RETENTION: THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STUDENT AND LECTURER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT MAKES LEARNING ENGAGING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Manukau Institute of Technology (NEW ZEALAND)
Student retention is an issue for many programmes of study and has been demonstrated to impact on students who are traditionally under-represented in higher education or in success in higher education. One view of the causes of poor student retention proposes that student motivation and ability is central and this focus may interfere with intervening in the delivery of programmes to improve retention. The research presented in this paper suggests a delivery centred approach to improving retention. This study demonstrates that where lecturers and students have dissonant conceptions of student engagement in learning, retention is poor and where such conceptions are congruent, student retention is higher.
This study used a questionnaire to identify student priorities in terms of what supports their learning and their views on what learning support was delivered in their classes. The questionnaire was delivered to five different programmes in a New Zealand urban polytechnic. These programmes came from a variety of disciplines and levels of study: Teacher Education, Baking, Computing, Foundation Studies and Business Studies. The correlation between student priorities and direct experience was calculated and then correlated with retention data. Student retention was highest in programmes where student priorities were most highly correlated with their experience in class. This was demonstrated across disciplines and across different years within disciplines.
The data from this study was used to assist programme leaders and lecturers to develop plans for the improvement of teaching. This was instrumental in influencing lecturers to focus on quality of delivery rather than reinforcing the stasis that results from blaming student characteristics and therefore assuming they have no course of action.