“Transforming the lowest-performing students: an intervention that worked” — Deslauriers et al. (2012)

iEarth has started a journal club! And the first article to be read is about “Transforming the lowest-performing students: an intervention that worked”. My summary below :-)

If we offer additional support to students like extra practice sessions or problems, more office hours, etc, it is usually the already high-performing students that take us up on those offers, not the low-performing students who might benefit from them much more.

In a study by Deslauriers et al. (2012) at both a very selective and a broad range course, students who performed badly in the first mid-term exam were targeted with different small interventions: they either met with an instructor for a 15-25min, either alone or in groups up to three, conversation about their study strategies (increasing their exam performance by up to a third without increasing their study time!) or received a personalized email with recommendations. The recommended actions included for example to try to “do” each learning goal by coming up with own explanations, work with notes in a targeted way towards learning goals (instead of re-reading), work with existing assessment (exercises, MCQ questions) to test themselves and make up their own assessment, and to attend the weekly exercise sessions.

Of course, the exact advice given to students depends on context and other effective learning techniques for students (Dunlosky et al. 2013) might be a better match for your own case. But to me, this article is reinforcing that it is a) important that students feel that they matter to the instructor, and b) that the skills students need in order to be successful are taught in context of their disciplinary courses and not in stand-alone “soft-skill” courses.

Deslauriers, L., Harris, S., Lane, E., & Wieman, C. (2012). Transforming the lowest-performing students: an intervention that worked.

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