Update June 2018. Final upload -including a summary of quantitative and qualitative findings.

Final Report Template 2017-18-spkxvkStudent retention 18.6.18-2kbom4a Student retention 18.6.18-2kbom6p

We are at the end of the process. June 2018 has come around quickly. We have delivered a paper at the University of Northampton conference in June 2018 and also to a recent workshop in the Faculty of Business and Law.

The attachments are intended  as working documents from which  journal articles will be drafted  and hopefully to be published in the next academic year and further discussions workshops undertaken.

The purpose of this study is to find out the lecturer’s perspective as to why students withdraw, what they could do to help the retention of individual students, what the University of Northampton could do to help student retention.

Studies are regularly carried out associated with student retention (For example: Crosling, Heagney and Thomas, 2009; Harackiewicz and Priniski, 2018; Kahu and Nelson, 2017; Thomas, 2002).  This study builds upon earlier research including that carried out by Pritchard et al (n.d.) focusing on findings from lecturers. This study adds to existing literature associated with the lecturer’s perspective. 

This study uses mixed methodology using quantitative (Questionnaire) and qualitative (semi structured interviews) tools. Following an analysis and evaluation of findings the questions asked in this study are shown below together with a summary of findings. 

Question 1 of this study asks: “What themes are identified associated with lecturer’s perspective on enhancing student retention, progression and continuation at the university of Northampton?” The table below provides a summary of the themes. 

Table 14.  
Themes associated with participation and retention.  
Main findings of the study.  
Number Theme- (Participation and retention.) Times mentioned in comments.
1 Engagement 28
2 Attendance 26
3 Mental health 21
4 Workload 19
5 Family pressure/ reasons 17
6 More time 16
7 Administrative 13
8 Consistency/ coordination 12
9 Finance 11
10 Timetables, 11
11 (Clearer guidelines for) PATs 9
12 (Build) Confidence 7
13 (Acceptance of) attrition 5
14 Personal issues 4
15 Extra support 4
16 (Demands on) resourcing 3
17 (Personal tutors have to be) valued 2
18 (Not to) spoon feed. 2
19 Threat of withdrawal (would help) 1
20 Non-academic staff “Being more available.” 1
21 Too many people behind closed doors, 1
22 Passive learners may learn well. 1

 

Question 2  of the study asks Should there be acceptance of not being possible to please all the students all the time?” When lecturers are asked if the university should “ recognise and accept that it is not possible to please all students all the time and that this be acknowledged within student feedback/ statistical data?” 81% (61) lecturers said “yes”; 8% (6) said “no”, 8% (6) lecturers are unsure. The findings from this question suggest that there should be an acceptance that it is not possible to please all students all the time and this be reflected in the feedback/ statistics. As one lecturer comments that “an expectation of 100 percent retention is not helpful for professional courses” and that “a small percentage of attrition should be expected.”

Question 3 of the study asks if there is a “perceived link between retention and participation”. 79% (59) lecturers felt that there is a link; 8% (6) lecturers said no and 1.33% (1) lecturer neither agreed nor disagreed. When asked to explain why they think that there is a link between student participation and retention, an overwhelming theme identified is engagement. “This is obvious! The students that engage are far more likely to cope better.” It can also help build confidence that “allows students to test their knowledge and gain confidence. It makes classes more interesting. It allows us to build better working relationship”. Whereas there appears to be an overwhelming majority who agree with the link between participation and retention one lecturer provides an interesting comment that “I know there isn’t a link because some of the least participating students have been retained year in and year out.

Question 4 of this study asks “what recommendations materialise from the findings to help enhance student retention, progression and continuation at the university of Northampton?” The table below provides suggestions that could be investigated further to help with student retention and participation.

    Table 15.
Number Theme Suggested/ possible action
1 Engagement; Extra support To develop and maintain a universal policy of workloads/ demands and expectancy across the whole university.
2 Attendance; Threat of withdrawal To introduce a “means test” to follow up on “poor” attendance.
3 Mental health To develop and improve specialised support for students including staff numbers.

To provide staff members training in mental health to help them better understand and identify possible concerns/ issues that students and staff members may face.

4 Workload; Family pressure/ reasons; Personal issues; Finance; More time; administrative; Consistency/ coordination; (Personal tutors have to be) valued To provide further hours in the 550 to support students-

To delve further into the role and expectations of a PAT.

