Academic Workshops: A Plan to Help Students Experiencing
Academic Probation and Disqualification


Phil Brocato,  Ed.D.student, University of Southern California.
niversity advisement centers across this country are expected 
not only to give proper advisement, but also be empathetic to 
students who are either on probation or disqualified.  In an effort 
to retain students in academic difficulty, the School of Health and 
Human Services Advisement Center at CSULA developed a grant-funded 
position for one graduate student to help probation and disqualified 
students.  It was my responsibility, as a Masters of Sociology student 
at CSULA, to create a plan that would assist this special population, 
and at the same time retain students for the university.  Most 
advisement appointments last 30 minutes, which is clearly not enough 
time to give proper advisement and address issues associated with 
academic difficulty.  Students who are on probation or have been 
disqualified display characteristics like anxiety, self-doubt and a 
tendency to reevaluate behaviors.  The chaos that emerges from these 
characteristics during a 30-minute advisement appointment is a 
teachable moment for the holistic advisor.  The holistic advisor sees 
each student as a unique person with his/her own perspectives; thus, 
each advisement session is treated as such (Stowe, 1996).  

The advisement process is essential for students to succeed whether 
they are on probation or disqualified.  However, for the student in 
academic difficulty it is equally important that, from a holistic 
perspective, teachable moments take place away from the 30-minute 
advisement session. The knowledge and wisdom I attained from previous 
students in academic trouble can have significant impact on probation 
and disqualified students during a teachable moment, which traverses 
the academic advisement process. This special population of students 
must come to recognize and understand campus policies and procedures, 
time and stress management skills and factors that either contribute 
to academic progress or cause a lack of academic progress. What follows 
is a one-quarter study developed in the name of retention. Data from a 
pair of workshops given in the Spring '98 quarter was evaluated and 
interpreted in the subsequent quarter.  Ideally, it was my goal to have 
the majority of students in academic difficulty increase their GPA and 
maintain a 2.00 or better.  The reality is that I could not come to 
the rescue of every student, but, relatively speaking, the results for 
one quarter provide evidence and create a need for universities and 
colleges to pay attention to this special population if they are to 
retain these students.

Methods

In conjunction with the School of Health and Human Services Advisement 
Center at California State University, Los Angeles, I placed holds on 
student records, developed a contact letter and constructed a survey.  
List and mailing labels of probation and disqualified students are 
generated each quarter and sent to the individual schools on campus.  
After receiving a list of 147 probation and disqualified students, 
holds were placed on these students by a student worker and myself.  
Next, we mailed contact letters to these students informing them that 
the only way to remove their hold was by attending a pair of workshops. 
Then, it was the student's responsibility to contact the HHS Advisement 
Center to be placed on an attendance roster.  Because the first in a 
pair of workshops was in the fourth week, which is prior to the next 
quarter's registration, holds were removed in good faith.  However, if 
students did not attend the second workshop facilitated in seventh week, 
the hold was again placed on the student's records.  The interim period 
between workshops allowed me to construct and get approval for a survey 
that was administered at the end of the workshop requirement.  The survey 
consisted of five attitudinal questions, three yes and no questions, one 
category question and one question where students answered in text.  
Ideas for instructional materials were taken from Gardner/Jewler's, Your 
College Experience, 3rd Edition.  Probation and disqualification policy 
and procedures are set by the university and were explained in the 
workshops.

Results

Descriptive analysis and correlation of coefficients were used to determine 
frequencies in nine of the ten questions asked.  Questions one and two 
revealed that 94.2% of probation and disqualified students could identify 
factors that either cause a lack of academic progress or factors that 
contribute to academic progress.  In addition, 94.2% of the respondents 
in question four showed that students had a better understanding of stress 
management.   Question three responses were clumped together in two 
descriptive categories: helpful and very helpful.  Over 90% of students 
felt that the workshops were helpful and improved their ability to balance 
time. Like question three, the following question results were descriptive 
and showed:
	. That 94.1% of students felt that the explanation of GPA and 
	  Grade Point Balance Deficiency (GPBD) was helpful and very 
	  helpful.
	. That 94.2% of students felt that the explanation of resource 
	  centers was helpful and very helpful.
	. That 93.2% of students felt that workshop exercises were 
	  helpful and very helpful.
	. That 98% of students felt that the workshop leader was helpful 
	  or very helpful.

Question seven was separated into categories: Health and Human Service 
Advisement Center, University Writing Center, Tutorial Center, Student 
Support Program, Counseling Office, and Multiple Centers.  Student 
responses and frequencies as to the importance of these categories are 
as follows:
	HHS Advisement Center			19.4%
	University Writing Center		16.5%
	Tutorial Center				16.5%
	Student Support Program			2.9%
	Counseling Office			3.9%
	Multiple Centers			40.8%

Additionally, a correlation of coefficients test was utilized as support 
in showing the significance of responses of probation and disqualified 
students.  Questions 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9 resulted in levels of significance 
less than .05, which is statistically significant.  Question ten consisted 
of text only and was summarized with a concluding statement that suggested 
need.  The responses occurring most often were the need for workshops on a 
continual basis, and the concern for students to be more involved during 
the workshop process. 

Performance Summary after Workshops or Appointments

In table one, 83% of students responded to the letter either by attending 
a pair of workshops or an individual appointment at the School of Health 
and Human Services Advisement Center.  Of 147 contact letters mailed, 
only 17 students did not contact the office regarding their probation or 
disqualification status.   Students who made individual appointments, in 
place of attending the workshops, spoke to me by appointment only. 
Materials and exercises facilitated during the workshops were briefly 
discussed to satisfy the workshop requirement.  Grade Point Balance 
Deficiency (GPBD) defined by California State University, Los Angeles is 
the number of negative points a student acquires from grades received 
below a C or 2.00.

Table:			        Workshop     Individual 
				Attendees    Appointments   Total   Percent

Decreased GPBD			 43               8           51      42%
Maintained same number of GPBD   30               4           34      28%
Increased GPBD                   30               7           37      30%
 
Total                           103              19          122     100%
							

Discussion

In short, teachable moments for probation and disqualified students are 
best taught and comprehended away from the academic advisement session.  
This mini study unequivocally establishes a need and warrants further 
research in order to initiate or improve existing policy that deals with 
students in academic difficulty.  The strong results may not be effective 
enough to influence institutional policy, but clearly, they demonstrate 
those students on probation or disqualified need and want help.  The data 
gathered is only representative of the institution where it was collected, 
but the basis for the idea that educators should share their concerns for 
all students does not begin or end with probation and disqualified students 
from that particular institution.  Educators from other institutions of 
higher education must pay attention to data collected at public and private 
campuses to reduce academic difficulty and increase retention.   My 
two-quarter study spanned enough time to accomplish the task at hand; 
however, if universities and colleges are to help probation and 
disqualified students succeed, there must be more money redirected for 
retention purposes.