Problem-solving course helps boost student success, study finds

Author: CHSS Communications
July 29, 2022
Adam Burke

A study of students who successfully completed an academic success course showed that the students benefited academically from what they learned. Professor of Recreation, Parks & Tourism and Holistic Health Studies Adam Burke published the findings in the journal Active Learning in Higher Education on July 24.

Colleges and universities have implemented a broad range of initiatives to support student success, including classroom-based approaches. Given the important role of teaching at SF State a novel general education academic success course was developed and tested. The course integrated a comprehensive problem-solving model into lectures and assignments. Students were taught the model along with relevant academic skills content. They then applied the model to a personal challenge affecting their success in school and life.

Using a matched cohort design, 826 course participants were compared with a campus-wide sample matched on key variables. Results showed that students who successfully completed the course achieved higher cumulative GPAs overall compared with matched peers. Highest GPAs for students who took the course as freshmen suggested a transfer of knowledge over time. Results also showed that the course significantly benefited students from historically at-risk populations. Lower SES, first generation, and underrepresented minority course participants earned more units, were more likely to remain in school or graduate, and graduate sooner. For example, first generation students earned more units (3 courses), were 10% more likely to still be in school, or 12% more likely to have graduated, and 16% more likely to have graduated sooner. Course participants also showed positive changes in academic self-efficacy and use of effective learning strategies.

The study shows that a well designed problem-solving course can help students, especially those who struggle academically, to more effectively meet the challenges of college and daily life.