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Early Feedback Is Crucial: How to Refer Students Quickly and Easily

Mon Sep 12, 2022 at 07:30 AM

Early alert systems offer a systematic approach to identifying and following up with students at risk for success in college courses, ultimately increasing student retention. Oakland University uses an early alert system called “Faculty Feedback” in all 1000-2000 level courses. This system consists of two elements, 1) a system for faculty to report students who exhibit behaviors that may put them at risk for success, and 2) an outreach email referring students to student support services or other interventions. In a recent study, I along with other Oakland University researchers found that students who receive Faculty Feedback earlier in the semester (1-3 weeks) complete their courses with higher final grades than those receiving the feedback later in the semester, suggesting that communication timing is critical.

However, a barrier to faculty’s use of early Faculty Feedback is in the perceived effort in identifying students to refer. Many faculty opt to use the first exam grade, which means Faculty Feedback is commonly used after 4 weeks of class, too late to be of most benefit to the student. Simple and early strategies to capture students with frequent absences, failing grades on assignments, and lack of participation can help faculty easily use Faculty Feedback to best help students succeed.

How to Refer Students Quickly and Easily

  • Record attendance. Have students self-record in Moodle or use the last access to Moodle. 
  • Give a short quiz on introductory material prior to the last day to drop.
  • Track class attendance and participation using audience response systems, like iClickers or phone apps like Mentimeter.
  • Complete Faculty Feedback within the first three weeks of the semester.
  • Know and normalize use of Academic Support Services. Discuss student support services throughout the semester. See the Academic Success Support statement offered in our recommended OU syllabus template, and reiterate early in the semester.

The beginning of the semester is most busy for faculty, and is when students require the most support. Early use of these strategies to identify students most at risk for success requires a small amount of time and effort from faculty, but has the potential to make a large impact on student success.

References and Resources 

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About the Author

Sarah Hosch is the Faculty Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and a Special Instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Oakland University. She teaches all levels of biology coursework and her interests include evidence-based teaching practices to improve student learning gains and reduce equity gaps in gateway course success. Sarah loves exploring nature, cooking, and exercising.

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