Why Academic Coaching For Excellence?
The development of the QEP was rooted in the institution’s strategic plan as well as campus-wide discussions related to improving retention and student success. In selecting and developing the QEP topic, the committees considered statewide trends in higher education, reviewed existing institutional data related to retention, and considered continuing initiatives related to academic coaching.
Underrepresented minorities, Pell-eligible, and first-generation college students comprise a significant portion of undergraduates enrolled at the University of Memphis. Empirical evidence shows that this student population may be at high risk for non-retention. Successfully navigating college culture is difficult for even the most well-equipped students, but for underrepresented minorities, low-income, and first-generation students, the landscape may be particularly confusing. We believe that academic coaching may be a powerful retention tool for these groups of students as well as for students who are experiencing academic difficulty.
The topic selected for the QEP, Academic Coaching For Excellence, directly aligns with the institution’s mission, values, and goals. The university mission describes the University of Memphis as a learner centered metropolitan research university with increased graduation rates among its highest priorities. Of the six university goals, the selected topic directly impacts the ability to achieve the following two goals:
- 1. Student Success: “Provide distinctive learning experiences that foster lifelong success.”
- 2. Access and Diversity: “Promote and sustain an accessible, vibrant community that values diversity.”
How Academic Coaches Help
The University of Memphis’ QEP is designed to enhance student success by improving students’ academic planning skills. The overall objective of the academic coaching program is to establish a relationship between the academic coach and the student that is conducive to the student seeking assistance and gaining guidance for effectively navigating college culture. Before addressing the student learning outcomes, it is important to define what is meant by “academic coaching” and how it will be operationalized on our campus.
The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) defines academic coaching as an interactive process that focuses on the personal relationship created between the student and the coach. The coach challenges the student to think about his or her personal and/or professional goals in order to relate them to his or her academic/educational goals. In the learning process, it is important for the coach to encourage the student to become more self-aware by understanding his or her strengths, values, interests, purpose, and passion. The QEP Development Committee refined this statement to develop the definition of academic coaching for our QEP:
"Academic coaching is a one-on-one interaction with a student focusing on strengths, goals, study skills, engagement, academic planning, and performance."
Academic coaches at the University of Memphis will address transition and academic issues by helping students develop strategies for learning and life management and by connecting them to other university resources and support personnel as needed. During the initial stages of the QEP, academic coaches will be graduate students and interns drawn from counseling-related fields, and they will meet regularly in one-on-one meetings with students to discuss issues pertaining to academic success. In later stages of the QEP, qualified university personnel will be provided comprehensive training in academic coaching and begin working with students in their respective units.
The coaching sessions will help students to develop an individualized action plan focused on, but not limited to, time management, goal setting, and study skills. Coaches will also assist with academic planning by holding sessions where they help students work with technological tools, such as Degree Compass and UMDegree3 that promote course and major selection.
The QEP Development Committee proposed a set of learning outcomes based on the objectives of the coaching program. Specifically, students who participate in a least eight sessions of academic coaching during the course of a semester will:
- 1. Demonstrate an increase in academic self-efficacy.
- 2. Be able to identify and describe appropriate campus resources for psychosocial and academic needs.
- 3. Demonstrate an ability to utilize technology tools for degree planning.
- 4. Identify a career goal and academic pathway to that goal.
- 5. Express a sense of connection and/or engagement to the institution.
- 6. Demonstrate adequate progress to degree program.
Academic coaching relationships include:
- Initial assessment to gauge a student’s unique personal situation and academic needs. Items assessed initially include learning styles, habits of working, academic strengths and weaknesses, self or life management skills, and understanding of “how to go to college.” The assessment can be via Intake Interview, paper or online questionnaire, standardized assessments, or a combination of all.
- Individualized and SMART (specific, measureable, action-oriented, realistic, time-framed) goals at the beginning and end of semester sessions. To meet these goals, a coach works with the student to develop effective strategies tailored to the student’s unique needs.
- Regularly scheduled meetings to establish a safe climate and a supportive, collaborative relationship.
- Feedback and Self Reflection about “learning moments” and experiences to help student build motivation and self-efficacy.