LEAPS Initiative

Retention and Student Success in Persistently Challenging Courses

Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning | Retention and Student Success

Ferris State University

 LEAPS: An Initiative that Supports Faculty Who Teach Persistently Challenging Courses

To achieve the aim of increasing student success in persistently challenging courses, the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, in collaboration with Dr. William Potter, Associate Provost of Retentionand Student Success, and others in the Retention and Student Success area, have developed the Leadership for Educational Achievement, Persistence, and Success (LEAPS).   A timeline for achieving this goal is presented below.

LEAPS will initially provide support for five cohorts of faculty, with a cohort consisting of a team of faculty from one program or department.  Periodically throughout the LEAPS Initiative, FCTL will collect data that will allow us to measure the effectiveness of our support and activities.

Semester One (first semester that a cohort participates in LEAPS)

The general goal of semester one is to identify the possible reasons why a relatively high percent of students in the course(s) get D, F, or W grades.  During this time, the cohort will:

  • Identify factors that contribute to student success in the persistently challenging courses;
  • Identify factors that hinder student success in the courses;
  • Identify ways to apply the findings from the literature reviewed in this report;
  • Review other course- or discipline-specific research literature, and apply findings as appropriate;
  • Identify or develop and provide professional development opportunities that will support faculty members in their efforts to increase student success in the courses. While these opportunities will be targeted towards the needs and goals of the cohorts, any interested faculty member will be invited to participate. Examples of such opportunities include:
    • FCTL-facilitated workshops on, for example, the “flipped classroom,” High Impact Educational Practices, rubrics, or formative assessment; and
    • Conferences, workshops, or symposia offered outside of FSU.
  • Develop a means for measuring the impact of the changes on student success.

Semester Two (second semester that a cohort particpates in LEAPS)

The primary goals of semester two are to enable faculty to implement one or more intervention(s) in their class, to support them in implementating this intervention(s), and to explore the effect of the intervention(s).  During this time, members of the cohort will:

  • Reconvene the cohorts to:
    • Identify and share lessons learned from the professional development activities; and
    • Identify and establish opportunities for ongoing collaboration.
  • Begin implementing the changes in the courses or teaching practice;
  • Document the implemented changes as the courses progress;
  • Meet to discuss progress and trouble-shoot possible problems; and
  • Collect data on the impact of the implemented changes on student success.

Semester Three (third semester that a cohort participates in LEAPS)

The goals of semester three are to review and evaluate the data or the effect of the intervention(s) used, and to establish plans for ongoing attention to student success.  During this time, cohorts will:

  • Analyze data;
  • Meet to determine lessons learned and implications for future offerings of the courses;
  • Evaluate overall effectiveness of the LEAPS initiative and implications for future work with new cohorts; and
  • Determine on-going cohort needs and means for providing continued support.


It is important to note that LEAPS is designed to involve a cohort, or team, of faculty (and staff, if appropriate).  An estimated budget required to support one cohort of faculty members involved in the LEAPS initiative is provided in the table below. The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs has allocated up to $20,300 to support five LEAPS projects. A project will involve a group or cohort of faculty and staff, if appropriate, that seeks to address student success and retention issues in one or more courses.

Expense per faculty cohort


Academic Department stipend

$   2,500

Resources (e.g., books, curricular materials, etc.)

$   1,000

Refreshments for cohort meetings ($40 per meeting)

Semester One (6 meetings)     

$     240

Semesters Two and Three (8 meetings)     

$     320

TOTAL COST for LEAPS per cohort     

$   4,060


The LEAPS initiative requires the collaborative efforts of individuals and groups across campus. These include:

  • Faculty members;
  • Academic administrators;
  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs;
  • Associate Provost of Retention and Student Success;
  • Education Counseling and Disabilities Services staff;
  • Structured Learning Assistance (SLA) staff;
  • Academic Support Center staff; and
  • Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning staff.

To submit a proposal for funding support from the LEAPS Initiative, please complete the proposal form. Questions can be directed to FCTL at fctl@ferris.edu or (231) 591-3826.