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.
Available Now: How You Say It Matters: A Toolkit for Improving Communications about Academic Standing
To support administrators in creating more psychologically attuned notification letters, we have launched the Toolkit as a free resource available on the edX platform. In this online course, you will:
- Learn about the theory and evidence behind psychologically attuned communications
- Write an attuned letter for your school using our interactive Draft-A-Letter Tool
- Access resources and make a plan for getting student and colleague feedback on your letter and implementing it at your school
Toolkit Learner Testimonials...
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.
Implementing At Your School
Register for our free online course ‘How You Say It Matters: A Toolkit for Improving Communications about Academic Standing’ to write a psychologically attuned notification letter for your school. In the Toolkit you will have access to an interactive Draft-A-Letter Tool, more than 15 downloadable resources including a letter checklist, sample letters, and student interview and survey templates, and information to help you apply this approach more broadly.
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.
Academic Standing Infographic
CTC surveyed students and administrators around the country to better understand institutional practices around academic probation. This infographic summarizes our emerging findings.
Shannon Brady, Assistant Professor, Wake Forest University
Greg Walton, Associate Professor, Stanford University
Elise Ozier, Graduate Student, Indiana University
Katie Kroeper, Graduate Student, Indiana University