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Theories of Retention and Student Success

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1 Theories of Retention and Student Success
Matthew D. Pistilli, Ph.D. Director of Assessment & Planning, Division of Student Affairs Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis John N. Gardner President John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education January 14, 2015 · Costa Mesa, CA

2 Prominent Retention Theories
Astin Tinto Padilla Bean and Eaton Gardner

3 Astin’s Student Involvement Theory
Focuses on three aspects of college: Inputs Environment Output Developed as an alternative to other complex theories

4 Astin’s Student Involvement Theory (1984)
Inputs Output Environment Astin’s Student Involvement Theory (1984)

5 Definitions Involvement:
The amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience. (1985, p. 134) Exists on a continuum, with students investing varying levels of energy Is both quantitative and qualitative Direct relationship between student learning and student involvement Effectiveness of policy or practice directly related to their capacity to increase student learning Five basic postulataes about Involvement-      1.  Investment of psychosocial and physical energy      2.  Involvement is continuous, students invest varying levels of energy      3.  Involvement has qualitative and quantitative features      4.  Development directly proportional to quality and quantity of involvement      5.  Educational effectiveness is related to level of student involvement (Astin, 1985, 1999)

6 Inputs The personal, background, and educational characteristics that students bring with them to postsecondary education that can influence educational outcomes (Astin, 1984). Astin (1993) identified 146 characteristics, including Demographics High school academic achievement Previous experiences & self-perceptions Demographics Citizenship Ethnicity Residency Sex Socioeconomic status High school academic achievement Standardized test scores GPA Grades in specific courses Previous experiences & self-perceptions Reasons for attending college Expectations Perceived ability

7 Output Basic level More abstractly Academic Achievement Retention
Graduation More abstractly Skills Behaviors Knowledge The things we are attempting to develop in students

8 Environment Where we have the most control
Factors related to students’ experience while in college Astin (1993) identified 192 variables across 8 overarching classifications Institutional characteristics Financial Aid Peer group characteristics Major Field Choice Faculty characteristics Place of residence Curriculum Student involvement Institutional chars: Type, control, size Peer group: SES, academic prep, values, attitudes Faculty chars: teaching methods, morale, values Curriculum: core courses, requirements for courses Financial Aid: Pells, loans Major field choice Place of residence: on/off campus, Greek housing Student involvement: hours spent studying, number of courses taken in various fields, participation in various programs

9 Takeaways from Astin We have little control over inputs
Outputs are usually measured in binary terms, but we have a greater opportunity beyond simply retaining/graduating students We have a great deal of control over the environment into which we place our students What aspects of the environment can you focus on as you develop plans to increase student success?

10 Tinto’s Model of Student Departure
Near-paradigmatic stature (Braxton, 1999) Based on Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide van Gennep’s “successful rites of passage” Looks at students’ pre-entry attributes, goals & commitments, and internal/external experiences Tinto (1993) noted that “effective retention programs do not leave learning to chance,” but, rather, are intentionally created environments that ensure that learning will occur (p. 147). (Tinto, 1993)

11 Tinto’s Model (continued)
Considers both formal and informal interactions and experiences Does not leave learning to chance – intentionally creates purposeful environments Places strong emphasis on academic and social integration (Tinto, 1993)

12 Tinto’s Model of Student Departure (1993)
First, students need to have access to retention programs that put their welfare above the institution’s goals. Second, retention programs should focus not just on a particular population (e.g., minority students, low-income students, athletes), but on students from all walks of life. Third, retention programming that can be deemed successful must work to provide a degree of integration for students into both the academic and social communities within an institution of higher education. As Tinto put it, “the ability of an institution to retain students lies … in the underlying orientation toward students [that] directs its activities” (1993, p. 146). In other words, just as students must commit to an institution in Tinto’s model, an institution must also commit to the success of students. Tinto’s Model of Student Departure (1993)

13 Takeaways from Tinto Students’ goals and external commitments are real factors in their success and persistence Students need to excel both academically and socially Initiatives such as learning communities, academically-themed housing, and leadership programs can increase academic and social integration Where are there opportunities to foster academic and social integration on your campus as part of your retention planning?

