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Project Title:Thriving and Achieving Program (TAP)Institution Name:California State University, Northridge Innovation Category:Student Success Project Director:Anna Laven, Transition Specialist, Disability Resources and Educational ServicesContact Information:(818) 677-2684, dres@csun.eduWebsite:
Project Description:

Recognizing that students with disabilities are more likely to need developmental coursework upon entry to college, less likely to continue beyond freshman year and, upon graduation, experience much higher rates of unemployment than their non-disabled peers, the Thriving and Achieving Program (TAP) applies a positive psychology, strengths-based approach to the transition and academic support of students with disabilities to the university setting. TAP seeks to counteract the lived experience of students with disabilities who have typically been told throughout their lives what they cannot do and for whom traditional academic support resources like tutoring ineffectually addresses the impact of the disability on learning.  Students are required to complete semester-long contracts to participate in a comprehensive program of strengths counseling, academic coaching, workshops and technology training to enhance learning.    In seeking to unlock the potential of students with disabilities, TAP helps students gain confidence, maintain motivation, and develop strategic study skills to meet their academic, personal and career goals. 


TAP staff include 8 academic coaches and a graduate student intern.  Academic coaches (upper division undergraduate or graduate students) are paid for 10-12 hours a week of student meeting and training time.  Coaches meet individually with 8-12 assigned students on a regular basis to provide peer mentoring and tutoring.


To help students:

  1. Gain knowledge of their strengths and abilities as they apply to their academic and career choices
  2. Developgoals using realistic self-appraisal and understanding how the limitations resulting from the disability impact the achievement of personal, academic and career goals
  3. Understanding of personal learning style and mastery of basic study, organizational, and time management skills augmented with assistive technology training
  4. Achievementof higher levels of subject area and writing mastery.

Growth:  The program began in 2009-10 and has grown from 34 participants to 120 for the 2010-11 academic year. 

Knowledge:  All students felt TAP helped them identify their strengths, learning styles and goals, and to gain greater ownership of their part of the learning process.  Pre and post tests indicate increased willingness to use accommodations, communicate with faculty and use assistive technology with their study skills among TAP participants.

Academic Success:  An 87% passage rate on the upper division writing proficiency exam, 88% retained good academic standing and 38% improved their grades.

National Certification:  The nationally recognized College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) certified the TAP academic coach training program after receiving documentation of 63 hours of coach training on required and elective topics.

Challenges/Problems Encountered:As with any program that relies heavily on a peer support framework, the program has been challenged with turnover, developing meaningful training opportunities, providing consistent supervision on a daily basis and physical space to house the program.  Some of these challenges can be mitigated with the hiring process.  At hiring, coaches commit to three semesters with the TAP program to maximize the considerable training each coach receives.  Weekly training meetings encompass topics that must be covered on a consistent basis (boundaries, communication, work flow) and topics that can be covered less frequently (mentoring do’s and don’ts, team building).  A number of guest speakers have also been sought to provide different perspectives and engage the coaches.  The supervision needs of coaches diminish after their first semester; after which they are comfortable managing typical challenges.  Space issues have been addressed by using laptops and portable supply crates so coaches can use any available office or testing room.
Evaluation Approach:Evaluation of the program includes quantitative data gathered on individual participants (grade point average, class standing, etc.) and qualitative information in the form of session write-ups, pre- and reflective post-tests and summaries on the growth of each student for each semester of participation.
Potential for Replication:The program can be easily produced with the following: an office culture dedicated to (or willing to support and move toward) a strengths-based, positive psychology approach; someone who wishes to act as a supervisor and mentor to coaches; and a reduced distraction space for one-on-one meetings.  Funds to purchase laptops and software packages for use during coaching sessions are also helpful.  Program forms and training materials can be provided to those interested in replicating TAP.
AASCU Resources:An additional contact is Jolene Koester, president of CSU Northridge from 2000 to 2011, and who led the institution during the time in which this initiative was implemented. She can be reached at jolene.koester@csun.edu. 
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Dianne Harrison , Presidentdianne.harrison@csun.edu
(818) 677-2121
Date Published: Monday, November 21, 2011Date Revised: Friday, January 13, 2012