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Panel Debate: An Uncertain Future - TEF, Retention, and Student Success


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Liz Thomas
Liz Thomas Associates Ltd
London, UK | February 2017

Published in: Education
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Panel Debate: An Uncertain Future - TEF, Retention, and Student Success

  1. 1. P a n e l D e b a t e : A n u n c e r t a i n f u t u r e - T E F, r e t e n t i o n , a n d s t u d e n t s u c c e s s L e a r n i n g f r o m W h a t w o r k s ? A m o r e c e r t a i n f u t u r e Liz Thomas Liz Thomas Associates Ltd London, UK | February 2017
  2. 2. TEF has increased the stakes for improving student retention and success. But 13 universities have been working to improve student retention and success in 43 discipline areas over the past four years – before the TEF was dreamt up – as part of the second phase of the What works? Student Retention and Success Programme (WW-2)
  3. 3. # H U E M E A 1 7 And they’ve achieved many positive outcomes – for students and institutions… • First year continuation rates improved • First year attainment levels improved • Engagement in on-line activities increased • Increased number of assessments completed • Increased success at first assessment attempt, reduced failure rate • Increased levels of engagement, belonging and confidence • Increased internal transfers • Fewer one-to-one tutorials to discuss assessments • Reduced attainment differentials between black and minority and white students • Fewer student complaints • More satisfied students • Enhanced employability and positive feedback from employers • Greater understanding of the issues impacting on retention and success • Improved student data made available and used by staff to inform their decision-making • Increased staff capacity to work across the institution and bring about change • Greater student voice integrated into work across the institution, and improved capacity of staff and students to work together. • Wider policy developments informed by learning from the programme • Effective initiatives rolled out across the institution • Other discipline teams joining the process of implementing and researching change to improve student experience and outcomes • Pedagogical research outputs • HEA fellowships awarded
  4. 4. The study reinforced the need for interventions to have an academic purpose. Purely social or extra-curricular interventions do not reach many ‘at risk’ students. The academic relevance needs to be clear to students – and staff – otherwise engagement will be low. Interventions and change must be delivered through the mainstream curriculum to all students to maximize impact, consider timetabling, monitoring and assessment. 1 The power of peer support and interaction has been reaffirmed. Group tutoring and peer mentoring had positive outcomes. Interventions need to be on-going e.g. like tutoring, or connected into a programme, starting pre-entry and including early focus on potential employment outcomes. Individual student engagement needs to be monitored and followed up; different approaches used, but students were broadly supportive when helping them to be successful. 2 3 4 5 6 Academic purpose Facilitate collaboration Explicitly relevant Mainstream delivery Engagement monitored and followed up On-going rather than one off So, What works?
  5. 5. But we know all that… Most institutions have not yet been able to translate what we know about student retention into forms of action that have led to substantial gains in student persistence and graduation. (Professor Vincent Tinto, 2006)
  6. 6. Find out which disciplines, courses, modules and students have lower success rates from institutional data and use qualitative research to find out why. One-size does not fit all, and the interventions must meet the issues identified if they are going to improve retention and success. The institution must be ready for change, including: leadership support at all levels; alignment of policies and processes; staff recognition, development and reward; provision of data that can be used. 1 A structured approach, with sufficient time, a cross-institutional team, student engagement staff engagement, senior management support and leadership is crucial Monitoring students at the individual level, particularly students who have lower levels of engagement and belonging. Use formative evaluation of interventions to improve interventions. Continuing and embedding effective interventions; rolling out intervention and processes to other areas; wider institutional development (policies, capacities, research). 2 3 4 5 6 Understand the local contexts Design a process of change Identify evidence-informed interventions Review the institutional context Embed, sustain and enhance Use monitoring and evaluation WW-2 examined how to implement change that works
  7. 7. Academic staff are crucial, but they needed to be supported and enabled to do the work. It takes a whole institution to improve student experiences and outcomes.
  8. 8. The What works programmes have moved understanding, policy and practice about retention and success in the UK to a state of increased maturity. First generation retention and success focused on ‘fixing’ the needs of specific groups of students through additional support services to improve retention. Second generation retention and success focused on student engagement and belonging in their academic learning context to improve success. Third generation retention and success focuses on the whole institution working together and using evidence to understand the issues and implement contextually relevant changes across the whole student lifecycle and the entire institution.
  9. 9. L e a r n i n g f ro m W W 2 : A m o re c e r t a i n f u t u re Liz Thomas