Transformative Learning Program Pilot Project Addresses Retention, Graduation Rate Goals
Kent State University is in the process of implementing a new Transformative Learning Program as part of the initiative to increase student retention and meet goals for student learning, increase graduation rates and accommodate more students without adding resources.
The goals of this program are to enhance student success in large-enrollment introductory courses, adopt new ways to improve student learning outcomes and demonstrate those improvements through rigorous assessment.
According to the National Center for Academic Transformation, high failure rates in freshman courses indicate a problem exists that is costly to both students and institutions. Results from the National Survey on Student Engagement suggest that student engagement is positively correlated with persistence during the first and second years of college.
Some professors have already started to implement new teaching strategies as part of the transformative learning project. Dr. Jon Secaur, physics, says, "For the transformative learning program to be successful, it is essential to have professors and teachers who really care about their students."
Secaur says the quality of student work is related to the work assigned to them. Typically, in freshman-level courses, there isn't much major project work to do, and students are simply required to take exams. As part of the transformative learning project, Secaur changed the "Seven Ideas That Shook the Universe" course to include fewer assignments, but offered more choices for class projects. Student surveys showed that 97 percent of the students who completed courses that used this approach appreciated having choices for the type of projects they had to complete.
"When the expectations are clearer to students, it seems like students respond better because they feel engaged and believe the assignments are more worth doing," Secaur says.
As part of the transformative learning program, Dr. David Kaplan, geography, is working to develop student-teaching modules. This plan will give junior- and senior-level students an opportunity to teach freshman geography courses and lead discussion groups to follow up lecture classes throughout the week.
"This program will offer students a chance to engage in peer-to-peer interaction and create more opportunities to get involved," Kaplan says. "By creating a more active learning experience in the classroom, students could eventually build a better relationship with the university and with each other."
Kaplan hopes this new approach to teaching these courses will help cultivate better retention of freshman-level students and improve those students' performance in classes.
Proponents of this program agree that, after implementation, students should gain the ability to think critically, expand their intellectual horizons and attain the knowledge, skills and motivation for continued learning and engaged citizenship.
This program is designed to help faculty redesign courses that will engage students, enhance learning outcomes and provide an overall improvement in students' academic experience. This initiative is consistent with the National Center for Academic Transformation project, which has proven it is possible to improve quality and reduce costs in higher education through this type of course redesign.
For more information on the project at Kent State, contact Dr. Stephane Booth at 330-672-2220 or email@example.com.
More information on the National Center for Academic Transformation Web is available on their Web site.
By Amanda Kozma