Seeking Early Warning of Students Potentially At Risk of Difficulty

In my blog entry of March 18, 2013, I noted that each semester I include a survey question on my mid-term exam. The purpose of the question is to gain insight into student initiative and effort.

In that blog entry, I provided data from my spring 2013 mid-term. I concluded that the survey question appeared to provide a potentially good proxy for student effort. Moreover, the consistency of the outcomes across classes indicated that the approach could be used to identify and target students at the beginning of the semester, rather than after the mid-term. Afterward, I hypothesized that if that approach works, one could expect to see an increase in overall realized student learning potential at the end of each semester.

Based on this information, I added a survey question to my diagnostic exam that was administered on the first day of class. The purpose of doing so was to test the idea as to whether one can advance the timing of possible early warning for at-risk students. If, in fact, the findings prove consistent with what the mid-term data had shown, I will repeat the exercise during the spring and then target the identified students for early intervention to test the hypothesis about improving overall student learning outcomes.

During the current semester, I have 33 students enrolled in my BBA 407 Strategic Management course. On the first day, 27 attended class. On the diagnostic exam, 7 students failed to answer the survey question. Their mean score was 0.63 standard deviations below the mean score of those who answered the survey question. That is consistent with past data from the mid-term exams. Students failing to answer the mid-term survey question had mean scores ranging from 0.6 to 0.8 standard deviations below that of students who responded to the survey question.

So far, it appears that the findings are holding up, even as the survey question has been moved to the diagnostic exam. However, it is still premature to draw firm conclusions. Therefore, I will look for corroborating data before I attempt to intervene. Over the next few weeks, I will monitor the attendance, in-class participation, and mid-term scores for the pool of students who failed to answer the survey question. If those outcomes confirm that these students are, in fact, at risk, I will intervene to try to maximize their prospects of success.

Afterward, during the spring, students identified on the diagnostic exam as being potentially at risk would be targeted for intervention following the scoring of the diagnostic exam. At that point, it will be possible to test the hypothesis as to whether the early intervention at the beginning of the semester improved overall student learning outcomes.





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