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Wednesday, June 22 • 11:15 - 12:15
CON01.16c - Why cut a program that works? Undergraduate Teaching Assistants, Large Lecture Retention, Institutional Policy & Culture

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This case study analyzes quantitative and qualitative data from the Large Lecture Retention Enhancement Initiative at Northern Michigan University which integrated paid and trained undergraduate teaching assistants (TAs) into large enrollment courses with traditionally high failure rates for a three year pilot study from 2012-2015. The goal of the program was to increase the overall university retention rate by promoting student academic success via incorporating 12-18 TAs per semester to assist faculty in implementing active learning strategies to and assist students with course specific content and study skills outside of class. Measures used to gauge the success of the three year pilot program include 4,000+ participating student grades, third semester retention rates of the participating courses, third semester retention rates of the overall university, teaching assistant documentation of meetings with students outside of class, and nearly 2,000 anonymous student surveys measuring student perceptions of the teaching assistants in their large lecture courses. Additionally, costs to administer the program also factor into this analysis. The findings indicate that according to most measures the program increased both student academic success and third semester retention. The program probably paid for itself based on the retained students who paid tuition for another semester. The students valued the program and the teaching assistants obtained valuable professional development experiences. Even so, due to institutional policies and a culture that does not value retention in the face of rapidly declining enrollment, the program was eliminated. The findings in this study may serve as a model for analysis of other institutions’ TA programs as well as provide examples of best practices that could be easily replicated. This author will also present concluding arguments about how policy and culture shape retention programs so others may identify potential strengths and/or weaknesses within their own institutions if attempting a similar program.


Kathryn Johnson

Kathryn Johnson teaches History at Northern Michigan University and Ashford University Online. She is also pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership with focusing on higher education retention and adult online learning.

Wednesday June 22, 2016 11:15 - 12:15 EDT
Weldon Library 121 (Teaching Support Centre) Western University