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New thoughts on dropout interventions

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

Here's some new thinking I'm developing on practical interventions to increase retention. The inspiration is recent ideas on improving secondary schools, where dropout appears as disaffection, truanting, but above all as leaving without qualifications; a reinterpretation of the phrase "learning community"; and the marked parallel with common practices in companies for reducing "attrition" i.e. early departure of new employees.

  • Induction Regard "induction" NOT as something you do for a day or a week, but as a process that takes at least 90 days.
  • A sense of fitting in Develop as the overall aim, giving (new) students a sense of how what they are doing day to day fits into a wider picture: of how they relate to the university, to staff, to each other; how studying a module fits into getting a degree; how it fits with getting a job later. Note that while clearly consistent with Tinto's notion of integration it is a significantly different intepretation of it. It is analgous to how employees need to feel valued, and to how a student needs to have a sensible story about how what they are doing fits in with their ideas about their life as a whole: over time, and over areas of life.
  • PDP This should connect strongly with (a more broadly defined) PDP (personal development planning; and portfolios).
  • Feedback (assessment) This should fit with ideas about feedback: which is a major source of how students can tell how they are getting on, and whether they belong at all.
  • Course design and hence with important aspects of the design of first year courses.
  • Monitoring It needs to connect to some way of monitoring students so that those who stop participating in the learning activities are noticed immediately and can be contacted. (This is both about a way of collecting data, and of having someone whose business it is to act on it.) See here and here.

  • If you are still desperate for things to try, then you could look at this guru of techniques for retention/dropout: Geoff Petty

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