The Student Academic Standing Success Project is grounded in research indicating institutional messaging can play a key role in how students respond to being placed on academic probation. Revising notification letters to be attuned to students’ concerns about belonging and how they are viewed by their institution can help more accurately communicate probation as a supportive process, reducing the shame and stigma students feel when being placed on probation and leading students to feel more empowered to reach out for help.
Preliminary Results: Student Responses to Attuned Language
hopeful, respected, motivated, optimistic and supported
like they knew what to do, and that advisors and professors wanted to help them
ashamed, discouraged, badly about themselves, anxious, and guilty
likely to skip class and consider dropping out
BACKGROUND & THEORY
Academic probation is intended to be a useful warning that gets students back on track. Despite this, students placed on probation are not returning to good standing at satisfactory rates. Surveys of students indicate that typical probation notification letters do not communicate the message of support intended. Instead, students report feeling ashamed and stigmatized when receiving the letter, leading them to disengage from the school environment.
I felt like a failure.
For some time after getting the letter, I felt that I didn’t belong. I wanted to drop out.
I felt incredibly alone. No one seems to struggle, at least not to that degree.
- Students Formerly or Currently on Academic Probation
The Student Academic Standing Success Project focuses on the messages schools send when informing students they have been placed on academic probation. Revising probation letters to be attuned to students’ concerns about belonging and how they are viewed by their institution can help more accurately communicate probation as a supportive process. Students might feel encouraged to speak with an advisor, seek mentoring or tutoring, or continue to attend class. By remaining engaged with resources and supports, students become more likely to return to good standing and go on to graduate with their degree.
Coming Soon: Academic Standing Notification Toolkit
In order to share the insights from this work more broadly, CTC is starting to develop an “Administrator Toolkit” to share our theory, approach, and research so that more administrators are able to implement psychologically attuned probation notifications on their campus. We anticipate sharing more information in 2020.
CTC is partnering with six colleges and universities from 2016-2019 to understand the impact of psychologically attuned probation notification letters in diverse settings.
CTC is developing a free Toolkit helping colleges and universities design probation notification materials more attuned to students’ experiences and concerns. Ongoing research indicates that more psychologically attuned language can help more accurately communicate probation as a supportive process, reduce students’ feelings of shame and stigma, and increase the rates at which students return to good standing. We anticipate sharing more information about the Toolkit 2020.
If you are interested in working with the CTC on a future project related to academic standing, we encourage you to fill out our interest form to receive updates on upcoming opportunities, or send us an email.
CTC surveyed students and administrators around the country to better understand institutional practices around academic probation. This infographic summarizes our emerging findings.