14 Padilla’s Conceptualization of Expertise
Developed a theory based on minority student success In short, what separates students who successfully complete college from those who do not graduate? Black Box Model Geography of Barriers Knowledge acquisition Negotiating Barriers Successful negotiation of Barriers Developed after studying successful minority students at an institution in the Southwest (Padilla, 1999)

15 Campus Experience (Black Box) Incoming Students (Input) Graduates (Output) Dropouts (Padilla, 1999)

16 Campus Experience: Geography of Barriers
Incoming Students (Input) Graduates (Output) Dropouts Campus Experience: Geography of Barriers (Padilla, 1999)

17 Conceptualization of Expertise
Heuristic Knowledge Component Rules of Thumb Campus Dependent Experiential Learning Initial Knowledge Total Knowledge at Graduation (compiled knowledge) Classroom Learning Campus Independent Thus, student has compiled knowledge in two distinct components: Theoretical Learned through coursework and formal study Heuristic Based in prior experiences and study, yet untested in a campus context Students use both theoretical and heuristic knowledge to navigate barriers encountered on campus If a student has insufficient theoretical or heuristic knowledge to overcome a barrier Students must acquire that knowledge on the spot in time to overcome the barrier If they aren’t able to overcome the barrier Students may be predisposed to leaving college If a sufficient (undefined) number/type of barriers are not overcome Students will likely dropout of college Success, then, is predicated on The salience of each barrier encountered and their ability to overcome a particular configuration of barriers Important to note: Students are considered experts on being students and on campus barriers Laws, Axioms & Principles The gray curve is a potential distribution in the acquisition of theoretical and heuristic knowledge over time. Theoretical Knowledge Component (Padilla, 1999)

18 Takeaways from Padilla
Our campuses are full of barriers for students – usually in the form of policies, regulations, and practices. Students are experts in their own success – and their peers’ failure Heuristic and/or theoretical knowledge must be tapped by students to overcome barriers What barriers exist on your campus that can be removed to facilitate processes students must navigate or to allow for progress towards degree objectives?

19 Bean and Eaton’s Psychological Model of Student Retention
Based in four psychological theories Attitude-behavior theory Provides overall structure of model Coping-behavioral theory Self-efficacy theory Attribution (locus of control) theory These three things combine to form a model for understanding academic and social integration (Bean & Eaton, 1999)

20 Bean and Eaton’s Psychological Model of Student Retention (1999)
Individual enters an institution with various psychological attributes Attributes are shaped by experiences, abilities, self-assessments Self-efficacy, normative beliefs, past behaviors among the most important Interactions occur between student and the institution/representatives from various offices These interactions alone do not result in integration Students’ self-assessments during interactions with collegiate environments lead to a psychological determination of belongingness Emotional reactions/feelings come into play here Ultimately, students’ ability to become academically and socially integrated (and, thus, persist), come from students’: Self-efficacy assessments (Bandura, 1997) Coping behaviors (French, Rodgers & Cobb, 1974) Loci of Control (Rotter, 1966; Weiner, 1986) Bean and Eaton’s Psychological Model of Student Retention (1999)

21 Takeaways from Bean & Eaton
Students enter with characteristics over which we have little control (see Astin’s inputs) Interactions occur between students and the institution in many forms and on multiple occasions – but these interactions do not automatically integrate students into the environment Students determine the extent to which they belong during these interactions How can your retention plan work to increase the extent to which students believe they belong on your campus?

22 Definition of First-Year Student Success
Academic Success/GPA This broad definition of first-year student success is achievable only through partnerships. Relationships Identity Development Career Decision Making Health & Wellness Faith & Spirituality Multicultural Awareness Civic Responsibility Retention – the baseline

23 Broad discussion Commonalities Differences distinct enough to matter
Application What are your takeaways from these theories? What parts of these theories speak to your home institution?

24 References Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 24, Astin, A. W. (1985). Involvement: The cornerstone of excellence. Change, 17, Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college? Liberal Education, 79(4), Astin, A. W. (1999). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40, Bean, J., & Eaton, S. B. (2001). The psychology underlying successful retention practices. Journal of College Student Retention, 3(1), Braxton, J. M. (1999). Theory elaboration and research and development: Toward a fuller understanding of college student retention. Journal of College Student Retention, 1, Padilla, R. V. (1999). College student retention: Focus on success. Journal of College Student Retention, 1, Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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