The campus culture is changing at the Minnesota School of Business in Brooklyn Center.
The 45 faculty members on campus have always used hands-on teaching techniques and been close with their students, but realized in the last year they can do more.
Nationwide college success rates are “abysmal,” said the Brooklyn Center campus Dean of Faculty Ann Deiman-Thornton. The success rates are between 30 and 40 percent across the board for state colleges to private campuses, she said.
To address the trend, Brooklyn Center’s campus of the Minnesota School of Business is testing out a program to help improve college success rates known as AVID for Higher Education.
AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) started in 1980 by Mary Catherine Swanson, a teacher at a San Diego high school. According to avid.org, federal courts made an order to desegregate the city’s schools in 1980, which brought inner city students into the suburban area. Swanson favored the decision, but grappled with how the students would succeed academically.
The result was the formation of AVID, which at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels focuses on a philosophy for college readiness.
About 30 years later, AVID is branching out to apply similar resources for students to maximize their learning while in college.
“It’s an entire shift in college culture,” Deiman-Thonrton said.
Minnesota School of Business is the third institution to implement AVID for Higher Education in Minnesota, said Michelle Rivard, the AVID liaison at the Brooklyn Center campus. Rivard is also on the faculty and a writing center coordinator at the campus.
The campus was fitting to test out AVID for Minnesota School of Business as a whole because of its size and demographics, Deiman-Thornton said. The average age of students at the campus is 27 and it has more non-traditional students.
“Often times we’re a second, third or fourth school a student has come to when they haven’t been successful,” Deiman-Thornton said.
According to data from a study by the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center on avid.org, only 34 percent of students who enrolled in community colleges earned a degree or certificate in six years.
AVID officially started at the Brooklyn Center campus in January after six months of training for all faculty, from admissions and financial aid to teachers.
Basically, Rivard said, the philosophy is to provide resources to students to be responsible for their success in learning and getting the most out of their day to day classes.
Professional development for an AVID campus is done across the board so all faculty can educate students about strategies to use anywhere from registering for classes to presentations in front of their peers and teachers.
Faculty in Brooklyn Center are working on establishing “The Learning Connection,” which is a space for students to get extra help outside of class from teachers as well as other students working as tutors. Information exchanged will be an extension of the AVID strategies used in classrooms.
It can be as simple as using the Cornell notes method, where students pause every 10 to 15 minutes to review the information and write down questions they have, Deiman-Thornton said.
Teachers also take breaks in their lectures to provide time for interaction with students to review the materials, she said.
“Our approach to teaching has really changed,” she said.
It’s been a lesson for faculty not to assume all students come to college with techniques to read text books and take notes in a way where they learn the most, she said.
Rivard added that AVID is also helpful for students to use strategies when their peers are giving a presentation in class. She uses the 3-2-1 idea, in which students listening to a presentation write down three things they learned, two ways to incorporate the information into their career or life, and one question.
“People have to be engaged and they have to be paying attention,” Rivard said. “We need them to learn from one another. It’s so much active rather than passive learning.”
Another successful strategy in the classroom is a speakers panel, Deiman-Thornton said. Her class on novels involves lengthy reading assignments outside of class. Instead of asking students to write about the novels, Deiman-Thornton randomly chooses them to speak in class and have their classmates ask questions. It’s a way to ensure students complete the reading assignment and for them to have a dialogue about the work, she said.
Testing and training
Resources for the faculty testing out AVID strategies include communication with employees of the program in Texas – especially “Dr. Betty,” as Rivard refers to their main contact for questions.
It hasn’t been tested yet, but Rivard and Campus Director Jana Gymer-Koch said they felt people like Dr. Betty would be available at any time of day or night to answer questions.
Faculty in Brooklyn Center will complete another round of training in the summer to reflect on their first stretch of using AVID and learn new ideas.
Gymer-Koch said they are collecting data through surveys of students and faculty to test how AVID is working at the campus.
“We want to see what we’re doing is actually making a difference,” Gymer-Koch said.
While there is not any data to release yet, she said students who were vocal about not wanting to participate in AVID are now some of the programs biggest champions in the classroom.
It didn’t take much convincing for student Aldina Korman, 23, who also works full time as an administrative assistant at the campus.
“I was really interested to know more about it,” she said.
Korman is studying for her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a full-time course load. She completed general education requirements at North Hennepin Community College and then enrolled at the Minnesota School of Business.
“As far as college goes, it really depends on your support system … so it is really sad to know that so many students choose not to go to college because they don’t have a support system,” Korman said.
AVID for Higher Education adds that support, as long as students utilize the resources to be responsible for their own education.
“There is nothing more important than being supported when it comes to doing something that is really hard in life. And college can be a really hard thing,” Korman said.
She has experienced the AVID strategies in class and in her job at the campus, Korman said.
“Right away we did more class discussions and I felt more a part of what was going on,” she said. “I’ll feel I’ll be more successful when it comes to meetings or discussions giving my input and taking what others have to offer.”
“I am just really happy that we decided to launch it here at this campus,” Korman said. “I can already see a lot of students are benefiting from it. It seems to be a very successful program.”
Contact Katy Zillmer at [email protected]