I recently received this email from a HAPS member.
I know that there has been lots of discussion on the HAPS ListServ about attrition rates in A&P, but is there any data out there? My institution is looking at retention rates in A&P I, and I’d like to know what percentage of students in other schools withdraw or get a D or F. Does HAPS have any data?
I responded to this request, and sent the response to the HAPS email listserv, and then decided to turn it into an entire blog post, because it is such an important and relevant question. And the answer is, YES, HAPS has this information…almost.
HAPS does indeed have a potentially large-scale effort going on to understand both descriptively and causatively, the reasons that lead to poor retention in A&P I. As you probably know — rates of D’s, F’s, and W’s (D-F-W) in A&P II are typically much less than in A&P I. Our very, very preliminary data, which the retention task force presented at the HAPS conference in Atlanta, bore this out.
Sadly, as of right now we do not have a sufficient number of responses submitted from HAPSters and their colleagues to achieve the statistical power needed for conclusions. This is largely my fault — I made the assumption that this issue was of sufficient importance to ANYONE teaching A&P (or Anatomy alone, or Physiology alone) that they would gladly contribute their outcomes data to the project in order to have some objective data on which to base:
- curricular decisions;
- discussions with their deans about how a 27% D-F-W is not at all unusual;
- and strategies to identify and help the students most at risk for trouble in the coursework of Anatomy, Physiology, and to a wider sense, natural sciences.
So, what do we ask you to do? First, keep track of this SURVEY LINK. When you’ve gathered all your information, you’ll just click on that link and start reporting your data. Before that, we advise you to:
- Go to your computer grade book, and pull out the raw numbers from all of the A&P I classes you have taught. This can be for the last year, or if you’re say, the John Legler Endowed Professor of Human Anatomy, and have something like 30 years of data to share — please share it all.
- If you teach just straight anatomy, or just straight physiology, we absolutely want and need that data also.
- If you teach with other colleagues who are not HAPS members — please, oh please — ask them to join this effort. SHARE THIS POST LIBERALLY!
- Once you’ve found those precious grade book files, it will ease your interaction with the survey website to have collated the data for each course into something that looks like this:
In this case, the numbers represent the final grade distribution for each of the classes at the conclusion of the term and the TOT column reflects the total number of students at the start of the term.
Note: the interaction with the web-based survey isn’t precisely what you may be used to with systems like QUALTRICS or Survey Monkey. Nonetheless, it has an internal logic to it, and once you’ve gone through the work of actually pulling together these numbers, it will not take very long to get your data entered and most importantly, part of the first systemic analysis that has been done by a professional organization thus far.
I hope you’ll have a chance to talk with any colleagues, or at least share this post with people you know who are now looking at the grades being handed back around mid-terms, and are starting to face questioning looks from administrators who are thinking: “What’s the deal with A&P?” Well, this survey and its analysis will help to provide defensible and data-centered analysis of the things we see, and any trends or predictive correlations that emerge from the data analysis.