DFW Rates and You: Rethinking Support for At-Risk Students

Tablet with data
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In a recent interview with Academic Impressions, Bernadette Jungblut, West Virginia University’s director of assessment and retention, noted with some dismay that too frequently institutions have used data on individual courses’ D/fail/withdraw rates primarily as a means of performance evaluation for faculty, rather than partnering with faculty in taking a closer look at the DFW rates for clues to identify specific challenges students are having.

Jungblut suggests that historical and current DFW is a particularly effective indicator that can be used to inform proactive rather than punitive action. Indeed, many institutions have begun identifying students taking courses with high DFW rates as "at risk." On one level, this is a useful move -- if it prompts both faculty and those charged with student retention to monitor real-time, operational data on students in those courses closely.

But this is only a preliminary move, taking a "broad brush stroke" approach to tracking the students taking these courses. With a limited amount of digging into student data, it’s possible to take a much more sophisticated and effective approach to identifying and supporting at-risk students in high-DFW courses.

Jungblut offers these ideas.

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