Intervention and support

Featured in the literature are articles examining student cohorts and examples of early intervention programs of 'at-risk' students.

Detection of 'at risk' students

Nichols, M. 2010. Student perceptions of support services

Nichols, M. (2010). Student perceptions of support services and the influence of targeted interventions on retention in distance education. Distance Education, 31(1), 93-113. doi:10.1080/01587911003725048

This study analyses the impact of the employment of academic support staff to improve retention rates for distance education students at a NZ college. A comparison is made of student outcomes over two semesters, one with and one without intervention strategies, including the development of student programs, and identifying and supporting students at risk of dropping out.

The findings from this study indicate students are sensitive to the lack of academic support services but where services are present will attribute success to an intrinsic self motivation. The author argues the link between the introduction of four intervention strategies and improved student retention, however, is unquestionable.

Read the full text article

Student lifecycle

Gill, B. 2015. Talking about the elephant in the room

Gill, B. (2015). Talking about the elephant in the room: Improving fundamental assessment practices. Student Success, 6(2), 53-63. doi:10.5204/ssj.v6i2.291

This article explores how first year assessment practices, central to the student experience in developing conceptions of self as students, can be substantially improved by implementing a systematic application of fundamental good practice strategies at an institution level.

The author draws from a 2013 audit process at UWS and analysis of student feedback on the assessment experience to inform a strategy including whole-of-course assessment scheduling, considering the total student workload, and clarity in assessment information.

Gill argues the strategies implemented at UWS are achievable without additional investment other than intentionally and coherently designing planned and scheduled curriculum, including assessment, through a 'whole-of-course' approach.

Read the full text article

Shillington, S. et al. 2012. Avoiding the goulash

Shillington, S., Brown, M., Mackay, A., Paewai, S., Suddaby, G., & White, F. (2012). Avoiding the goulash: Closing gaps and bridging distances. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 27(1), 65-80. doi:10.1080/02680513.2012.640789

This paper addresses the problem of delivery of equitable services to both online and on-campus students at Massey University while meeting government key performance indicators to secure funding. A holistic framework involves a "blurring of the edges" between support for on-campus and distance students so that intervention services interface coherently with each other. The underpinning intentions and institutional supports are based on research and defined principles thereby avoiding the ad hoc nature of retention activities.

A set of online tools and resources were developed and aligned with the framework informing the intervention activity to be provided to a particular cohort at a given time in the student lifecycle. Additionally the university proactively links students to services via targeted communication strategies.

Read the full text article

Student cohorts

Cerezo, A. McWhirter, B. 2012. A brief intervention designed to improve

Cerezo, A., & McWhirter, B. T. (2012). A brief intervention designed to improve social awareness and skills to improve Latino college student retention. College Student Journal, 46(4), 867-879.

This study identifies challenges for the Latino student population at predominately white colleges in the US as being low expectations from teachers and peers, the first in family to attend college, and the cultural environment of college. Based on Critical Race Theory principles the Latino Educational Equity Project (LEEP) tested successful elements of intervention such as peer support. LEEP implemented a further component to assist students in developing a consciousness of the impact of unique cultural and political forces facing Latino students, such as racial discrimination and educational policy-making in a cultural and historical context.

Despite the limitations of the study LEEP was found to have improved the social adjustment to the college environment for students.

Read the full text article

Engstrom, C. Tinto, V. 2008. Access without support is not opportunity

Engstrom, C. & Tinto, V. (2008). Access without support is not opportunity. Change, 40(1), 46.

Based on the premise that low-income students are less well prepared for academia than their counterparts, this article argues institutions must take responsibility for constructing a learning community environment to transform access into real opportunity. 5729 students across 19 universities were tracked on performance and persistence using institutional and national data sources in a study on the impact of participation in learning communities.

The results were not surprising – participation in learning communities resulted in greater academic and social engagement. Students experienced a safe and supportive place to learn, a sense of belonging and identity as learners and experienced deep learning through making connections. The authors maintain that institutions must establish the conditions for student success through integrated curriculum, collaborative learning and links to support services.

Read the full text article

Leake, D. Stodden, R. 2014 Higher education and disability

Leake, D. W., & Stodden, R. A. (2014). Higher education and disability: Past and future of underrepresented populations. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 27(4), 399-408.

This article discusses the notion that of all marginalized groups students with disabilities face the greatest barriers to higher education and that US legislation has addressed only one of these – to provide equal physical access to campus facilities and academic activities. Students with disabilities, however, also experience stigmatization and social exclusion.

Research indicates a key component of student success is a sense of belonging and social acceptance. Emerging trends in current literature reflect a more welcoming and supportive environment, including adopting a social model for disability support services, and enhanced collaboration and liaison between student services and students with disabilities. Further, the article discusses avoiding value judgments and the emphasis on deficit, and accepting non-stigmatizing and neurodiverse terms to describe people with disabilities.

Read the full text article

McKay and Devlin, 2015, Low income doesn't mean stupid

McKay, J., & Devlin, M. (2015). 'Low income doesn't mean stupid and destined for failure': Challenging the deficit discourse around students from low SES backgrounds in higher education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1-17. doi:10.1080/13603116.2015.1079273

The qualitative data from this national study of 115 interviews of students and staff revealed that contrary to the deficit conceptualisations of students from low SES backgrounds, this student cohort can make a valuable contribution to higher education.

