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Access at Crossroads: Learning Assistance in Higher Ed., D. Arendale   Click this web link to learn about my recent book

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     Access at the Crossroads Blog

    These blog entires identify best practices to increase success for historically-underrepresented college students including excerpts from my book, Access at the CrossroadsClick here to subscribe to this blog.


    Study Links Responsive Teaching to Academic Gains

    <Click on this link for the original article from EdWeek online.>

    A  social-emotional teaching approach that focuses on improving teacher effectiveness leads to student achievement gains, according to a study released today. The research-based Responsive Classroom approach emphasizes fostering student autonomy and developing the foundational social and emotional skills that they'll need as they continue into higher learning. It does so by raising teachers' abilities to promote academic engagement, create a positive community, and effectively manage the classroom.

    The random-assignment study, conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia and published in the March 2014 American Educational Research Journal, followed 2,094 students and 350 teachers in 24 Virginia schools for three years, from 3rd to 5th grades. Compared with students in the control classrooms, students whose teachers fully implemented the Responsive Classroom program saw significant gains on their reading and math tests, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. The association with achievement was especially strong for students who were initially low achievers.

    It also positively impacted the classroom environment as a whole, which led to improved classroom organization and emotional support for students and, in mathematics, the Responsive Classroom approach led to increased depth and higher level discussions of the materials.  A key detail of this approach is its holistic approach. The Responsive Classroom provides teachers with practices for teaching their students social and emotional skills such as cooperation, assertiveness, and empathy—traits that lend themselves to higher-level learning—in conjunction with their academic lessons.

    Principal support was found to be important to teachers' full use of the approach. Teachers were more likely to use the approach if their principals were encouraging and if they received coaching while implementing their new practices.  The Responsive Classroom approach was developed by the Northeast Foundation for Children, an educational nonprofit that looks to bring together academic and social learning.  This study builds upon the researchers' earlier results, presented in 2012 and reported on by Education Week here, which also indicated student gains in statewide mathematics and reading assessments. 


    Tools to Help with Program Evaluation

    Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific at McREL has recently released a set of tools for educators to use in designing and evaluating programs. These tools help educators frame discussions around using data, create logic models, and measure outcomes of programs.

    Education Logic Model Tool: Logic models are an invaluable tool for education program planning, collaboration, and monitoring. They visually represent a program’s structure, process, and goals and help practitioners and evaluators better understand a program’s mechanics and structure and chart a course toward improved policy and practice. The Education Logic Model Tool guides you through a series of questions and providing opportunities to enter your program resources, activities, outputs, and outcomes. The end result is a printable logic model that functions as a map for you and your team, visually connecting your intended activities with your intended outcomes.  For more information, please see the IES guides Logic Models: A Tool for Designing and Monitoring Program Evaluations and stay tuned for more information about a forthcoming guide, Logic Models: A Tool for Effective Program Planning.

    Program Outcomes, Measures, and Targets Tool: Track your progress toward meeting program goals with this tool. It guides users through the process of naming indicators, measures, and targets for your program’s short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes. This information is then displayed in a color-coded interactive dashboard to illustrate progress that’s on-track, behind, or exceeding the specified target.
    Interested in finding out more about program monitoring and its connection to effective leadership? Download the IES guide Understanding Program Monitoring: The Relationships Among Outcomes, Indicators, Measures, and Targets and stay tuned for more information about a forthcoming guide, Program Monitoring: The Role of Leadership in Planning, Assessment, and Communications

    Guide and Webinar: Join REL Pacific on Wednesday, March 12 for a webinar on“Facilitating Data-Informed Conversations: 5 Steps Forward." This live, interactive webinar, designed for educators, administrators, and researchers, will feature an overview of REL Pacific's Five steps for structuring data-informed conversations and action in education guide. Learn about the five key steps in using data for informed decisionmaking and strategic action: setting the stage, examining the data, understanding the findings, developing an action plan, and monitoring progress and measuring success. Using guiding questions, suggested activities, and activity forms, the guide provides education data teams with a framework and the tools and vocabulary needed to support informed conversations around data.


