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HERE to Stay? A 3 year study into the relationship between doubting, engagement & student retention Ed Foster Student Engagement Manager Centre for Academic.

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Presentation on theme: "HERE to Stay? A 3 year study into the relationship between doubting, engagement & student retention Ed Foster Student Engagement Manager Centre for Academic."— Presentation transcript:

1 HERE to Stay? A 3 year study into the relationship between doubting, engagement & student retention Ed Foster Student Engagement Manager Centre for Academic Development & Quality Nottingham Trent University

2 Agenda Student retention Background to the HERE Project Methodology Doubting Key findings Changing the University to support retention Discussion

3 Student Retention in the UK Over 40% of young people study at University £9,000 per year tuition fees & £4,000 living cost loans (fees increased in 2012) Selective recruitment system Students apply half way through their pre-university education They are offered a place based on predicted outcomes, confirmed in the summer before they arrive Most study A levels, increasingly BTEC diplomas Progression from first to second year (2011/12) Approx. 7% of students withdraw However, approx. 7% transfer, change courses, repeat the 1st year Best Performing University 1.5% drop out Worst performing University 25% of students drop out Course completion (2011/12) 81% of students expected to complete their course within 4 years

4 Retention Research In the US, first study in retention looked at ‘student mortality’ (McNeeley, 1938, in Berger & Lyon, 2005) More sustained research since 1970’s Research in the UK, Australasia & Europe became more prevalent from the late 1990’s –Sector expansion and Widening Participation –More recently tied to issues such as student engagement

5 Some students are more at risk of leaving early Students with weaker entry qualifications Black & Minority Ethnicity students (BME) Science Technology Engineering & Management courses (STEM) Male students International students Students with vocational qualifications Mature students (21 or older) Some students with disabilities

6 But why? Reasons for withdrawal (Yorke & Longden 2004): –‘Poor’ initial choice of course –Dissatisfaction with the academic experience –Personal problems (including finance) –Lack of clear routes & strategies for coping Farsides & Woodfield (2003) - Attendance at classes has a strong impact on retention Castles (2004) -Reasons to stay were about support, coping strategies, ‘life challenger’, love of learning & prior academic success Kuh et al (2008) - Entry qualifications, family background and student engagement Torenbeek, Janssen & Hofman (2010) -Prior success, time on task and academic success Witte, De Jonge & Schoonman (2014) -Student self perceptions of ability to cope, dealing with problems, dealing with stress

7 Tinto’s model of institutional departure (1993) Pre-entry Attributes Family Background Skills & attributes Prior Schooling Goals/ Commitments Intentions Goal & institutional commitments External commitments Academic system Social System Academic performance Faculty/ staff interactions Extracurricular activities Peer group interactions Integration Academic integration Social integration Goals/ commitments Intentions Goal & institutional commitments External commitments Outcome Departure decision

8 Is this model accurate? Tinto’s model is ‘near paradigmatic’ However, are academic & social factors held in equilibrium? Bryson & Hardy (2014) found that social factors come first Students feel that they fit in first socially and use that sense of belonging to then feel part of the academic community


10 Braxton, Hirschy & McClendon (2004) Student entry characteristics Motivation Control issues Self-efficacy Empathy Affiliation needs Parental education Anticipatory socialization Initial Institutional commitment Internal campus environment Academic communities Active learning Learning communities Cost integrity commitment to welfare External environment Finances Support Work Family Community Academic integration Subsequent institutional commitment Persistence

11 Background to the HERE Project NAO & PAC reports

12 HERE Project was one of seven projects NTU, partnered with Bournemouth & Bradford Set out to test two hypotheses What impact does student doubting have on retention & success? What impact do course teams have on retention & success? Focus on first year students

13 Methodology

14 Mixed methods approach Doubting Seven large scale online surveys (over 3,000 responses) Interviews and focus groups with respondents Monitored progression of survey respondents Impact of course teams Audited ten course teams –Interviewed staff –Surveyed students –Analysed course literature and processes

15 ‘Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one’ Voltaire

16 Doubting Defined as having doubts about the course/ university serious enough to consider leaving How many students are doubters in the literature? –21% Rickinson and Rutherford (1995) – 39% Sodexo (2010) –Yorke & Longdon – 25% rising to 40% Doubting as a cause of withdrawal –Gradual accumulation of doubts Ozga and Sukhnandan (1998) –If this model is right, then it’s potentially extremely valuable Differences between doubters and leavers –Internal factors - Mackie (2001), ability to adapt - Roberts et al (2003)

17 Key Findings

18 Approximately one third of first year students have experienced doubts sufficiently strong to make them consider withdrawing at some point during the first year.


20 Doubters reported a poorer quality experience than students who have not doubted Measured 17 student experience factors –For example ‘my subject is interesting’ –Tested both the importance and actual experience of a factor In most instances importance was higher than the actual experience Exceptions – social, peer & family support –Average gap for non-doubters = 12% –Average gap for doubters = 29% –Tested seriousness of considering leaving in 2011, more serious doubts = poorer experience

21 Poorer quality experience continued Doubters reported: –Less likely to understand the differences between pre-university & university –Less likely to have had difference explained –Less likely to find pre-arrival course info accurate –Finding course less enjoyable –Fewer friends –Less likely to feel that they belonged –Found studies harder –Feeling less confident to ask for help Overall gave an impression of being far less well engaged with their peers, their course and their university Evidence about UCAS tariff was inconclusive “I don’t seem very involved with the University to be honest … probably if I see my tutor on the road, he wouldn’t recognise me”.

22 Primary concerns were academic Lack of confidence coping Lack of sense of progress Lack of feedback Felt isolated from peers and tutors

23 There were four main reasons cited by doubters for staying ‘Support from friends and family’ ‘Adapting to course/ university’ ‘Determination/ internal factors’ ‘Future goals/ employment’ Impact of friends & family = undervalued by students In 2009, open question –Friends & family most important (particularly friends made at university) In 2011, when asked to choose from options –Personal determination –Future goals & employment –Then friends & family

24 Changing the institution

25 Toolkit –Series of recommendations & actions –Written guide –Recipe cards –Designed to be used by course teams in meetings/ staff development –

26 HERE Project Recommendations Focus on supporting students in the following ways: Identify & respond to students at risk Transition to HE Relationships & communications with staff Choosing the right course Improve social integration Sense of belonging Student motivation & goals Active engagement Good communications & access to student support

27 Learning Analytics NTU has developed a student dashboard


29 Student Departure

30 Conclusions & discussion

31 Conclusions Doubting is an important factor concerning persistence –Doubters are more likely to leave early –Warning signs are there & can be managed Doubters are less engaged, more disconnected from their peers, course & university –Seem to be less able to understand the differences Doubting is primarily related to the course experience –Strongly suggest that institutional responses are therefore focused on the curriculum and the course first –Other factors are very important to particular groups Overall strategy –Manage the factors that lead to doubting & support doubters –At NTU we are beginning to use learning analytics to support staff

32 Dank u wel How does this chime with your experience? Do you have any questions or observations?

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