As many higher education instructors know, student success isn’t exclusively dependent upon a student’s personal dedication to learning course material. Helping students complete courses requires a combination of effective teaching and learning strategies.
John Hattie, the Director of Melbourne Education Research Institute and creator of the Visible Learning approach, conducted one of the largest meta-analyses of research done to date to uncover factors that most impact student achievement.
The factors Hattie ranked included everything from family background to teacher-student relationship to instructional practices. By examining how these influences interact and guide learning, Hattie’s research provides insight into how instructors can better identify—and help—at-risk students.
According to Hattie’s research, and other subsequent research like it, five common things at-risk students say and strategies to help them succeed include the following³:
1. “I read the textbook, but I just don’t seem to get it.”
What It Might Mean: Low or poor reading skills and/or poor study skills
How To Help: Consider integrating more active learning techniques or interactive learning resources. Providing an alternative learning experience to traditional print textbooks can allow students with weak reading and/or study skills to stay motivated and persist in reaching desired learning outcomes.
2. “I feel lost—I am not sure what I should be studying.”
What It Might Mean: Poor organizational skills and/or inability to identify priority tasks
How To Help: Assigning learning resources organized by clearly-stated learning objectives enables students to better understand of what they should master by the end of each study session. This eliminates time wasted studying information that’s not directly related to the desired learning outcomes. Here’s an example from our own courseware showing three learning objectives outlined at the top of the page. By the end of this learning session, students should be able to identify parts of the digestive system.
3. “I feel like I studied really hard, but I still failed.”
What It Might Mean: Poor test-taking skills and/or poor study habits
How To Help: Provide ample practice opportunities with targeted and timely feedback. Assigning learning activities with pedagogy like imbedded hints and targeted, contextualized feedback allows students to gauge their own progress more frequently, and find areas where additional study focus might be needed. As a result, students are better able to assess their own readiness for summative assessments.
4. “I am a terrible test-taker.”
What It Might Mean: Test anxiety
How To Help: Prepare students for summative assessment with frequent formative assessment experiences that simulate what they can expect in a testing experience. Also, assign learning resources that collect and report learning performance data while students are actively engaged with course material. Doing so provides students with insight into their own progress, which can help them feel more prepared and reduce test anxiety.
5. “I missed a couple of classes, but I can make them up.”
What It Might Mean: Limited study time and/or conflicting personal priorities. Note that according to recent census data, enrollment of students age 25 and over has risen 41% since 2000 and over 40% of college students now work at least part time.² This means increasing numbers of adult learners are juggling the demands of work, school, and family. Traditional classroom-based learning models can make it difficult for these adult learners to “catch up.”
How To Help: Assign learning resources that can be accessed on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and ensure out-of-class efforts are highly structured in order to maximize limited study time.
How Acrobatiq Courseware Can Also Help You Promote Student Success
By providing students with evidence-based learning resources that enable continuous and near real-time insight into student learning performance, instructors can more effectively monitor student progress and potentially identify at–risk students earlier.
In reviewing Hattie’s research on factors known to positively correlate with student achievement, these five critical factors below positively correlate with increased student achievement and also form the basis of the design methodology of Acrobatiq adaptive courseware:
- Formative evaluation (.90)
- Effective feedback (.73)
- Meta-cognition (.69)
- Mastery based learning (.58)
- Interactive content (.52)
In multiple evaluation studies conducted at both 4- and 2-year institutions, Acrobatiq courseware has been shown to produce equal or better learning gains when compared to students learning in traditional classes, and require less out-of-class time from students to achieve similar outcomes.
To learn more about Acrobatiq’s adaptive courseware combining high-quality authoritative content, real-world simulations, assessments, and goal-directed practice activities with targeted feedback, visit our course catalog.
 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015),Chapter 3.
 Current Population Survey (CPS) and Integrated Post secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) (May 2014).
 Adapted from Recognizing Common Student Study Problems, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, edited by Gail Tennen and Gary K. Hagar