Faculty Referrals Help Students

Jan. 26, 2009

Professors can enable their students to succeed by taking advantage of the online referral system early in the semester. Referring within the first four weeks of the semester gives the Paul L. Foster Success Center adequate time to help students who are struggling.

The referral system is part of the Academic Support Programs in the Success Center.

"The present referral system is simple to use, allows teachers to identify areas of weakness in a student's performance or attendance, and it is a powerful tool for teachers who want their students to leave Baylor with an excellent education," Bracy V. Hill II, a teaching fellow and Ph.D. candidate in the religion department, said.

While reporting deficiencies, which are grade-driven, have been in place at Baylor for some time, the referral program is a newer option for professors, Ronald English, the academic support advisor for referrals, said. Deficiencies are solely grade-based, and referrals are based on other criteria.

Professors can make referrals for a number of reasons. Even if the student has an A, but the professor is concerned about the student's behavior, he or she can submit a referral. It can be a wake-up call for students who could be utilizing more resources Baylor offers.

Causes for referrals include students who have excessive absences from class, fail or miss an exam, fail an assignment, fail to turn in multiple assignments, appear to need counseling or advice and/or do not respond to professor's expressed concerns about their behavior.

Professors can make these referrals online and they are processed within 48 hours. English assures professor they will be kept in the loop after their referrals are submitted.

Instructions about the process and instructions for making a referral can be found at www.baylor.edu/support_programs/index.php?id=58168.

After the referral is processed, the student is invited to come to the Success Center to discuss a plan of action for improving their performance. It is up to the student to accept the help and come to the Success Center.

Success in referring

"The center helped my first referral enormously. I referred her to the Success Center after the first exam. Her grades improved from D's to solid B's. She [the student] credits the improvement to the study skills she had acquired," Dr. Ann Mirabito, assistant professor marketing, said.

If a student responds to the Success Center's e-mail, he or she will have a host of resources available to help them succeed. These resources include mentoring, supplemental instructions, workshops, tutoring, career counseling, and time management help. Freshmen and sophomores benefit most from these, since upper level courses are more specialized.

English reports that a student went from getting a C and a D on a test to making a 100 on the next test. Another student went from being on academic probation one semester to making a 3.2 GPA the following semester.

"Many students exhibit a willingness to discuss their performance with me and seek ways of improving their understanding of the readings and course material or improving their performance on assignments after being contacted by the Foster Success Center, " Hill said.

Success for every student

English expressed the paramount importance of the Success Center to not just struggling students but also to students who want to maintain their grades.

"The importance of this program, to me, is actually paramount for every student whether they are referred or not. We are a place that has resources for students to help improve their grades," English said.

English has found, for some students, repetition is a study skill they can learn to improve their grades. "OK, when you get your notes, rewrite them. Don't just do the homework; the professor gave you, go above and beyond that. Understand how to acknowledge when you are making good progress."

"I find that some students need encouragement to take advantage of the center," Mirabito said. "I point out to students that they are paying for it and they owe it to themselves to take advantage of the service, and that if they learn only one thing through the Center, their visits will be worthwhile."