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Professional Development Institute: Retention Toolkit

Professional Development

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

This page provides more information on the following retention strategies:

  • Learn Students' Names
  • Create a Positive Classroom Environment
  • Provide Access to Course Materials
  • Communicate Clear Expectations
  • Use a Variety of Teaching Techniques and Strategies
  • Have Students Restate Material through Reflection and Self-Assessment
  • Providing Opportunities for Students to Interact
  • Give Encouragement to All Students
  • Provide Numerous Options for Evaluation
  • Prepare Students Both Psychologically and Academically for Exams
  • Inform Students of Their Progress during the Term
  • Believe You Make a Difference
  • Below are the topics on this page
  • PDI's Online Faculty Development to Increase Student Retention

Online Training Related to Student Retention

Online Faculty Development to Increase Student Retention

These titles are available in the Faculty Development online course.

  • What Can I Do to Increase Student Retention?
  • How Do Master Teachers Create a Positive Classroom?
  • Learner-Centered Teaching - Where Should I Start?
  • How Can I Communicate to Engage Students and Encourage Learning?
  • How Can I Get Students to Take Responsibility for Their Own Learning?
  • How Do I Get Students to Come to Class Prepared?
  • How Do I Build Community in My Classroom?
  • How Do I Create a Climate for Learning in My Classroom?
  • How Can I Assess Critical Thinking with Objective Items?
  • How Can I Effectively Teach Unprepared Students?
  • How Can I Effectively Use Class Preparation Assignments?
  • How Can I Make My Course Content More Accessible?
  • How Can I Transform My Tests into Learning Tools?
  • How Can I Use Frequent Student Feedback to Improve My Courses?
  • How Can I Use Low-stakes Quizzing to Enhance Learning?
  • How Can I Use Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) Online?
  • Beyond the Discussion Board: How Can I Engage Online Students?

Believe you Make a Difference

Resources on Retention

The library has additional resources on student retention. Check them out.

  • Davis, Barbara Gross. (1993) Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Palomba, Catherine A., Banta, Trudy W. (1999) Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Silberman, Mel. (1996) Learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Sylvester, Robert. (1994). How emotions affect learning. Educational Leadership, 52, 60-65.
  • Yelon, Stephen L. (1996). Powerful principles of instruction. White Planes, NY: Longman.

Learn Students' Names

Learning students' names increases retention.

  • Ask students to sit in the same seats for the first few weeks, while you learn to match names with faces. Create a seating chart to match.
  • Ask students to write their names on nametags or table tents. Table tents can be made from index cards or card stock.
  • Take pictures of your students or have them send you a photo so you can create a photo roster.
  • Create frequent assignments early in the class. When you call names out to pass assignments back, you will be able to associate a name with a face.
  • Call roll. When students answer, look at each one to put a face with the name.
  • Do an icebreaker where students add an adjective before their names to describe themselves. Tell them to use an adjective that begins with the same letter as their names. Examples: Antsy Adam, Marvelous Mandy, Rockin’ Rick, or Basketball Bill.

More Resources on Learning Students’ Names

Communicate Clear Expectations

Increase retention by communicating clear expectations.

  • Discuss course policies, such as attendance, participation, and academic integrity.
  • Invite students to visit you during office hours if they need help.
  • Identify textbook and materials needed for this course.
  • Provide a course calendar or schedule.
  • Explain how grades will be earned.
  • Describe expectations for participating and completing the course successfully.
  • Tell students how much time to expect working outside of class time.

More Resources for Communicating Clear Expectations

Use a Variety of Teaching Techniques and Strategies

Use a variety of teaching techniques and strategies.

  • Vary instructional techniques. Use examples, demonstrations, practice, active learning, and feedback.
  • Teach creatively.
  • Think about new ways to teach the content. Use a strategy that fits the content.
  • Use humor, suspense, and surprise.
  • Use stories and “real life” examples.
  • Provoke curiosity.
  • Take periodic breaks. For example, lecture ten minutes, then have a short activity to reinforce what was just discussed.

More Resources on Teaching Techniques and Strategies

Increase Interaction

Provide opportunities for students to interact.

Ideas for designing, creating, or enhancing interaction in the classroom.

  • Divide the class into teams of six and ask them to create a 30-second television commercial that advertises some aspect of subject material of the class, emphasizing its value to the world. Ask each team to present its commercial.
  • Divide the class into teams and have each team teach a concept learned in class.
  • Student-Centered Case Studies
  • Have students pair up and share lecture notes, evaluate material, or discuss essay questions.

More Resources on Interaction in the Classroom

Provide Options

Provide numerous options for evaluation.

Multiple choice quizzes are not the only way to evaluate learning, though many faculty rely heavily on these types of quizzes. Provide students with alternate ways to demonstrate what they have learned.

  • Testing: Short answer and essay questions, matching, true/false, ranking, multiple answer
  • Writing: Research papers, abstracts, journals, wikis, free writes, reflection papers, one-minute paper

More Resources on Providing Options for Evaluation

Keep Students Updated with their Progress

Inform students of their progress during the term.

Giving feedback throughout the year may encourage students to try harder. At the very least, it helps students know where they stand and not find a nasty surprise at the end of the semester. Below are suggestions for keeping students informed on their progress throughout the semester.

  • Give students a sense of what their score means for each assignment. If every assignment is worth 100 points, for example, but you weigh certain assessments more heavily, students may not understand why a 100 on an assignment does not raise their grade average much.
  • Show the range and distribution of points.
  • Indicate what level of performance is considered satisfactory.
  • Provide correction, feedback, guidance, and recognition (verbal and written) that will enable a student to improve.

More Resources on Continuous Feedback

Create a Positive Classroom Environment

Create a positive classroom environment to increase retention.

  • Arrive early and greet students by name.
  • Give explicit, constructive, and timely feedback.
  • Make learning relevant
  • Avoid negative statements that will make students feel like they cannot succeed, such as “Only one in five of you will successfully pass this course” or “That’s a stupid question.”
  • Always be positive.
  • Begin and end class on time.
  • Reinforce positive behaviors.

More Resources on Creating Positive Classroom Environments

Use Reflection Assignments

Have Students Restate Material through Reflection and Self-Assessment

Reflection helps students articulate thoughts, and self-assessment helps students appraise how well they understand the material presented. Below are few examples of questions to ask to assess students’ learning.

  • What is the most significant thing you learned today?
  • What question is uppermost in your mind?
  • Jot down three or four key concepts or main ideas from today’s class.
  • What did you learn today that you think is totally unimportant?
  • What did you learn today that you will use or apply?

More Resources on Reflection and Self-Assessment

Give Encouragement

Encourage all students.

Encourage students to succeed. Ask students how you can help them succeed. Inspire confidence.

Prepare Students for Exams

Prepare students both psychologically and academically for exams.

  • Ask students how you can make them feel less anxious about exams.
  • Put old exams on file in the library.
  • Give students practice exams.
  • Before the exam, explain the format to students.
  • Give students advice on how to prepare for exams.

More Resources on Preparing Your Students for Exams

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