The College of Education is among the most successful at the University of Wyoming in retention percentage and 4-year graduation rates. Starting in 2014, the College of Education had a 47% 4-year graduation rate and retained 80% of its students. What makes the college of education so successful? Two members in different positions within the college shared their opinions and thoughts.
First was tenured professor Dr. John Kambutu. 35 years teaching in public schools, followed by a turn to the education of educators. He saw that switch as a natural progression since he had been called ‘Professor’ in middle and high school due to his educational prowess. “It’s the impact,” he says, “there are 26 people in our class… you’ll be working with 120 students each… if I can impact you and transform you into the teachers we need, and you impact them… you do the math.”
The second interviewee was Manager of Student Advising for the College of Education Todd Krieger in McWhinnie Hall (pictured above) to get his opinions and thoughts. He has been with the college for 16 years, with a previous 15 years at the University of Wyoming in residency, with two years as an Area Coordinator. Truly, he has seen every phase of a student from first-year residency to academic advising.
Using both of their experience and knowledge, it is easy to get an understanding of what goes into the department’s success. Is it the students? The mission? The professors?
For the information on what students bring to the college, Kreiger’s experience was lucrative. The answer was easy: it is the barrier for entry. The University of Wyoming requires incoming freshmen to have an unweighted high school GPA of 3.0 and a minimum composite ACT score of 21 or SAT of 1060. The College of Education maintains those requirements as well.
However, it also has another route of entry to the college. Instead of relying on the testing scores, prospective students are able to enroll in the college and can take 15 credit hours with a maintained GPA of 2.75 to enroll in the program.
Once in the program, background checks and consistent maintenance of the 2.75 GPA mean that students are meant to obtain perfection and then sustain it. Giving students the opportunity is really what gets consistent students to the College of Education.
“We have high mission standards… but we don’t just take the cream of the crop, we have a way for you to enter the program for those who may not be good test-takers,” explains Krieger.
From Dr. Kambutu, he sees a shift in how the students want to learn. Rather than wanting a professor who teaches at them, they want an institution and class that teaches with them.
“I have seen a change in that it seems like the younger generation doesn’t want to be taught. If you’re not taught by somebody, that knowledge doesn’t just fall out of trees,” explains Kambutu. “I also need to change myself. They don’t want to be taught as in telling them, they want activities. Design activities, and let them ‘figure it out’ for themselves.”
This will come up again later, but Kambutu sees that it isn’t necessarily what the students are taught, but rather how they’re taught that influences retention and success.
When asked about a shift in the mission of the College of Education, Dr. Kambutu discussed how materials are taught. “Students are customers, and because students are customers we have to figure out how to keep them from going elsewhere. And one way, this is the how, more and more online teaching,” he said.
During our interview, there was a meeting going on discussing the evolution of the higher-level classes into an online medium to fulfill the desire of students. In fact, the entire Master’s program at the College of Education is taught entirely online and they are never required to come to campus.
If some of the highest level programs are moved online to keep the university in the talks of the best colleges of education nationwide, this evolution is inevitable. However, there will always be students who need a traditional classroom setting to succeed.
This is where the ‘how’ comes in. Dr. Kambutu speaks of not what is taught but how, and with younger generations, the space of a technological classroom is just as engaging and physical as a traditional setting would be.
The students can only be as driven or as successful as the professors that teach them. Dr. Kambutu spoke about what is different in the Education department as opposed to the Business or Engineering department. Here, students are taught the science and art of teaching as opposed to a quantitative field. The approach from professors is not that of a lecturer but is more reliant upon student-based learning that will allow them to engage more.
As for Mr. Krieger, he says, “The faculty know how to teach… We don’t have a washout class. If you’re in the class, we’re not here to get rid of you, we’re here to teach you.” With a great many of the educators here having a background in public school teaching, their ethos is more than bolstered, and they are experienced artists who are ready to imbue students with their knowledge.
The professors are a massive part of the educational process. Their approach is what drives students either closer to the profession or away from it.
So, what makes it special?
As was anticipated, what makes this department successful is a mix of factors that stems from how classes are taught. The curriculum plays a part, the students’ engagement plays a part, and the professors’ engagement plays a part.
A final quote from Dr. Kambutu beautifully illustrates the focus of the mission of the College of Education and the missions of the professors working within: “The key is finding out, the ones who leave, why do they leave? The ones who drop out, why do they drop out? And if there is something that can be done, if there is a lesson that can be learned from that information, why not use it? And the ones who stay, why do they stay? I think that’s key, constantly finding out… Find out, what happened?”
Attached is the interview with Dr. John Kambutu. If you have forty minutes to spare, it is highly encouraged to listening, as he had some incredible and knowledgeable discourse.