Students Who Fail a First-Year Seminar

On January 24, 2005, Dawn X. Henderson asked list subscribers for advice on what to do about students who repeatedly fail a required FYE course. Several individuals responded that students are required to retake the course in the Spring semester. In some cases, a limit of one retake has been imposed, and if students fail again the “F” remains on their record (see Kimber Palmer). Other possible solutions included providing an alternative to the class to meet the requirement (see David Satterlee) as well as taking the failure as a warning sign and providing the student with individual attention and/or counseling (see Laurie Hazard). Potential reasons for failure were also explored.

Dawn X. Henderson (read FYE-post or send email)
David Satterlee (read FYE-post or send email) satterlee@SUSQU.EDU
Erin Joyce (read FYE-post or send email) erin.joyce@BAKERU.EDU
Megan Enos (read FYE-post or send email)
Ulli Brinksmeier (read FYE-post or send email) Ulli.Brinksmeier@MAIL.MSJ.EDU
Molly Alvaro (read FYE-post or send email) MBAlvaro-Smith@MAIL.MVU.EDU
Dawn X. Henderson (read FYE-post 2)
Margaret Puckett (read FYE-post or send email) mpuckett@NCSTATECOLLEGE.EDU
Joel Nossoff (read FYE-post or send email) jnossoff@UNM.EDU
Kimber J. Palmer (read FYE-post or send email) Kpalmer@TAMIU.EDU
Laurie Hazard (read FYE-posts or send email) lhazard@BRYANT.EDU

January 24, 2005 8:47am
Original Message: Students who fail the course

Hello All

I am trying to find out what is the policy at other schools for students who fail the
Freshman Studies/FYE course. Do you make the students repeat it? If so, what is the limit? I am really not trying to be funny here, but we have students who have failed the course more than twice...I really don't get it. Also, what about students who are seniors and did not take the course (which is a graduation requirement) you have a special course for them? or, give a paper or something? Help me out down here....

Dawn X. Henderson, M. Ed.
Associate Director
Division of Lower College
Saint Augustine's College
(919) 516-5083

January 24, 2005 9:55am
Re: Students who fail the course

I think this is an interesting question. I have wondered myself whether a senior that neglected this requirement would be unable to graduate. I think that is the real test.

At this point, Susquehanna University requires students that fail the FYE course to retake the course in the fall of their sophomore year. Our registrar automatically enrolls them in the course following an email notice from me.

I haven't had anybody fail it twice though. My first question about this is whether anyone has reached out to these student individually. I would suggest calling each of these folks in to find out why they are so resistant.

I have thought about whether we might do an alternative course for these folks that might be a designed to build relationships with these students who often are struggling across their college experience - something like a spring break canoe trip with journaling components. I have wanted to do a trip like that for extreme discipline cases as well. I want to take my 10 worse case discipline students on a spring break trip and agree to wipe their discipline record if they go and complete all the components of the

David Satterlee
Susquehanna University

January 24, 2005 10:30am
Re: Students who fail the course

At Baker, if a student fails the class in the fall, s/he is required to re-take it in the spring. We offer one section of FYE in the spring for transfer students, and that's where the students who don't succeed in the fall end up. I have a situation this spring with a student in my class, not because he struggled last semester, but because he was uncooperative and couldn't care less about the class. I'm hoping he'll take the course more seriously this semester, but I'm gearing up for resistance from this person again. I guess he will have to be enrolled a third time if he doesn't take it seriously this time, but I hope it won't come to that.

Dr. Erin E. Joyce
Baker University
Department of Language and Literature
P.O. Box 65
Baldwin City, KS 6600

January 24, 2005 10:32am
Re: Students who fail the course

Hi all,
This is a very helpful and timely topic for us at Warner Pacific, since we just completed our first offering of our FYE and were shocked at the number of students who did not pass. I am curious, what is the primary reason students fail this course, in your experiences?

I appreciate your feedback,
megan enos
Warner Pacific College
Portland, OR

January 24, 2005 10:41am
Re: Students who fail the course

It has been our experience that students do not necessarily see any connections to their "major", and therefore do not take the FYE seriously. It appears that focusing the content of the course on curren tissues relevant to students' lives helps reduce the failure rate.

Ulli Brinksmeier
Chair, Department of Music
College of Mount Saint Joseph
Cincinnati, OH 45233

January 24, 2005 11:11am
Re: Students who fail the course

I have taught Orientation for several semesters. I have also had several students fail my course. The biggest reason I found is for not attending. Our Orientation class is one credit hour and we meet for the first 8 weeks. It is a required course. Perhaps some of students do not take the course seriously because it is one credit hour and resent that it it required. However, they will have to take it the following semester as it is a graduation requirement as well.

