The Neglected Case of the ‘W’: Waste or Wisdom?

Sridhar Ramachandran, Annette Wyandotte


Receiving a ‘W’ for a class withdrawal differs from earning a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F,’ yet studies typically combine these elements. This study focuses on the ‘W’: 1) to urge teacher-scholars to investigate its importance and 2) scholarly teachers to engage in methods that may avert student withdrawals as well as to facilitate students to make more informed decisions before taking a ‘W.’ The article addresses the scant literature on the ‘W’ to re-contextualize a student’s decision to withdraw from a course in the broader student success literature. Studies of retention, persistence, and completion of higher educational goals widely recognize both academic and non-cognitive influences that may move a student to withdraw from college. Results of the authors’ case study presented here suggest parallels in student decisions to withdraw from a course, hoping to raise awareness within the scholarship of teaching community of the need to probe this topic, in view of in their wisdom for teaching and learning their passion to educate students for a better quality of life and work.


withdrawal, ‘DFW’ attrition, college students, retention, academic persistence, student success, drop out prevention, drop out research

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ISSN 1527-9316