Afternoon, thank you for being here and being interested in this area of study to be the external examiners for this EdD. I am Deeba Parmar and I am grateful for this opportunity to present my research and discuss its process, findings and impact. The purpose of the presentation is my self appraisal of the research I have carried out and extent to which it meets the learning outcomes as articulated in the programme handbook and the QAA Level 8 descriptors (as evidenced in the thesis, examination and validation) module. The research that I chose to undertake is within the area of the ‘student experience’ in particular student withdrawal, as explained by the title – An exploration of student and staff perceptions of factors behind student withdrawal among first undergraduate students at a North London University I have been interested to learn the factors behind why it is that some students voluntarily decide to withdraw early from their studies.
I intend to start with putting the final project in the context of the whole of my EdD programme as unlike the traditional model the EdD is modular in design. I think its important to stress that the acquisition of this learning has taken place over a 4-5 year period whereby a number of modules have been undertaken. – culmination of research and work. The essence of the EdD is about the practice and research and the scholarly inquiry which ive aimed to demonstrate throughout this EdD programme. This diagram illustrates the various components of the doctoral programme and shows the emphasis of scholarly inquiry within practice. I would argue that the practitioner focused approach is a strength of this programme, as the context of practitioner based knowledge is applied within the ‘practitioner setting’ illustrating the importance of connectivity between scholarship and practice. Through the experience and knowledge gained undertaking the EdD programme, I, as a practitioner-researcher have strengthened my approach in a scholarly manner, undertaking an evidence based approach to my practice. This is demonstrated through knowledge I have developed, reflection, and deep and sustained engagement with both the context (practitioner setting) and process of the doctoral programme. Developing advance prof practice: My ‘credentials’ for undertaking this body of work Been a researcher within the area of SE and SR for 10 years Presented at numerous national and international conferences and have been an invited speaker (5 times) X no. of conference publications X. no. of publications Sit on various university level committees
Why have I slected this research are: My research provides a rationale of why this work is important – for HEI and students Aside from my personal interests HEI are under increasing pressures. Student WD is perceived to be linked to inadequacies with reputation of HEIs damaged (yorke and Londgon, 2004). Justification for my research are numerous So, what are the drivers? Changes in funding structures Less funding from government Increased tuition fees KIS data Government directives: The need to ‘bear down on non-completion’ (Seventh Special Report 2001b) Widening participation Significant amount of withdrawals Hesa 2008/9 figures approximate 10.2% withdrawing from HEIs
Considerable literature within the field citing issues of withdrawal: course choice, expectations, academic preparedness, academic concerns, administrative and/or organisational concerns, social factors, personal factors, dissatisfaction with the student experience at the institution, financial concerns Literature tended to focus on either particular grouping of students in HE, ie mature students experiences, first generation, lower social classes, interational students OR Particular areas of focus; academic experience, influence of paid employment as influence on withdrawal, culture of the institution, etc. AND Primarily FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF STUDENTS ALONE. MY RESEARCH HAS INCLUDE STAFF PERCEPTIONS AS FROM WORKING WITH STUDENTS THEY HAVE AN INSIGHT INTO THE EXPERIENCES AND ISSUES STUDENTS ENCOUNTER. THEORY around student withdrawal focuses on: Tintos integration theory – depending on how well a student is integrated both socially and academically into HE will depend on whether they stay or leave. Motivation theory (from Dwecks self efficacy work, Bandura and Rotter) – looking at students motivation and commitment to HE and their programme. And Bourdieus notion of habitus – looking at the culture and organisation of the institution and how this impacts on students
Mine is Parmars holistic model It is important to state that this research will be based upon existing theories and indeed borrow concepts from theories, but will attempt to define a new conceptual model by moving beyond current existing models by adopting a holistic approach of the student life, exploring the individual, academic, institution and external factors. This is because it is difficult to apply one theory alone in order to understand the complexities of student withdrawal (Yorke and Longden 2004). Understanding from the literature that there is a complex interplay of numerous factors influencing withdrawal I aim to explore the whole of the student life encompassing the individual, the academic, the institutional and the external. Elements of theory of integration, motivation and habitus will inform how I make sense of this research. It is difficult to apply one theory alone in order to understand the complexities of student withdrawal (Yorke and Longden, 2004)
