session:
By the end of this session, participants will be able to:
 recognize characteristics and/or behaviors of
unprepared students.
 describe best practices to engage learners.
 identify techniques that can be incorporated into
their classes that will lead to student success.
Myth or Reality?? Unprepared?
“The number of academically unprepared and at-risk
student enrolling in colleges and universities is
Gabriel (2008)
True or False
 ACT testing results showed that 49% of high school
graduates do not have the reading skills needed for
college success.
 At 4-year colleges, 25% of first-time students require at
least 1 year of remedial courses.
 Once admitted to college, 75 % of the students who
have to take at least one remedial class will not go on
to obtain a degree or certificate within 8 years of
Adelman, (2004); Horn & Berger, (2004);
Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, (2005)
Unprepared and/or At-Risk
Students: Characteristics
and/or Behaviors
Identifying Guidelines
 Low SAT or ACT scores
 High School GPA below 3.0
 Might have ADHD or LD*
 Special Admit
Identifying Activities
 Reading and Vocabulary Quiz
 Writing Sample
Gabriel (2008)
Four major reasons for
academic difficulty:
 poor management of time
 continue to organize and study the same way as they
did in high school
 selection of courses
 they studied alone …
Light (2001)
Study Skills
Many students have never been exposed to …
different ways to approach studying or even to the
idea that there are different ways to study … We can
help students learn about different strategies and
when to use them. (p. 124)
Svinicki, (2004)
What should my students know?
What should they be able to do?
What type of activities can
help students achieve the
learning outcomes?
How will I know that they
have achieved the outcomes?
Learning Outcomes:
are provided at the course level.
are provided at the individual module or unit level.
are clearly stated.
are measurable.
are written from learner’s point of view.
are appropriate for the target audience.
are appropriate for desired skill level.
require that students spend a portion of the course
engaging in higher levels of learning, such as analysis,
synthesis, and evaluation.
Learning Activities:
 are aligned with the stated course outcomes.
 include thorough instructions, including a description of
the activity and, if applicable, expectations of any
student-generated materials, due dates, and a grading
 are appropriate for the target audience.
 are engaging, active and use a variety of instructional
methods to accommodate diverse learning preferences.
 provide opportunities to apply course content to
authentic activities.
 are designed to offer students opportunity for choice.
Seven Principles for Good
Encourages student-faculty contact
Develops reciprocity and cooperation among
Uses active learning techniques
Gives prompt feedback
Emphasizes time on task
Communicates high expectations
Respects diverse talents and ways of learning
Chickering & Gamson (1987)
Principle 1: Encourages
Student-Faculty Contact
 encourage classroom interaction
 establish rapport with students
 provide personalized feedback
 increase accessibility
 express interest in students
 participate in co-curricular activities
The First Week of Class
Begin with a detailed and explicit syllabus.
Learn your students’ names. Strategies to accomplish this:
 name plates
 office hours “interviews”
Gabriel (2008)
Building Community
Find someone who___???
Ukens (1997)
Principle 1: Student-Faculty
Online Connection
Communication tools (email, discussion, chat, and web
conferencing) can increase and strengthen student-faculty
contact by:
 fostering more thoughtful responses.
 encouraging shy students to participate.
 providing more communication opportunities for
commuter and part-time students.
 offering more time to read and formulate responses
for ESOL students.
