The end of last semester brought all of our changes to the curriculum and professional development into focus when the first group of business students finished the primary core. The numbers aren’t final just yet ( I will post them in my next blog), but roughly half the students who sought admission into one of our technical majors achieved their goal. As you can imagine, this led to a lot of hard conversations in the last few weeks.
The goals of our new approach are to get students into majors where they can thrive earlier, graduate them with fewer excess hours and have them leave with a full-time job offer in hand. Also because education is a collective experience, having people in the right majors improves both the rigor and quality of what goes on in the classroom. The outcomes are the most important: people leave better prepared.; program quality goes up; and graduates are more confident that they are on a path to success.
Not surprisingly, many of the students who failed to achieve their initial goal were upset. Several seemed convinced that we would have no choice but to modify our approach because in their eyes, too few students got into their major of choice. The reality is that our approach is based on the performance histories of tens of thousands of students who have come through the college over the last decade— the percent of students succeed in certain courses, how performance in those courses impact performance in later courses and how this all leads to post graduation success. We only have one semester of experience with this system, but so far it is producing the results we expected.
Other students wanted to argue that they were misadvised, that the grading scale in a class was unfair or that someone else had a special advantage. External attribution is a common response when faced with disappointment, but it’s hardly ever true. We provide everyone the same opportunity. The office staff keep detailed notes on advising visits, grading scales are the same for everyone in the same class and course prerequisites ensure everyone started from the same point. No system is perfect, but there isn’t a way to be misadvised or disadvantaged in the primary core. Everyone has the same shot in the same courses as they move through the system.
The toughest conversations involved students who just wanted the chance to bet on themselves and repeat the experience again. The system does allow for a one class repeat, but for those finding themselves in a deeper hole, past experience tells us the chances for success are remote and that the student’s interests are best served by meeting with a career coach and charting a new academic future. The key is to get it done early and not fall victim to the fallacy of sunk costs. Recognizing that things change and that you need to adapt is one of the best skills you can develop. The change you are going through now will not be your last and at least you have a guide to help you think it through. More successful days lie ahead
To all those in the College who had those hard conversations with students, especially the OPD staff who took the brunt of student disappointment, thank you. The fact that they were hard meant they were important. The fact that you were willing to have them, showed you cared. Some will thank you later. Others never will. But I’m firmly convinced we are on the right track and that you are all a key part to our rising success.