Helping UofT students through proactive coaching

Helping UofT students through proactive coaching

Philip Oreopoulos, Department of Economics, University of Toronto Mississauga

Abstract

In the past three years, Prof. Oreopoulos has implemented a new proactive approach to offering support based on new technology and research in behavioral science and sociology. This field experiment conducted on all three campuses of the University of Toronto last year generated promising results for one-on-one coaching, in which students are assigned to upper-year undergraduate coaches who proactively initiate contact with them. It was found that personal coaching boosts students’ performance by more than half of a grade point, on average (about 40 percent of a standard deviation), and reduced the fraction failing a course from 15 percent to zero.

This project will support the creation, implementation, and testing of an online platform that attempts to make the effectiveness of weekly one-on-one coaching more scalable. The platform allows coaches to interact with a large number of students online and with text – Coaches still have regular interactive conversations, but do so in a way that facilitates more conversation, more convenience for both student and coach, and more salient advice. Working with Student-Life, and the undergraduate transition offices, this project will build a scalable version of the program and integrates it with existing services and targets at least all first year students in Economics at UTM and ST. George (6,000 students).  Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, including both experimental and descriptive analyses, research will be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the program and provide a detailed portrait of our students’ challenges and trajectories. Ultimately, the goal of the project is to put in place a self-sufficient coaching program that makes a real difference to a large number of students’ academic performances and experiences.