Chickering & Erhmann (1996)
Principle 2: Cooperation
Among Students
 plan cooperative learning activities
• group projects, presentations, or papers
• study groups
• peer tutoring
• peer evaluation
 foster collaborative rather than competitive or
independent environments
Cooperative Learning Essential Ingredients
positive interdependence
individual accountability and personal responsibility
social skills
group processing
Johnson & Johnson (1994)
Cooperative Learning Applications
learning new content
peer review
checking homework
test preparation and review
presentations and projects
labs and experiments
drill and review
Johnson & Johnson (1994)
Cooperative Learning Strategies
 match group size to activity
• informal activity (2-4 students)
• formal activity (4-6 students)
 set intermittent deadlines and offer continual
 include self and peer assessment
 assign differentiated group or individual grades
 maintain the groups for the duration of the semester
 avoid forming groups which have only one woman
or one minority
Johnson & Johnson (1994); Millis & Cottrell (1998)
Cooperative Learning Group Selection
 Long-term group selection criteria:
• academic ability
• class/work schedule
• interest/skill level
• learning style
 Short-term group selection criteria:
• values or opinions
• convenience
• random
Millis & Cottrell (1998)
Cooperative Learning Group Selection
Methods for selecting group members:
 student data sheet
 interest/knowledge/skills checklist
 learning style inventories
 structured lineup process
 corners
 three-step interview
 playing cards
Millis & Cottrell (1998)
Principle 2: Cooperation
Online Connection
Communication tools (email, discussion, chat, and
web conferencing) can be used for:
 study groups
 collaborative learning activities
 group problem-solving
 group discussion
Chickering & Erhmann (1996)
Principle 3: Active Learning
 Interactive lectures
 Discussions and debates
 Student presentations
 Collaborative writing exercises
 Problem-based learning activities
 Case studies
 Role playing
 Simulations and games
Active Learning Defined
In the college classroom, active learning involves
students doing things and thinking about the things
they do.
Chuck Bonwell
Why Active Learning?
Research suggests active learning strategies:
 more frequently engage students.
 lead to increased student achievement.
 enhance students’ metacognitive skills.
Retention of Information
After 24 hours, what percent of information is retained
by students in a lecture environment?
a. 5%
b. 10%
c. 20%
d. 40%
e. 50%
Sousa (2001)
Retention After 24 Hours
Practice by Doing
Teaching Others
Teaching Method
Sousa (2001)
The Active Learning
Short, low-risk
Longer duration, higher-risk
(Bonwell & Sutherland, 1996)
Principle 3: Active Learning
Online Connection
Types of technology tools which encourage active
 learning by doing (simulations, interactive
software, web research)
 time-delayed exchange (email & discussion)
 real-time conversation (chat & web conferencing)
Chickering & Erhmann (1996)
Principle 4: Prompt Feedback
 provide feedback that is:
• timely
• directive
• specific
• appropriate
 use peer review when appropriate
Principle 4: Prompt Feedback
Online Connection
Examples of technology tools which facilitate
prompt feedback:
 communication tools
 automated assessment
 Word Comments
 electronic portfolios
Chickering & Erhmann (1996)
Principle 5. Time on Task
 engage learners
 develop goals
 use class time wisely
 provide study suggestions
 post module/weekly checklists
 communicate clear expectations
 break down learning into small portions
 encourage students to develop time management
The Science of Learning
Teach for long term retention and transfer:
 practice and retrieval
 vary the conditions
 “re-represent” information in an alternative
 construct knowledge based upon prior knowledge
and experience
 chunk information
 motivation
Halpern & Hakel (2003)
Principle 5. Time on Task
Online Connection
Technology tools can:
 make study time more efficient
 make access to resources more efficient
 increase study time
Chickering & Erhmann (1996)
Principle 6: High Expectations
 foster supportive climate
 provide clear expectations of performance
 offer alternative assignments to meet individual
students’ needs and interests
 provide models of outstanding student work
 hold yourself to the same standard of excellence
 offer intermediate feedback
 tolerate mistakes
 celebrate success
Principle 6: High Expectations
Online Connection
Technology tools can communicate high
expectations by:
 stating expectations explicitly and efficiently
 posting samples of work representing different levels
of quality
 automating peer review
 posting detailed rubrics
 publishing exemplary student work
Chickering & Erhmann (1996)
Principle 7: Diverse Talents
 accommodate diversity
 teach to different learning preferences
Felder-Silverman Model
Students learn about their learning preferences and
strategies that will assist them in being successful. Their
preferences fall on a continuum between:
 active or reflective,
 sensing or intuitive,
 visual or verbal, and
 sequential or global.
Principle 7: Diverse Talents
Online Connection
Technology tools can meet different learning
styles by:
 providing a variety of learning experiences
 allowing students to work at their own pace
 providing varying levels of structure
Chickering & Erhmann (1996)
Adelman, C. (2004). Principal indicators of student academic histories in
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San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.
Debra Dunlap Runshe
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Center for Teaching and Learning
755 West Michigan Street, UL 1125
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Phone: 317-278-0589