Driver 1 - Equitable Academic & Social Supports

Resources in this Change Idea

Evidence Base

Research shows when students understand that academic setbacks are a common part of the learning process, and not an indicator that they do not belong or do not have what it takes to succeed, they are more likely to persist through challenges and take advantage of resources that can support their success (e.g., Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Murdock-Perriera et al., 2019; Murphy et al., 2020; Walton & Brady, 2020). When students are struggling with course material, building agency to reach out for assistance and make use of available resources can help them persist through these challenges. Occasionally, when a student’s mastery of course content is not yet sufficient to support their continued growth, it may be necessary for them to consider withdrawing from the course and retake it when they are better equipped to succeed. Instructors can help students navigate this decision by communicating about withdrawal deadlines in a way that affirms their belief in students’ abilities, connects students to resources, and normalizes the experience of being challenged in college.



Amy Toole
Director of General Chemistry & Associate Lecturer, University of Toledo

Robert Steven
Biological Sciences, Senior Lecturer, University of Toledo

Sandra Robinson
Mathematics, Associate Lecturer, University of Toledo


Students who are struggling with a class may not understand or feel comfortable discussing their option of withdrawing from a class versus failing. When the instructor opens up a line of communication, it may be easier for students to work out the details of their options and decisions they need to make. Instructors at the University of Toledo developed emails they could send to students who were struggling in the course as the course withdrawal deadline approached. The goal was to communicate that they were there to support the student and help them succeed, that challenges are normal in college, and to encourage students to talk to their academic advisors and the financial aid office if they are considering withdrawing.