    Kentucky Model for College-Readiness of High School Students

    <Click on this link to download the entire 62-page report.>

    The purpose of this study was to examine Kentucky high school students’ participation and pass rates in college preparatory transition courses, which are voluntary remedial courses in math and reading offered to grade 12 students in the state. Three groups of students were compared using the population of grade 12 students in Kentucky public schools in school year 2011/12 (n=33,928): students meeting state benchmarks, students approaching state benchmarks (1 to 3 points below), and students performing below state benchmarks (4 or more points below). The courses targeted students who were approaching state benchmarks, but all students were eligible to take them. Results were examined for member school districts of the Southeast/South-Central Educational Cooperative (a research partner with Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia), a matched comparison group of districts with similar characteristics identified through propensity score matching, and the state as a whole. The study found that most students, even those targeted for the intervention, did not participate in the college preparatory transition courses. Among students who were approaching state benchmarks in math, fewer than one-third (28.1 percent) took transition courses, and among students approaching state benchmarks in reading, fewer than one-tenth (8.0 percent) enrolled in transition courses. Despite the intention of the policy, students from all three groups (meeting, approaching, and below state benchmarks) enrolled in the courses. Statewide pass rates for students who did enroll in transition courses in math or reading were more than 90 percent. Examining participation and pass rates can help schools and districts understand how college preparatory transition courses are used and may be adapted to meet the needs of students targeted for intervention.

    <Click on this link to download the entire 62-page report.>


    Failure by Colleges and Government to Bridge Inequality

    <Click here to download entire commentary from NY Times.>

    Sobering commentary in NY Times on the initial promise of college as levelor of inequality through GI Bill and early years of federal financial aid programs and subsequent failure to keep up the financial commitment to the majority in society without the social capital of the priveledged classes.  Following is a short excerpt from the commentary.  Be sure to read some of the comments to the article (as of the moment, they number more than 250).

    "When the G.I. Bill of Rights of 1944 made colleges accessible to veterans regardless of socioeconomic background, Robert Maynard Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, worried that it would transform elite institutions into “educational hobo jungles.” But the G.I. Bill was only the first of several federal student aid laws that, along with increasing state investment in public universities and colleges, transformed American higher education over the course of three decades from a bastion of privilege into a path toward the American dream.

    Something else began to happen around 1980. College graduation rates kept soaring for the affluent, but for those in the bottom half, a four-year degree is scarcely more attainable today than it was in the 1970s. And because some colleges actually hinder social mobility, what increasingly matters is not just whether you go to college but where.  The demise of opportunity through higher education is, fundamentally, a political failure. Our landmark higher education policies have ceased to function effectively, and lawmakers — consumed by partisan polarization and plutocracy — have neglected to maintain and update them. . . ." <Click here to continue reading.>


    New Publication: Understanding the Peer Assisted Learning Model

    Since 2006, the PAL program at the University of Minnesopta has contributed to improved academic performance of participating PAL students in rigorous introductory-level college courses.The program is built upon best practices from previous international peer learning models like Supplemental Instruction, Peer-led Team Learning, Emerging Scholars Program, and others.  PAL is also guided by learning theories such as Universal Design for Learning to make the model more culturally-sensitive and embedded within the courses to increase its effectiveness for all students.  Both quantitative and qualitative studies of PAL validate its effectiveness for increasing academic success of participating students and fostering development of personal and social skills.  In addition to benefits for the participants, the PAL experience benefits PAL facilitators through deeper mastery of rigorous course material, increased confidence in public speaking and small group management skills, and encouragement to pursue a teaching career.  While the PAL program was started to address the achievement gap in courses, it has bloomed into one that also enhances personal and professional skills for all that are involved.Built upon principles identified by other academic support programs and innovations of its own creation, PAL is an integral part of UMN’s overall academic support efforts.

    Arendale, D. R. (2014). Understanding the Peer Assistance Learning model: Student study groups in challenging college courses. International Journal of Higher Education, 3(2), 1-12. doi:10.5430/ijhe.v3n2p  Retrieved from

    <Click on this link to download the article>


    Postsecondary Peer Cooperative Learning 2014 Annotated Bibliography

    Postsecondcary Peer Cooperative Learning 2014 Annotated Bibliography. Compiled by David Arendale.

    <Click on this web link to download the document.>

    I just updated my annotated bibliography on peer learning programs.  The bibliography is 160,000 words and 340 pages in length.  It features every article or report published on six of the major peer learning programs in higher education:  Accelerated Learning Groups (developed by Sydney Stansbury at University of Southern California), Emerging Scholars Program (developed by Uri Treisman at UC-Berkeley), Peer-led Team Learning (developed at City Univeristy of New York), Structured Learning Assistance (developed at Ferris State University), Supplemental Instruction (developed at the University of Missouri-Kansas City), and Video-based Supplemental Instruction (developed at UMKC as well).