What dictates any research approach taken is the research study itself which will, in turn, dictates the (ontological) paradigm and methods employed, best suited for the study. My research is qualitative in nature, Qualitative research, as opposed to quantitative research employs an inductive research approach whereby researchers place theory at the beginning of their study and theory is defined as ‘patterns’ (Creswell 1994) I would align my research in the interpretavist, phenomenological paradigm due to the nature of the inquiry into people’s understandings of the factors behind withdrawal. Qualitative in nature Phenomenology - as it aims to study the lived experiences of individuals who had experienced and understanding of a phenomenon This research aims to provide a voice to my participants and their narratives and as the researcher my role is to give the voice to these narratives of the participants. Best suited method was that of in depth interviewing in order to uncover meaning Through the tools of 1x1 interviews and questionnaires An open ended questionnaire to students to gain a larger sample of data from students that had withdrawn. STAFF:Staff were selected through a purposive sampling whereby participants were handpicked to be included in the sample based on judgement (Cohen and Manion 1994). The key criteria was that they all had some level of responsibility for the student experience. STUDENTS: The students involved in this research (thirty) were purposively selected through data collected at the institutional level. The criteria made them to be eligible to participate in the study were as follows: to be studying at Middlesex at level 1 on an undergraduate programme to have withdrawn from that programme between week 0 (induction week) and week 9 Fieldword Staff were contacted via email and telephone calls and all agreed to participate with interviews being conducted during sept – dec 2010. 8 staff agreed to participate in this research (2 senior managers, 2 academic staff and 4 administrative support staff). All students that had withdrawn during week 0-9 (academic year 2010/11) were contacted via email and requested to participate (104) 30 (31% response) did so and a further two agreed to be interviewed. This took place during dec 2010 and jan 2011. ‘ early efforts at qualitative research might have stopped at description, it is now more generally accepted that a qualitative researcher adds understanding and interpretation to the description’ (Litchman 2006:8)
From the findings this was developed. Importance of: -prior experiences/anxieties - Individual -Academic -Institutional -External - Social cohesion - Relationships between staff and students (feeling valued and mutual respect) Academic acultrasation – more than integrations - ‘its not just learning about, its learning to be a successful student. Conceptual model: Individual: dependant upon commitment and ability to cope with challenges. Integration needed at variety of levels (hei, programme, peers, staff), student required to negotiate leaning context, processes and procedures, culture of HEI in order to become a successful student. Needing to fit in and belong, understand the rules of the game, deciphering the rules – different to what they had learned in previous edu setting. Academic: preparedness, barirers to learning, satisfaction with prog, learning of benefit to employment. Academic accultraisation – beyond feeling belonging but understanding what being a successful student is, also academically. Institutional: massificatin of HE daunting, need for personalised system (Barnettt 2011), being informed of support available, relationship between staff and students. External: gelling of external life with HE life; lip service support - educating partners/employers. Without support and camaraderie students were less motivated to continue. Decision making: selection of programme and uni and the timing when selection was made. Motivated by opportunities related to employment. Buying time before employment. Not fully aware of prog details: topics covered, different emphasis on topics covered For 3 not their 1 st choice of prog Motivation-or lack of: not engaging, getting organised, attending. On reflection they could have tried harder (14) but 24 felt it was the best decision at the time. Need to belong and if they fitted in were linked but not the same thing. Not fitting in to: age, ethnicity, nationality, having children, academically inadequate. Needed similarities between them and institution to fit in. Belonging was to other students, staff and institution – Barriers to integrating fully (lack of confidence to talk to others, little interaction with institution) Academic factors – 22 cited issues covering academic factors although not initially Learning barriers: unable to meet requirements of course, unsure of progress, producing work at uni level. Ambigious as they didn’t know what uni level was. Lack of communication – perceived feedback Academic language as foreign Changes to the norms of education they were used to Prog experience: relevancy to career aspirations, teaching methods, learning environment – large classes daunting, small classes WD impacted on dynamics of group Institutional factors: procedural issues, red tape ‘jumping through hoops’ lack of care – yes from tutors overall but no from university although not enough academic support provided. More communication prior to arrival to get us in. External factors: Fragmentation of student life: gelling of internal and external commitments Importance of support network: internal and external support (emotional and practical) – lip service of support.
