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Theories of Retention and Student Success Matthew D. Pistilli, Ph.D. Director of Assessment & Planning, Division of Student Affairs Indiana University-Purdue.

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Presentation on theme: "Theories of Retention and Student Success Matthew D. Pistilli, Ph.D. Director of Assessment & Planning, Division of Student Affairs Indiana University-Purdue."— Presentation transcript:

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 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 (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

7 Output Basic level 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

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)

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)

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 (Output) (Padilla, 1999)

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

17 Initial Knowledge Campus Dependent Campus Independent Laws, Axioms & Principles Classroom Learning Experiential Learning Rules of Thumb Heuristic Knowledge Component Total Knowledge at Graduation (compiled knowledge) Theoretical Knowledge Component Conceptualization of Expertise The gray curve is a potential distribution in the acquisition of theoretical and heuristic knowledge over time. (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)

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

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 (2 nd Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


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