The project focussed on students who had completed their first year and had re-enrolled.  It examined the factors contributing to success in the teaching and support of this equity group.

The authors suggest that challenging the deficit discourse around low SES background students would empower students to succeed. Setting high expectations for all students and valuing students from diverse backgrounds would demonstrate students' desire for high achievement and a determination to succeed.

Read the full text article

Policy and legislation

Leake, D. Stodden, R. 2014 Higher education and disability

Leake, D. W., & Stodden, R. A. (2014). Higher education and disability: Past and future of underrepresented populations. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 27(4), 399-408.

This article discusses the notion that of all marginalized groups students with disabilities face the greatest barriers to higher education and that US legislation has addressed only one of these – to provide equal physical access to campus facilities and academic activities. Students with disabilities, however, also experience stigmatization and social exclusion.

Research indicates a key component of student success is a sense of belonging and social acceptance. Emerging trends in current literature reflect a more welcoming and supportive environment, including adopting a social model for disability support services, and enhanced collaboration and liaison between student services and students with disabilities. Further, the article discusses avoiding value judgments and the emphasis on deficit, and accepting non-stigmatizing and neurodiverse terms to describe people with disabilities.

Read the full text article

Intervention programs

Barnes, et al. 2015. Track and Connect: Enhancing student retention and success

Barnes, S., Macalpine, G., & Munro, A. (2015). Track and connect: Enhancing student retention and success at the University of Sydney. A practice report. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 6(1), 195-202.

Track and Connect is an intervention program designed to address attrition rates of first year students through detection of 'at risk' students and a strategy of targeted communication. During the program trained student staff members make contact at key points in the semester. 'At risk' students are connected to academic support services, personal support services and faculty-based assistance. Additionally, feedback to faculty can identify skills and knowledge gaps that may be addressed in the delivery of a course.

An analysis of the data shows positive results in lower attrition rates since implementation of the program, however, most significantly, student feedback reveals the value of peer-to-peer support and connection to key service areas.

Read the full text article

Cerezo, A. McWhirter, B. 2012. A brief intervention designed to improve

Cerezo, A., & McWhirter, B. T. (2012). A brief intervention designed to improve social awareness and skills to improve Latino college student retention. College Student Journal, 46(4), 867-879.

This study identifies challenges for the Latino student population at predominately white colleges in the US as being low expectations from teachers and peers, the first in family to attend college, and the cultural environment of college. Based on Critical Race Theory principles the Latino Educational Equity Project (LEEP) tested successful elements of intervention such as peer support. LEEP implemented a further component to assist students in developing a consciousness of the impact of unique cultural and political forces facing Latino students, such as racial discrimination and educational policy-making in a cultural and historical context.

Despite the limitations of the study LEEP was found to have improved the social adjustment to the college environment for students.

Read the full text article

Minichiello, A. Hailey, C. 2013. Engaging students for success in calculus

Minichiello, A., & Hailey, C. (2013). Engaging students for success in calculus with online learning forums. Frontiers in Education Conference, 2013 IEEE, 1465-1467. doi:10.1109/FIE.2013.6685077

This conference proceeding describes a current research project to evaluate whether online learning forums for first year calculus students are effective in improving retention rates and persistence in engineering. The pilot study conducted in 2011-2012 used Piazza, a wiki-based online forum, resulting in a positive response to learning and improved attitudes. The research project will assess the impact of an online learning forum on academic achievement, attitudes, interest, social interaction and motivation with quantitative and qualitative data to guide the development of a model for use in STEM education.

Read the full text article

Nichols, M. 2010. Student perceptions of support services

Nichols, M. (2010). Student perceptions of support services and the influence of targeted interventions on retention in distance education. Distance Education, 31(1), 93-113. doi:10.1080/01587911003725048

This study analyses the impact of the employment of academic support staff to improve retention rates for distance education students at a NZ college. A comparison is made of student outcomes over two semesters, one with and one without intervention strategies, including the development of student programs, and identifying and supporting students at risk of dropping out.

The findings from this study indicate students are sensitive to the lack of academic support services but where services are present will attribute success to an intrinsic self motivation. The author argues the link between the introduction of four intervention strategies and improved student retention, however, is unquestionable.

Read the full text article

Shillington, S. et al. 2012. Avoiding the goulash

Shillington, S., Brown, M., Mackay, A., Paewai, S., Suddaby, G., & White, F. (2012). Avoiding the goulash: Closing gaps and bridging distances. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 27(1), 65-80. doi:10.1080/02680513.2012.640789

This paper addresses the problem of delivery of equitable services to both online and on-campus students at Massey University while meeting government key performance indicators to secure funding. A holistic framework involves a "blurring of the edges" between support for on-campus and distance students so that intervention services interface coherently with each other. The underpinning intentions and institutional supports are based on research and defined principles thereby avoiding the ad hoc nature of retention activities.

A set of online tools and resources were developed and aligned with the framework informing the intervention activity to be provided to a particular cohort at a given time in the student lifecycle. Additionally the university proactively links students to services via targeted communication strategies.

Read the full text article