A Learning Center student usage report was established by the Office of Strategy, Planning and Accountability here at MCTC to understand the way the Learning Center was affecting students’ grades.
All of the popularly used courses at the Learning Center were analyzed to try to engage the efficacy of our tutorials. Some of these courses are the following:
- College English 1
- Organic Chemistry
- Intro to Chemistry
- College English 2
- Math 0070
- English 0900
- Nursing 1000
- Math 0080
- Phil 2110
- College Algebra
- ESOL 0051
- BIOL 2200
By clumping users’ (Learning Center participants) grades together, and by clumping non-users’ (Learning Center non-participants) grades together, analysis was made for comparison and the distribution of grades were represented by bar graphs. A general statement can be made that the Learning Center participants received higher grades than Learning Center non-users. This trend is not fool-proof though. In Chemistry we see that non-users were more likely to earn an A in the course. And the proportion of people failing this course was equal among non-users and users.
The issues surrounding students’ ability to perform well in a course are severely complex. We would do students and staff an injustice by assuming that they can be understood easily. We would do them an even greater disservice by telling them that the goal to understand their ability to learn was impossible. I do believe simple answers can be afforded worth, i.e. “if you work hard, you can earn good grades.” This is somewhat true, but there are cases when students put forth their greatest efforts and they do not see A’s on the page.
It is a general statement to say that students that come to the Learning Center are willing to put in the time to do well in their courses. This statement contains some truth, but there are also students outside of the Learning Center who put in even greater amounts of energy and time into their studies. There are student’s that come to the Learning Center that do not wish to work hard, but merely want a quick fix. Again, there are students that do not work hard and still earn A grades.
The complexities of issues that affect our ability to earn grades are evident in the varying results of the Learning Center Student Usage Report.
As tutors, it is our job to meet students where they are at. We have the privilege of walking alongside their academic ambivalence, and we have the greater privilege of calling them into scholastic fervor. I am one who does not have the fire of scholarship within me, so what can I do to encourage and serve students in the Learning Center?
If there are others who join with me in this dilemma, let us not be discouraged at our reluctance to be gung-ho about our various academic pursuits. Let us be gung-ho for what the students are gung-ho about! And let us also not be scared to share the reasons why we continue to pursue hard-work and excellence in academics. Perhaps our need to provide for our families spurs us toward a good work ethic. Or perhaps our dreams of being a/an __________ someday beckons us onward.
It is clear that what we are doing in the Learning Center is working. Users’ grades are markedly higher then non-users grades in the Learning Center’s popular courses. What remains unclear and yet to be discovered completely is how and why the Learning Center is working. Above I submit my understanding of mutual encouragement and companionship and their ability to further our fervor in academic pursuits. There are undoubtedly other ways that the Learning Center serves students as well. Through research, these hidden things can be fleshed out and understood by students and staff alike to help further our future pursuits.
If we can provide a longitudinal summary of student’s progress of their time at MCTC we could further draw correlations between coursework load, and/or student development over time. If we can take a further look at the best practices of successful non-users and compare them to users, we could possibly create a hybrid approach to serve the academic middle (the students that neither excel, nor desire to attain services from the Learning Center). A way to continue to grow using the already given research is to inquire. Why do non-users fail? Why do students drop out? Why do students succeed? Etc. There need not be a limit to the specificity of the questions to best serve tutors and students in providing specific services. If a comprehensive list of questions could be generated, then these could be inquired of students upon completion of an academic semester. With systematic answers we would continue to flesh-out strengths and weaknesses for academic progression at Minneapolis Community and Technical College
–Jared, MCTC Writing Tutor
Cressman, Leigh. Fall 2014 Learning Center Student Usage Report. Rep. Minneapolis: Office of Strategy, Planning and Accountability – Minneapolis Community & Technical College, 2015. Print.