PAT role should be enhanced; to engage with students who are absent; ability to know students better.

5 Timetabling Improving ease of access to student timetable.
6 (Clearer guidelines for) PATS; (Demands on) resourcing To provide further hours in the 550 to support students- PAT role should be enhanced. Develop a feeling of being valued.
7 (Build) confidence To build a relationship and confidence with students.
8 (Acceptance of) attrition To accept attrition.
9 (Non-academic staff) Being more available; Too many people behind closed doors Non-academic staff could engage with students further.

To bring academic and non-academic staff together and remove different campus experience.

10 Passive learners may learn well. Acknowledge that passive learners can learn well.
11 Participation and engagement Where these words are used in University policy and procedures clear definitions should be provided.
11a   Engagement- Halls of residence –

To provide activities on weekends- when students may otherwise go home.

11b   Welcome week and Welcome back week.

To consider spreading out the “welcome” across the year where students are guided from one milestone to another on the academic map.

Reflecting upon the above recommendation, to provide students a welcome back week to help them reacclimatise.

12 Transition To set up a working group to engage with schools and colleges of higher education to develop a programme to help student transition to University.

 

It does appear that the terms “engagement”, “participation” and “passive learner” are subjective terms and can be interpreted differently and within different contexts. It is therefore helpful that when using such terms, the University policy and procedures documentation is explicit and the clear to the reader.

 

 

 

 

Update 31st May 2018

We are now coming to the end of this study. We are still writing up the findings. This will likely continue until the very end date. 

We are pleased to confirm that we will be delivering at the University of Northampton’s conference on the 20th June 2018. 

Conclusions are divided up into the analysis and evaluation of each question and are shown below. Question 4 is associated with the recommendations “What recommendations materialise from the findings, to help enhance student retention, progression and continuation at the university of Northampton?” The recommendations are being written up over the next couple of weeks. 

Question 1 of this study: What themes are identified associated with lecturer’s perspective on enhancing student retention, progression and continuation at the university of Northampton?

Table 14.  
Themes associated with participation and retention.  
Main findings of the study.  
Number Theme- (Participation and retention.) Times mentioned in comments.
1 Engagement 28
2 Attendance 26
3 Mental health 21
4 Workload 19
5 Family pressure/ reasons 17
6 More time 16
7 Administrative 13
8 Consistency/ coordination 12
9 Finance 11
10 Timetables, 11
11 (Clearer guidelines for) PATs 9
12 (Build) Confidence 7
13 (Acceptance of) attrition 5
14 Personal issues 4
15 Extra support 4
16 (Demands on) resourcing 3
17 (Personal tutors have to be) valued 2
18 (Not to) spoon feed. 2
19 Threat of withdrawal (would help) 1
20 Non-academic staff “Being more available.” 1
21 Too many people behind closed doors, 1
22 Passive learners may learn well. 1

 

It does appear that the terms “engagement”, “participation” and “passive learner” are subjective terms and can be interpreted differently and within different contexts. It is therefore helpful that when using such terms, the University policy and procedures documentation is explicit and the clear to the reader.

 

Question 2 asks Should there be acceptance of not being possible to please all the students all the time?” When lecturers are asked if the university should “ recognise and accept that it is not possible to please all students all the time and that this be acknowledged within student feedback/ statistical data?” 81% (61) lecturers said “yes”; 8% (6) said “no”, 8% (6) lecturers are unsure. The findings from this question suggest that there should be an acceptance that it is not possible to please all students all the time and this be reflected in the feedback/ statistics. As one lecturer comments that “an expectation of 100 percent retention is not helpful for professional courses” and that “a small percentage of attrition should be expected.”

 

Question 3 asks if there is a “perceived link between retention and participation”. 79% (59) lecturers felt that there is a link; 8% (6) lecturers said no and 1.33% (1) lecturer neither agreed nor disagreed. When asked to explain why they think that there is a link between student participation and retention, an overwhelming theme identified is engagement. “This is obvious! The students that engage are far more likely to cope better.” It can also help build confidence that “allows students to test their knowledge and gain confidence. It makes classes more interesting. It allows us to build better working relationships.”

