The center supports students by providing an open and welcoming environment with study space, peer tutors, and informative workshops in order to guide students to develop the skills and self-confidence they need to succeed in science and math.
Office of Undergraduate Studies, California State University-San Marcos
Profile submitted by Suzanne Hizer
Vision and Goals
The CSUSM STEM Tutoring Program is a rich, stimulating, diverse learning community where exchange of ideas takes place. We continuously seek and adopt the most effective ways to support student success in STEM. We create opportunities for students to build confidence, and we empower them to become independent lifelong learners. We encourage transferrable thinking and skill sets among STEM, other disciplines, and the real world.
The STEM Tutoring Program is a key component of the Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services CLASS) under the Office for Undergraduate Studies in Academic Affairs. There is one full-time staff director in charge of this program who reports to the Associate Dean in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. The Associate Dean reports to the Dean and the Dean to the Vice Provost of Planning and Academic Resources. Internal collaboration is expected among other learning center staff and faculty who teach courses supported by tutoring services.
Are there advantages of being structured this way?
Yes, because we are in Academic Affairs we are viewed as an essential activity for student learning outcomes and success indicators.
Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
To some extent we could be seen as using money that is taken from increasing the number of class sections and/or faculty support. However, the Dean of Office of Undergraduate Studies has worked hard with the Provost to make sure that does not happen.
Our source of funding is under the general fund, however some money in that fund have come from a student success fee that are specifically targeted for high impact practices such as STEM tutoring.
How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
This structure has a minimal influence on programming but has influenced our desire to work closely and collaboratively with faculty.
What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
The student success fee has stabilized funding for this activity.
What are the challenges?
No major challenges have arisen thus far.
Has this funding structure has changed over time?
The STEM tutoring program was initiated under NSF grant dollars and was moved to the general fund in 2015.
Description of Programming
Approximately 40 student peer tutors provide one-on-one academic assistance to over 2,000 undergraduate students per academic year in biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and math courses. We recently launched workshops focused on: 1)preparedness for difficult chemistry courses, and 2)metacognition, study strategies, and growth mindset for chemistry and math students. We are recognized as an important high impact practice that helps students progress through their STEM major.
Successes and Impacts
Students consider the STEM tutoring program a vital asset to their success. They use services at high levels (80-90% of enrolled STEM majors) and rate the quality very high. Additionally, we have evaluated final grades for two of our highest use chemistry courses and have found that students who participate at least 5 times in a semester raise their final grade by at least 0.5 letter.
Evaluation and Assessment
How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?
We used extensive evaluation such as student participant surveys, participation rates, and effects on student grades to determine whether we are meeting our internal goals. This data is being used to identify potential external support funds for growth and new programming.
Elements Contributing to Success
Elements contributing to our success are the central location we have on campus, faculty support in terms of identifying tutors and encouraging student participation, and strong administrative support.