    Peer collaborative learning has been popular in education for decades. As both pedagogy and learning strategy, it has been frequently adopted and adapted for a wide range of academic content areas throughout education at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels due to its benefits. The professional literature is filled with reports of individual professors integrating this approach into postsecondary classrooms in diverse ways. Increased attention has been placed on this practice due to claims by some programs that carefully coordinated and managed learning programs with specific protocols can increase student persistence rates towards graduation, supporting both student goal aspirations as well as bolstering institutional revenues..

    This annotated bibliography does not attempt to be inclusive of this broad field of literature concerning peer collaborative learning. Instead, it is focused intentionally on a subset of the educational practice that share a common focus with increasing student persistence towards graduation. At the end of this overview, several suggestions are made for differentiating the models from each other and the level of institutional resources and resolve with implementing them.

    The six student peer learning programs included in this bibliography meet the following characteristics: (a) the program must have been implemented at the postsecondary or tertiary level; (b) the program has a clear set of systematic procedures for its implementation that could be replicated by another institution; (c) program evaluation studies have been conducted and are available for review; (d) the program intentionally embeds learning strategy practice along with review of the academic content material; (e) the program outcomes include increased content knowledge, higher final course grades, higher pass rates, and higher college persistence rates; and (f) the program has been replicated at another institution with similar positive student outcomes. From a review of the professional literature six programs emerged: Accelerated Learning Groups (ALGs), Emerging Scholars Program (ESP), Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL), Structured Learning Assistance (SLA), Supplemental Instruction (SI), and Video-based Supplemental Instruction (VSI). Some of the programs share common history and seek to improve upon previous practices. Other programs were developed independently.

    <Click on this web link to download the document.>


    An Hour Makes a Difference By Scott Jaschik

    For years, studies have found that first-generation college students -- those who do not have a parent with a college degree -- lag other students on a range of education achievement factors. Their grades are lower and their dropout rates are higher. But since such students are most likely to advance economically if they succeed in higher education, colleges and universities have pushed for decades to recruit more of them. This has created "a paradox" in that recruiting first-generation students, but then watching many of them fail, means that higher education has "continued to reproduce and widen, rather than close" an achievement gap based on social class, according to the depressing beginning of a paper forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science. But the article is actually quite optimistic, as it outlines a potential solution to this problem, suggesting that this approach (which involves a one-hour, next-to-no-cost program) can close 63 percent of the achievement gap (measured by such factors as grades) between first-generation and other students.

    What is the solution? A one-hour program for new students that is called a "difference-education intervention."
    In the program, college juniors and seniors from a range of backgrounds talk about how they adjusted to college, and how they sought out resources and people to help them with decisions, issues they didn't understand and so forth.

    First-generation students talked about their specific challenges. For example, one student said something like this: “Because my parents didn’t go to college, they weren’t always able to provide me the advice I needed. So it was sometimes hard to figure out what classes to take and what I wanted to do in the future. But there are other people who can provide that advice, and I learned that I needed to rely on my adviser more than other students.”  To avoid stigmatizing the first-generation students, the programs were described as being for all students, with a range of backgrounds, and the panelists speaking were from a range of backgrounds. And in a control group (which did not see the same results when first-generation students reported on their experiences and success at the end of the academic year), panelists did not relate their adjustments to their own backgrounds.

    Among the areas where they found a notable impact from participants in the program: higher grade-point averages and significant increase in the odds of using various campus resources that help students with a range of issues.  The authors of the paper are Nicole M. Stephens, associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; MarYam G. Hamedani, associate director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University; and Mesmin Destin, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University. Their findings are based on a study involving 147 students (who completed the project) at an unnamed private university. First generation was defined as not having a parent with a four-year college degree. Most of the first-generation students (59.1 percent) were recipients of Pell Grants, while this was true only for 8.6 percent of the students with at least one parent with a four-year degree.  Their thesis -- that a relatively modest intervention could have a big impact -- was based on the view that first-generation students may be most lacking not in potential but in savvy about how to deal with the issues that face most college students. They cite past research by several authors to show that this is the gap that must be narrowed to close the achievement gap.

    Many first-generation students "struggle to navigate the middle-class culture of higher education, learn the 'rules of the game,' and take advantage of college resources," they write. And this becomes more of a problem when colleges don't talk about the class advantages and disadvantages of different groups of students. "Because U.S. colleges and universities seldom acknowledge how social class can affect students' educational experiences, many first-generation students lack insight about why they are struggling and do not understand how students 'like them' can improve."