Molly Alvaro, MA
LSW Coordinator
Academic Success Center
Potomac State College
101 Fort Avenue
Science Hall
116 Keyser, WV 26726

January 24, 2005 12:57pm
Re: Students who fail the course

What I have found is three things 1) attendance 2) lack of completing assignments, and 3) they do not value the course as a real class.

Dawn X. Henderson, M. Ed.
Associate Director
Division of Lower College
Saint Augustine's College
(919) 516-5083

January 24, 2005 1:49pm
Re: Students who fail the course

The is a good summation of my observations as well. Either the students are immature and do not come to class regularly and are clueless about assignments and projects, or they come to class and just do not do any work (even though I reinforce the idea that assignments are 50% of the grade), or they think the class is useless and usually do one of the other two - skip class or do not turn in homework.

Margaret Puckett
FYE Course coordinator/instructor
North Central State College
2441 Kenwood Circle
PO Box 698
Mansfield, Ohio 44901-0698

January 24, 2005 2:10pm
Re: Students who fail the course

Our Freshman Seminar faculty are asked to watch for such behaviors (absences, in-attention, not completing assignments) as "early warning" signs and act intrusively and assertively with those students to identify and resolve the problems. If it continues, they identify those students to me and I have an Academic Advisor contact the student (phone,
e-mail, U.S. Mail) to see what is going on. Many of these efforts are futile, but in significant instances we have interceded to get students to psychological counseling; or to get a job on-campus; or to take greater responsibility; or to move out of an abusive situation; or to officially withdraw from the university. It is a very small number of students; our Freshman Seminars have among the highest completion rates of all freshman classes (very, very few drops), but there are always a few.

In addition to seeing these behaviors as signs that the student is struggling with a problem (or not struggling enough), if there are several students in the same class, it may be a sign that there is something going on (or not going on) in their Freshman Seminar that is not positive.

Our Freshman Seminars are each linked with another course to form a Freshman Learning Community. The two courses earn a total of 6 credit hours, but they are not required. They may meet course requirements, but students can choose to take those courses not as a freshman seminar and not in an FLC.

Joel Nossoff
The University of New Mexico

January 24, 2005 2:41pm
Re: Students who fail the course

After several semesters of experimenting with ways to handle those non-serious students you are also experiencing, here is what we came up with, and have been practicing for a few semesters now: Students are allowed to take our course only twice. They cannot withdraw, unless they withdraw from all their classes and the university. If they flunk it twice, that F is on their transcript for good. So far, we haven't had anyone get an F twice. At our university, if you take the same class over again, the best grade is what is factored in your GPA.

We felt that if someone isn't going to take the class seriously enough to participate in it to pass it, we didn't want them in the course and "infecting" everyone else with their attitude.

Kimber J. Palmer, J.D.
Texas A&M International University
5201 University Boulevard
Laredo, Texas 78041

January 25, 2005 1:02pm
Re: Students who fail the course (Response to Megan Enos)

I think in some cases it's a purposeful act of commission. In others, I think it's symptomatic of such difficulty with the transition that a class isn't going to do it for these students (just as for some students a math class won't work to learn concepts, but individual tutoring will work for them); they are the group that may very well end up on probation or need individual attention. If your institution has the human resources, I think it's key to meet one-on-one with the students who fail (they must meet with a person who has excellent counseling skills) to help sort out the why, as I strongly believe although you can cull out some patterns, it's highly individualized for this group. Based on the info gleaned from the counseling sessions, determine if having them take it in the spring will work or if they need an individual "plan." For some of these students, I've seen only individualized situations work.

January 25, 2005 1:18pm
Re: Students who fail the course (Response to Dawn X. Henderson)

No... it's not funny when they fail the course, but they fail it here, too. We do have them repeat it for the first go around. If there are transfers who don't fit the mold precisely, those who have failed it more than once (which we haven't had happen here.... yet....), or seniors who have escaped somehow, we have them do an independent study with one of the Learning Specialists in our Academic Support/Learning Center/Tutoring Center (whatever you call yours). I am the Curriculum Coordinator for our course, so I meet with the individual student first, have a heavy duty counseling session, pick their brains (to figure out what it is they are rebelling against :-) ), and then I contract with them to do an independent curriculum that meets the requirements of our formal course. We utilize tutoring sessions, learning skills workshops, one-on-one meetings with our Learning Specialists, and other campus workshops (advising, career services, counseling, etc.), and then the Learning Specialist here insures that they fulfill the "contract" that I set up with them. We try to tailor it to their individual needs and issues, so to speak.

Laurie Hazard
Bryant University