The model seen below (fig. 4) outlines elements necessary for students to stay on, illustrating the relationship/s between the student, staff and the HEI. This model identifies the four distinct areas within the life of a student (individual, academic, institutional and external highlighted by I, A, I and E) and situates these aspects within the context of staff and the HEI. Furthermore the model illustrates the need for frequent and open communication among and between all three areas (student to student, staff to staff, HEI to student, etc.). This model also identifies the need for engagement between and within the three areas across all variables, i.e., student to staff and staff to institution. Furthermore, the necessity of a smooth transition for the student in becoming accultarised into their new environment, with both staff and the HEI itself.
Barriers to enhancement Engaging students and staff Timeliness and communication of data and knowledge Competition between areas/Schools
Priorities are different for institution and students For example, diversity is seen as a strength of uni but for some students it created feelings on not belonging and isolated. Students find employment, its a success if thats what they were trying to so. Goal for institution is primarily about numbers and providing a good experience to generate income. Snowball effect – a problem or issue that wasn’t resolved amounted into more Students are negotiating a series of transitions. IF this isn’t smooth students feel the early stages are problematic they don’t stay. Furthermore - The ‘rules’ and ‘norms’ from what they have experiences in previous education is dismissed – staff/student engagement, independent learning. And finally, making students feel valued - Sense of mass education needs to be personalised. We need to make our students feel valued in order to stay
Recommendations: Surround:- enhancing experience for all for results impacting retention
Producing these findings there was an additional element to this EdD programme about disseminating my research and gaining feedback. The purpose of this was : To share findings to develop others understanding and inform practice, to seek corroboration of my findings and challenges in order to develop my own learning. Feedback was received from 19 practitioners, 10 administrative support staff, 5 academic members of staff and 4 senior managers. Although the majority (N=17) were from within the institution in which this research has taken place, 2 members of staff are from the wider HE sector.
Ongoing – this is but a pause at this point – the work to date is integral with my work and will not stop evolving , thus the impact is still occurring – Impacts are continually emerging though the landscape and pace of change is such in HE and in Mdx that the actual impacts are not directly attributable but clearly occurring.
Exploring the student experience
Exploring the ‘student experience’ An exploration of student and staff perceptions of factorsbehind student withdrawal among first year undergraduate students at a North London University Deeba Parmar - M00013483 March 2012
Research contextDrivers • Changes in funding structures • Increased competition -KIS • Government directives • Significant amount of withdrawalsIncreasingly important for institutions to keep the students theyattract (Anagnostopoulou and Parmar 2010)
Research focusThe key research question is:• What are the perceived factors behind student withdrawal among level 4 undergraduate students at a North London university?The related objectives:• To explore the perceptions held by students of the factors that contributed to their withdrawal• To understand the perceptions held by staff of the factors that contribute to student withdrawal (based upon their experiences)• To analyse the similarities and differences between the perceptions of these two groups of participants• To identify what factors are perceived to aid student progression• To inform institutions in targeting resources in alleviating the barriers perceived by students and staff that lead to withdrawal New knowledge: New conceptual model for student withdrawal and persistence based on perceptions of students and staff
