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gaming in the classroom
Ryan Windeknecht talks with students in his Philosophy 252 class in March 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges

Students of all backgrounds are experiencing firsthand the benefits of academic coaching, tutoring, and supplemental instruction, according to a study published by researchers with UT’s Student Success Center.

“Our data shows that our services give undergraduates the best chance of success throughout their time at UT,” said Jessica Osborne, associate director of the center and PhD candidate in evaluation, statistics, and measurement in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

The study was published in The Learning Assistance Review, the official peer-reviewed publication of the National College Learning Center Association.

Coauthored with Talisha Adams, assistant director of the center and Richard Parlier, a PhD student in the same program, the study evaluated students’ survey responses after participating in any one of the three Student Success Center key undergraduate academic success programs: academic coaching, supplemental instruction (SI), and tutoring.

Researchers found that students reported considerable benefits from participating in the program. Overall, 78 percent of students reported high levels of impact from academic coaching. Impact percentages were similarly high for other services: 77 percent for tutoring and 88 percent for supplemental instruction.

“Students generally report even higher impact when they attend more often for any of the three interventions,” Parlier said.

The impact was consistent across demographic and biographic characteristics, including class year, expected education level, parents’ education level, gender, race and ethnicity, and in-state or out-of-state status.

“Despite their backgrounds, how long they traveled to arrive on campus, or their class year, undergraduates who utilized the center’s services for support conveyed a benefit,” Osborne said.

The study was conducted over a two-year period beginning in fall 2016. Undergraduates who had participated in academic coaching, tutoring, or supplemental instruction received emails with links to surveys constructed using a multiple-option scale. Surveys were anonymous, and students had the ability to opt out at any time. Approximately 450 students participated.

“For academic coaching, we gauged whether students felt more prepared, were proactive, were better at managing time, and had a better understanding of academic goals and policies,” Osborne said. “For tutoring and supplemental instruction, we were interested in their course improvement, whether they were more likely to study course material and attend class, and whether they were using the learning strategies developed with their peer leaders.”

Across services, researchers assessed whether students were more engaged with professors, improving their grades, increasing in confidence, and likely to continue to use center resources.

The responses were overwhelmingly positive and were consistent with SSC’s internal assessments since 2010–11. The center’s most recent report indicated a 98 percent growth in academic coaching visits over four years, a 110 percent increase in students accessing tutoring services, and found students participating in supplemental instruction regularly attain higher GPAs than those who do not. Overall, 5,643 undergraduates accessed one of the center’s services at least once during the 2017–18 academic year, with total student visits or appointments reaching 15,894.

The research has also contributed to the way the center organizes its services to students.

“If students feel academic coaching improves their time management, we want to continue to emphasize time management in our orientations and our materials to incoming freshmen,” Osborne said. “This study has allowed us to assess what we offer and shape it so it provides students with what they believe is important for their success.”

Now, Osborne and Parlier seek to further explore the impact of services through additional research with key student populations.

“The better we understand our students’ needs and how our services support those needs, the better we can serve all students at UT,” Osborne said.

CONTACT:

Brian Canever (865-974-0937, bcanever@utk.edu)

Jules Morris (865-719-7072, julesmo@utk.edu)