Whereas there appears to be an overwhelming majority who agree with the link between participation and retention one lecturer provides an interesting comment that “I know there isn’t a link because some of the least participating students have been retained year in and year out. Many non-participating first years become participating second and third years, so the distinction isn’t set in stone. Many participate in one lecturer’s sessions, but daren’t speak in another’s. The idea that silently taking it all in (or making notes) is in some way deficient, defective, or passive is flawed and nonsensical; equally the notion that students forced to do regular activities are engaged in the learning presumed to be associated with the activity is also nonsense. Some so called passive learners learn well whilst some so called actively engaged learners learn almost nothing.”

 

Update 30th April 2018

In the writing up stage now. Lots to do however initial findings 

There appears a good balance of those who participated that included length of experience, nature of tenure, and designation. The tables below provide a summary of the findings.

Table 1      
Length of experience.      
Less than one year 1 year to 5 years. 6 years to 10 years 11 years to 20 years 21 years and over.
1 22 14 25 12
1.35% 29.73% 18.92% 22.78% 16.22%

 

Table 2    
Nature of tenure    
Full time Part time Sessional (term time only) Hourly paid
63 6 0 6
84.00% 8.00% 0.00% 8.00%

 

Table 3          
Job designation          
Professor Associate Professor Principle Lecturer Senior Lecturer Lecturer Associate Lecturer Graduate Tutor
1 3 5 48 9 5 1
1.37% 4.11% 6.85% 65.75% 12.33% 6.85% 1.37%

 

For the purposes of this study a lecturer is an academic who engages with student learning on line or in workshops/ seminars.

An interesting theme of consistency appears from the findings. For example: “I think we could be more consistent in our feedback and should agree the standards – e.g. of written English that we are going to expect. More levelling of marking and feedback both within and across modules and faculties would be desirable.” A recurrent theme associated with the findings is associated with attendance. This includes a response where the lecturer felt the need to “have a more consistent approach to attendance issues, extension requests and also to give first years time to get used to the demands and standards required of them. ”Another finding is associated personal issues, suggesting the need to “understand who is a student at our university. The typical student at UoN is now different. More mental health issues, more home problems and more criminal behaviour.” A lecturer commented that “The main thing this year was new students not having timetables,

When asked to explain how you think non-academic staff could support students the main themes appear to be associated with demands upon resourcing which may have impact upon non-academics availability. The suggestion is that “There are still too many people behind closed doors…..”

Lecturers are provided with the statement that I think that the personal tutor could have a greater role in student experience.” 52% (39) lecturers agreed/ strongly agreed. The main theme suggests that more time could be allocated to this role. The findings suggest that 71% (52) lecturers would be prepared to support students with regards to social and personal development if it were reflected in the allocated hours.

The findings from this question  suggest that there should be an acceptance that it is not possible to please all students all the time and this be reflected in the feedback/ statistics.

79% (59) lecturers felt that there is a link between student participation and retention. The main theme associated with this question is engagement. One lecturer feels that “This is obvious! The students that engage are far more likely to cope better.” It can help build confidence that “allows students to test their knowledge and gain confidence. It makes classes more interesting. It allows us to build better working relationships.” The findings support the reason why the term participation is included into this study, suggesting a relationship between participation and retention. There appears to be an overwhelming majority who agree with the link between participation and retention. However, one lecturer provides an interesting comment that “I know there isn’t a link […..] Some so called passive learners learn well whilst some so called actively engaged learners learn almost nothing.”

Update March 2018

Lecturer’s perspective on enhancing student retention, progression and continuation at the University of Northampton.

Phase 1 is associated with quantitative analysis of which there are 75 respondents from which data are analysed providing findings. An online questionnaire/ survey is used, in this study, to collect structured information so that variables could be compared and measured (Seale, 2004) from which broader inferences could then be made (Silverman, 2005). The online questionnaire is undertaken in December 2017 over a period of three weeks. Lecturers are invited to participate by e mail directing them to an online questionnaire. When completing the questionnaire, lecturers do not need to identify who they are, maintaining anonymity. A reminder is sent out after two weeks. The traditional approach used (for example: hard copies passed to academics) would likely lead to fewer responses and could be laborious and time consuming (Marshall, 2002). The advantage of undertaking the online questionnaire/ survey is that it can be accessed by any person who has been invited to participate. The value of undertaking the questionnaire/ survey provides width (i.e. number of participants). It enables the questionnaire/ survey to reach a wider sample of academics increasing the potential number of respondents. 

