April 16, 2009

Learning and motivation can be taught

An Ohio State University course on learning and motivation increases the odds that struggling first-year students will graduate, a researcher says.

We are taking the students who are least likely to succeed in college and teaching them the skills they need to stay in school and graduate, Bruce Tuckman, the creator of the course, said the statement. Just taking this one class has made a big difference in how well below-average students do at Ohio State.

Tuckman and Gary Kennedy, a graduate student in education, compared 351 students who took the class their first quarter at Ohio State with 351 matched controls who didn't take the class. The students were matched on gender, age, ethnicity, high school class rank and ACT scores to make sure those who took the class were compared to students of similar ability and background.

Students were tracked for seven years. The study found that those who took the course had the higher retention and graduation rates and averaged significantly higher grade point averages for each of the first four quarters.

Over four quarters, course takers had an average GPA of 2.85, compared to 2.74 for their matched controls who didn't take the class, a difference of about 3 percent, the researchers said.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Diego.