Literature• Body of literature o Citing issues common in withdrawal; course choice, expectations, academic preparedness, academic concerns, administrative and/or organisational concerns, social factors, personal factors, dissatisfaction with the student experience at the institution, financial concerns (Martinez, 1997; Yorke,1999; Mackie ,2001; Thomas,2002; National Audit Office, 2007; Harvey et al 2007) o Focuses on groups of students, issues of age (McGivney, 1996), social class (Ball et al, 2002), international students (Johnston, 2003) o Or specific aspect; influence of employment (Henderson, 2007), friendships (Wilcox et al, 2005), culture of the institution (Berger & Braxton, 1998; Thomas, 2002), what the institution can do to aid retention (Fitzgibbon & Prior, 2003; Morgan, 2011) o Often from perspective of the student alone• Theory o Tinto’s integration theory (1975; 1987; 1993) o Motivation theory (Bandura ,1977, 1986; Dweck, 2000; Rotter, 1975, 1990) o Bourdieus theory of habitus (1977)
Methodology and Methods• Interpretavist/Phenomenological approach• Sample o Groups of staff (senior managers, academics and administrative) o Level 4 students that had withdrawn during week 0-9• Data collection tools: o Interviews (8) conducted with staff during September – December 2010 o Questionnaires (30) and interviews (2) with students during collected during December 2010 – January 2011• Framework for analysis of a 5 step model
Ethical Considerations • Confidentiality • Negotiating • Interpretation and • Insider- gate representation of outsider keepers data researcher • Positionality • Ethics of ‘care’ • ‘Whole truth’
Entering Choice made in Original contributionwith selectingexpectations programme/HEIand Decision made Studentexperience Individual S Institutional -Motivation -Procedural Persistance o - Engagement barriers/enablers c - Friendship groups -Belonging to institution -Relationships with staff i Mutual -Support mechanisms -Confidence a -Personalised experience respect l I Coping Communication n strategies Academic t Acultrisation e Academic g External - Learning r - Support networks barriers/enablers a -Family responsibilities - Issues of understanding t -Employment - Experience of Withdrawal i -Support/understanding programme o -Time commitments n Staff Parmar’s holistic model of student withdrawal
Original contribution Smooth Transition Engagement Student Staff HEI Communication Parmar’s holistic model of student persistence
Student findings Staff findings• Programme/course choice • Dissatisfaction with their• Motivation for studies course choice• Sense of belonging/‘fitting • Lack of engagement with in’ the university• Levels of support • Frustration with experienced/managing administrative processes student life • Feeling unsupported• Fragmented student life • Students not managing to• Experience of programme juggles studies and external• Learning barriers commitments • Finding/offered full time employment
Recommendations• Institutions need to create a personalised system• Build institutional commitment to student retention demonstrated by senior leadership within the university and resource commitment - strategy• Ensure good communication channels• Institutional strategies should be actively promoted in order for staff to understand the ‘wider picture’• Encourage collaboration across the university• Ensure the timeliness of user friendly retention and progression data is circulated and communicated to all staff in order for data to have impact.• Ensure students have access and to pre-entry information, advice and guidance Developing a sense of belonging to the university accomplished through activities centred on student engagement and social activities.• Create a smooth transition into university with multiple points of contact between staff and students.• Develop peer groups or learning communities
Entering Choice made inwith selectingexpectations programme/HEIand Decision made Studentexperience Individual S Institutional -Motivation -Procedural Persistance o - Engagement barriers/enablers c - Friendship groups -Belonging to institution -Relationships with staff i Mutual -Support mechanisms -Confidence a -Personalised experience respect l I Coping Communication n strategies Academic t Acultrisation e Academic g External - Learning r - Support networks barriers/enablers a -Family responsibilities - Issues of understanding t -Employment - Experience of Withdrawal i -Support/understanding programme o -Time commitments n Staff Finance Parmar’s holistic model of student withdrawal
ImpactProfessional: • Pedagogy/critical dialogue with academic community • Attitudinal /culture/pedagogical research • Development of understanding of the relationships between and betwixtOrganisational: • Teaching and learning strategy, progression and achievement strategy • Location of student experience issues mapped over different areas within the HEI • Deficiencies in communication channels • Culture of competition between Schools/departmentsPersonal: • Challenge assumptions and values • Reframe my understandings and my own engagements with students • Engage in wider professional and academic community on critical dialogue of the student experience
