This just in from Dr. Ben Withers, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education:
Writing for Inside Higher Education, Charlie Tyson calls attention to the “Murky Middle,” students whose first year performance places them neither in the likely-to-be successful category (GPAs above 3.0) or in the immediate danger zone (GPAs below 2). Tyson cites Ed Vinit, a researcher at the Education Advisory Board (EAB), who argues that academic interventions — “nudges” or “triage” — for students in the “murky middle” can lead to improved academic performance and retention gains.
Small academic improvements correlate with greatly heightened chances of graduation. Thus the ‘murky middle’ offers colleges a powerful “return on investment”…Just a small nudge–one-on-one tutoring, time management counseling–could keep a student on track to graduate.
Read more here.
Venit’s research suggests targeting sophomore students. Here at UK we have used a similar approach for freshmen following the first semester. Last February, Bethany Miller (Office of Retention and Student Success) and Craig Ruddick (UK Analytics) developed a predictive model-based intervention program targeting at-risk students. This program identified 300 UK students who were mid-range students and whose academic performance in the fall semester indicated that they were 50% likely to leave UK. That is, without any intervention, we expected 150 of those 300 not to return to UK for Fall 2014. The list of students identified were shared with advisors in each college where they were invited to come in for targeted conferences; this fall, over 200 of “The 300” returned, for a retention rate of over 60%.
We are expanding this program to over 600 incoming freshmen in the Fall 2014 cohort. Given the EAB research, we should look at tracking students through their sophomore and junior years in a similar fashion.
Benjamin C. Withers, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education
University of Kentucky