The findings from the questionnaire have been written up and analysed. 

Interviews are undertaken as part of phase 2 making use of qualitative data explaining why and how a person feels about particular experiences. It provides insight into how another person(s) feels and thinks, together with greater insight into experiences, revealing information that may not be identified in a questionnaire (Kahn and Cannell, 1957; Seale, 2004). The findings from the questionnaire/ survey may not provide depth. It is, therefore, helpful to delve into further depth by undertaking interviews, helping to contextualise the findings.

When invites are sent out to lecturers to participate in the questionnaire they are also asked to confirm by e mail if they would be willing to participate in an interview. A total of 6 lecturers respond, confirming that they would be willing to participate. A spreadsheet is produced of names and these 6 lecturers are contacted again in February 2018 to again invite them to participate and, if agreed to arrange a date for the interview. Of the 6 lecturers who expressed initial interest, 5 lecturers are interviewed, suggesting a reasonable balance (three female and two male lecturers). Interviews are carried out in March 2018. The average length of the semi structured interview is approximately 30 minutes. Interviews are digitally recorded and then transferred to a PC for storage during the research process.

The audio recordings now need transcribing and this will be undertaken over the next few weeks. The findings will be used to explain and develop findings from the questionnaire data. 

 

 

Student retention- the lecturer’s perspective. Update 2nd December 2017

One month on from the last blog- how time flies. Where are we now? 

A pilot questionnaire was sent out on the 9th November 2017 inviting colleagues to check content. Amendments were subsequently made.  The questionnaire was made live on the 17th November, 2017. The Faculty Manager kindly forwarded the link to other Faculty Managers, who in turn forwarded to staff members.

On Tuesday, 28th November 56 responses had been received and 4 people offered to be interviewed.  To try and increase responses a request was made for a reminder to be sent to all staff. Central Communications advised that “we can only use the exchange e mail for strategic staff messages that affect everyone“, however an addition has kindly been added to Unify. The suggestion made was to contact staff members individually.  This has been undertaken over the last few days, taking up hours. Hopefully all lecturer’s have now received a reminder and there will be an increase in the number of responses.  

The closing date is the 15th December, 2017, after which data will be analysed and evaluated and prospective interviewees contacted. 

Phil Bowen, Isabelle Evans, Richard Rose and Andy Pilkington 

 

 

1st blog Student retention- The lecturer’s perspective.

This is the first blog from Phil, Richard, Andy and Isabelle on the above study.

Earlier research has been carried out by Pritchard et al (n.d) titled “enhancing student success -learning and teaching, and assessment.” The focus of this research was on retention, progression and continuation in the first year at the University of Northampton. Qualitative and desk research was undertaken which included student focus groups and 13 staff interviews from chosen programmes together with analysis of documentation from other Higher Education institutions. The findings suggest that students are more likely to engage when there is a mix of learning and teaching methods that includes mobile phone applications when compared to traditional methods of assessment. Students expressed preference for interactive sessions. The findings also suggest that it would be helpful to have study skill support for transition from level 3 to level 4. This included a desire to have further information to help students make informed choices and support with assignments. Staff members expressed the view that the PAT system was not fit for purpose and more time and resources should be given to Personal Tutors and health services to support student learning and experience.

The purpose of this study is to find out the lecturer’s perspective as to why students withdraw, what they could do to help retention of individual students, what the University of Northampton could do to help student retention. It builds upon earlier research carried out by Pritchard et al (n.d.) focusing on findings from lecturers. The findings will be analysed and evaluated and recommendations provided.

. The objectives of the study include:

  1. To find out what tutors/ lecturer’s think are the reasons for students to withdraw.
  2. To find out what they could do to help retention of individual students.
  3. To find out what the University of Northampton could do to help student retention.
  4. To undertake analysis and evaluation of findings and to provide recommendations.

We are presently waiting for ethics approval. Subject to this been forthcoming a questionnaire will be drafted and will follow with interviews.

Please feel free to contact Phil Bowen on phil.bowen@northampton.ac.uk if you would like to contact us direct.

Phil Bowen; Richard Rose’ Andy Pilkington; Isabelle Evans.