References• Anagnostopoulou, K. and Parmar, D. (eds.) (2010). Supporting the First Year Student Experience through the use of Learning Technologies. Middlesex University, London.• Ball, S. J. (2002). Class Strategies and the Education Market: The middle classes and social advantage. London, Routledge Falmer.• Bandura, A. (1977). Self Efficacy: Toward a Unifying theory of Behavioural Change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.• Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.• Berger, J. B., & Braxton, J. M. (1998). Revising Tintos interactionalist theory of student departure through theory elaboration: Examining the role of organizational attributes in the persistence process. Research in Higher Education, 39, 103-119.• Bourdieu P. (1977) Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.• Dweck, C (2000). Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development Psychology Press.• Fitzgibbon, K. and Prior, J. (2003) Student expectations and university interventions-a timeline to aid undergraduate student retention. Paper presented at LTSN BEST Conference.• Giorgi, A. (1997). The Theory, Practice and Evaluation of the Phenomenological Method as a Qualitative Research Procedure. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 28(2), 235- 261.• Harvey, L., Drew, S and Smith, M. (2007). The first-year experience: A review of literature for the Higher Education Academy. February 2007. Higher Education Academy.• Henderson, M. (2003). Overview of retention issues. [Online]. Available at: www.ukadia.ac.uk/.../student.../mo_henderson_retention_lit_review.doc [Last accessed 22nd August 2011].
• Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) (2008/9). PIs: Non-continuation rates. [Online]. Available at: http://www.hesa.ac.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2064&Itemid=141 [Last accessed 14th April 2010]• Johnston, V. (2003). Using Research to Improve Student Retention and Progression: The Experiences of the Student Retention Project at Napier University. Paper presented at the Institutional Research to Widen Participation Symposium.• Kumar, V., Aaker, D. A. and Day, G. S. (1999) Essentials of market research. USA: John Wiley and Sons.• Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative Research in Education. A User’s Guide.London: Sage Publications.• Mackie, S.E. (2001). Jumping the hurdles-undergraduate student withdrawal behaviour. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 38(3), 265-76.• Martinez, P. (1997). Improving student retention: a guide to successful strategies. Further Education Development Agency.• McGivney, V. (1996) Staying or leaving the course: retention and non-completion of mature students in further and higher education. Leicester: National Institute for Adult Continuing Education.• Morgan, M. (ed) (2011). Improving the Student Experience. London: Routledge.• Moustakas, C. E. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.• National Audit Office (NAO) (2007). Staying the course: The retention of students in higher education. HC 616 Session 2006-07. London, Stationary Office.• House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Employment. (2001b). Seventh Special Report. Higher Education: Student Retention. London, HMSO.
• Rotter, J.B. (1975). Some problems and misconceptions related to the construct of internal versus external control of reinforcement. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology ,43, 56–67.• Rotter, J.B. (1990). Internal versus external control of reinforcement: A case history of a variable. American Psychologist, 45, 489–93.• Thomas, L. (2002). Student retention in Higher Education: the role of institutional habitus. Journal of Educational Policy, 17( 4), 423-32.• Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from Higher education: a theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Education Research, 45,89-125.• Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago, University of Chicago.• Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd edition). Chicago, University of Chicago Press.• Wilcox, P., Winn, S and Fyvie-Gauld, M. (2005). ‘It was nothing to do with university, it was just the people’: the role of social support in the first year experience of Higher Education. Studies in Higher Education. 30(6), 707-722.• Yorke, M. (1999). Leaving Early: Undergraduate Non-completion in Higher Education. London, Falmer Press.• Yorke, M. & Longden, B. (2004). Retention and Student Success in Higher Education. SHRE and Open University Press, Maidenhead.• All images purchased from iStock.