Good Intentions Require Systematic Intervention

The Hechinger Report documented an interview with Kai Drekmeier, President of InsideTrack.  Kai addressed the issue of the undergraduate experience and its impact on students’ retention and graduation from our colleges and universities.

Kai is the co-founder and president of InsideTrack, a company that provides coaching to undergraduate students.  The individualized coaching from trained InsideTrack coaches provides support for students in a proactive, systematic intervention that precedes the many areas where undergraduate students can stumble in the course of a university experience.

As Kai observes in the interview, universities understand the challenge and have good intentions.  Colleges and universities increasingly are adding programs in order to increase the success of undergraduates (see my blog: Freshman Persistence and the Undergraduate Experience). The variety of programs that universities offer is certainly indicative of intent.  They often include student counseling centers, academic success centers with tutoring, peer-to-peer mentoring, writing programs, cohort scheduling of freshman classes.  What is often missing is also telling.

Few universities have approached the provision of these services with three critical ingredients: (1) a comprehensive plan that addresses raising the quality of the undergraduate experience with identification of interventions that address the particular campus culture, (2) the provision of services that proactively identify the most at-risk students with systematic intervention, and (3) outcomes measurement of the efficaciousness of the interventions.

What I have observed in my work with Kai and InsideTrack is the following: (a) close collaboration with an institution with systematic coaching of students before they get into trouble, (b) training, monitoring and evaluation of the InsideTrack coaches, and (c) well-designed research that addresses the efficaciousness of the coaching intervention with randomized complete block design.

I applaud the growing determination of colleges and universities to raise graduation rates. What I hope accompanies that determination is planning, provision of systematic services, and sound design of the evaluation of services.


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