UHCL staff member's research study explores reality of 'underprepared' college students

February 5, 2020 | UHCL Staff

Scott Richardson
Scott Richardson says underprepared students aren’t “at risk,” they’re “at promise.”

University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Chief Diversity Officer/Title IX Coordinator Scott Richardson has co-authored an article focusing on the life and academic factors in college students’ lives that impact their ability to persist through graduation. The article, titled “Addressing Misperceptions of Underprepared Students: A Case Study at a Public American University,” will be published this year in the Journal of Global Education Review.

“I use the word ‘persist’ because we want to understand why some students are able to get to college completion and why some are not,” Richardson said. “We often say that an ‘underprepared’ student is at risk of failing, but that student could also be at risk of succeeding.”

The article examines the faculty and staff’s perceptions of underprepared students. Although most students believe that their professors want them to succeed, they offered insight into where faculty could assist their progress even further.

“We will celebrate the 4.0 student, but not the 2.0 student,” he said. “In fact, that underprepared student is probably that institution’s biggest population. The phrase I have coined is ‘at promise.’ These are students who have untapped potential, and they are resilient. We can push this student harder, but a lot of faculty don’t know how to engage those students and might even be wondering why they are in college.”

He said the study examined the students’ ‘human condition,’ encompassing his or her life factors as well as other influencers. “The kind of advising and coaching a student receives makes a big difference,” he said.

The study indicates that professors can be dismissive of students who do not yet understand all the fundamental concepts in a class. “Some kids receive passing grades in high school because they knew how to behave, not because they learned the material,” he said. “These students should be called resilient, not ‘at risk.’ This is a big paradigm shift.”

People with potential have promise and shouldn’t be written off, he continued. “They are here and it’s a public access mission to educate them. We should be at a place where we are as enthusiastic about graduating citizens as we are about graduating scholars. A student doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to be relevant, so we need to decrease the gap because everyone does not come from the same mold.”

The study found that good advising and modeling are key factors in helping a student persist through to graduation. “Modeling is letting students see that others have succeeded, since they don’t see themselves in positions of success. A student can be scholarly and intellectual as well as anything else he wants to be,” he said.

Find out more online about UHCL’s Title IX policies and procedures.  

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