A New Tool For Solving College Failure

For nearly 15 years I’ve worked with students to understand exactly why they can be bright yet still fail in college. So many of the reasons why students have problems are still just guessed at, and even Professors and Administrators have no idea. In fact, students themselves can often have little insight in to exactly why. But directly working with such students from an informed perspective has not only identified the real reasons, but has shed light on the many myths about failure reasons. My work has been to precisely identify why students begin to do poorly, because only then can a solution for the problems be developed.

But the existing problem-identification tools did not fit this need, so taking on another role, I designed the software to create it. After weeks of design and eight months of developing and testing, I am happy to say that it is up and running in the learning section of my site. This new software is now the new format for my Student Self-Assessment For Academic Underperformance® that I use in my work, and the Applied Learning Skills InventoryTM (AlSI) that I created for use in the broader college setting. In the past merely the basic self-assessment I used helped students to discover the problems that they were encountering, and the new tool has many features that it can identify problems in far more detail.

Features Of The New Software

The new software and assessment versions create individual three levels of understanding about the problems a student is encountering: Scales, subscales, and specialized scales. Each are linked with questions to represent areas in which students might have strengths or weaknesses in relation to skills, habits, perspectives, and other areas linked with student academic success.


Scales are broad areas of skills and other topics that pertain to student performance, ranging from academic skills to their beliefs. Each of these scales can show strength or weakness in a particular area, and can also show comparisons between the scale areas. The current student assessments contain 12 scales, such as:

  • Reading And Studying
  • Papers & Writing
  • Test Taking
  • Test Preparation
  • Being Proactive
  • Seeking Guidance On Efforts
  • Control Over Academic Life
  • Values And Beliefs
  • Self-Awareness
  • Academic Interest
  • Motivation For Learning
  • Work Style

In the screen shot below (of an actual student result) we can see that this student had moderate skills in Test Preparation, but needed much help with skills and habits pertaining to Reading and Studying.

Failing college student result 4


The new assessments contain six subscales, which are unique areas separate from the scales. Subscale topics occur in questions that are contained in many scales, so they work across the existing scales. They can gather information on secondary areas to give a deeper level of understanding of a student’s problems. Subscale areas include:

  • Learning Skills
  • Understanding College Expectations
  • Productivity
  • Asking For Help
  • Pre-College Preparedness
  • Engagement In Learning

As we can see from the following, this student isn’t very clear on the expectations of the college setting, and they are having a very difficult time being productive in that environment:

failing college student results 3

Specialized Subscales

The new assessment format also has specialized scales that work both as a “red flag” and as a means to give a student direction for their next steps. The special scales elevate in response to problems, such as many scales showing weakness in key academic or other areas. Currently there are four special scales in the assessments:

  • College Skills Concerns
  • College Environment Concerns
  • Advising Concerns
  • Student Stress

As we can see below in this student’s results, the specialized scales reflect that, while there was a relatively low impact from issues in her school environment, she was experiencing a great deal of stress from her academic life that was affecting her studies:

Failing college student results 2

This new format for the assessments that I will now design represents a huge development in the ability to understand the reasons why students begin to do poorly or fail in college. While it took an enormous amount of time and effort to complete it, I’m certain it will prove to be a good addition to my work.

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