Implementation of Academic Foci
There is a growing body of research that shows the link between student success and students selecting an appropriate program of study. In the TBR system, students who begin their studies undecided are much less likely to graduate than those that have a direction – in fact, fewer than half of those students ever choose a degree program before they leave.
This research and data analysis was the impetus for a system-wide adoption of 9 academic foci. These affinity groups of discipline allow a student who has not chosen a specific degree program to instead choose a broad direction for their study that can then be refined. Campus initiatives are being put into place across the Tennessee Board of Regents to ensure that after January 1, 2015, every student will be enrolled in either a degree program or an academic focus.
Tennessee Institutions of Higher Education teach more than 8,000 courses to more than 1,000,000 classroom members every semester. That variety of course-work is necessary to support the immense variety of programs that we offer. However, the course enrollment is certainly not evenly distributed across those course offerings. In fact, more than half of the one-million-student enrollment is concentrated in only 30 classes. Further structural analysis of the curriculum shows that student success in these classes disproportionally affects student success across all academic programs.
The TBR course revitalization initiative brings together groups of faculty at each institution to engage with the course structure and curricula in these most fundamental classes in order to find new, innovative pedagogy approaches that will enable more students learn more material at a deeper level, and consequently for more students to succeed. An emphasis is given to concentrated efforts to address diversity and equity for underrepresented groups.
Over 200 faculty teams were selected to develop these new approaches and to pilot them over the past four years. A list of projects and final reports can be obtained by contacting the Acadmic Affairs Office 615-366-4471.
Roughly 60% of the students entering Tennessee Board of Regents institutions have math, reading, or writing skills that are insufficient to enable them to successfully complete their degree. The traditional approach for these students is to have them begin their studies in a pre-college class to prepare them for the credit-bearing classes to come later.
Recent work in TBR and elsewhere has shown that students are able to have greater success in these critical areas if they begin in an appropriate credit-bearing class, and are required to attend supplementary instruction. This co-requisite instruction is specifically designed to aid their understanding of the material and help them succeed in the credit-bearing class. Tennessee Board of Regents institutions will move to this structure of pedagogy so that it will be fully implemented in Fall 2015.