In progress Enhancing Student Retention and Academic Performance: The Effects of Guided Reflection on Goals

Reference:
ERIM PHD 2017 RSM LIS MS_GS_AS

Abstract

The current project will make use of an online intervention that has shown to be been extremely successful in raising academic performance and retention rate of students. Especially clearly defined and articulated goals give students purpose and meaning. In the current project, we aim to advance our understanding of these effects by investigating (a) specific changes in student behavior as a result of participating in this program and (b) the extent to which the program enhances academic performance of students in a problem-based learning context.

Keywords

Academic performance; Study success; Goal-setting; Student retention; On-line intervention; Personal development.

Time frame

2017 - 2021

Topic

High rates of dropout are a cause of concern for most universities and high schools and may in turn detrimentally affect public opinion about university quality (Braxton, Hirschy, & McClendon, 2004). The loss of human potential by high drop-out rates is especially worrying (Kuh et al, 2007), and many publicly-funded universities are under pressure to improve completion rates (e.g., Charlton, Barrow, & Hornby-Atkinson, 2006). A recent meta-analysis of Richardson et. al. (2002) concluded that specific performance-focused interventions are more likely to enhance students’ academic achievement rather than more general well-being measures such as counseling or stress management. Also, they suggest that interventions early in students’ university career may be most effective. Indeed a study by Morisano et al. (2010) showed that a goal-setting intervention was most effective in improving students’ academic performance. Taking conclusions of these authors as a starting point, the present project aims to assess the effect of a three-stage intervention program implemented at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). This intervention program is an online exercise for incoming students, designed to improve academic performance and increase retention. A puzzling effect seems to be that the positive effect is independent of whether student set academic goals or not  (Schippers, Locke, Morisano, Scheepers & Peterson, 2016). The current study is aimed at unraveling the underlying mechanisms explaining the effects of the program.

The main research question is:

What explains the positive effect of the online goal-setting intervention on retention and academic performance of students?”

Introduction

High rates of dropout are a cause of concern for most universities and high schools and may in turn detrimentally affect public opinion about university quality (Braxton, Hirschy, & McClendon, 2004). Especially publicly-funded universities are under pressure to improve completion rates (e.g., Charlton, Barrow, & Hornby-Atkinson, 2006). For students, both personal and team developmental issues are of utmost importance.

Richardson, Abraham & Bond (2012) performed a large meta-analysis, and tested 50 correlates of academic performance. In their study, Richardson et al (2012) distinguished five different research domains: personality traits, motivational factors, self-regulatory learning strategies, student’s approach to learning, and psychosocial contextual influences. One important conclusion of this study was that an effective intervention strategy to enhance student’s performance could be a goal-setting intervention (specific, challenging and located within time and context). Such an intervention could be effective in boosting effort regulation, enhancing academic and performance, targeting specific cognitive changes such as reduce procrastination. They conclude that specific performance-focused interventions are more likely to enhance students’ academic achievement rather than more general well-being measures such as counseling or stress management. Also, they suggest that interventions early in students’ university career may be most effective. Indeed a study of  Morisano, Hirsh, Peterson, Pihl, & Shore,  (2010) demonstrated, that an intensive, online, goal-setting intervention for struggling students was positively related to academic achievement (see also Morisano, 2013).

         Taking conclusions of Richardson et al. (2012) and Morisano et al. (2010) as a starting point, the present project aims to assess the effect of a three-stage intervention program implemented at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) at Erasmus University in the Netherlands on incoming students, designed to improve academic performance and increase retention. This project also considers personality traits and motivation factors, and takes into account information on self-regulatory learning strategies and psychosocial contextual influences. The first results are very promising: Student retention rate is enhanced and the number of credits earned (ECTS) after one year is higher for students that participated in the program. Moreover, the performance disadvantage for men versus women became smaller for the participating cohort, and disappeared altogether with respect to retention rate. For ethnic minorities the performance disadvantage increased as much as 93% after the second year.

        In the next years, RSM will broaden the scope of the intervention program, so that also second and third year students will be involved in the intervention. Part of the project is to adapt the online goal-setting program, so that it is more tailored to RSM students. The aim of the goal-setting program is to have students reflect on their goals and study plans and ultimately maximize student retention and grades. In addition, students fill out personality questionnaires and receive personalized feedback. This will inform students about their strong and weak points and will give them a starting point for improvement. Research wise we can establish how and why goal-setting enhances student retention and grades, and publish from this. For instance, our research so far has shown that students that fully participate in the three-stage intervention take part in more regular exams (as opposed to resits) and earn more credits (ECTS). However, the exact behavioral and cognitive changes resulting from the goal-setting program are not very clear.

In the current study, we aim to unravel these cognitive and behavioral changes by a combination of questionnaires and the use of a StudentLife app. This app is developed at the university of Darthmouth (see http://studentlife.cs.dartmouth.edu/), and automatically assesses sensing data of the smartphones of students.  In this way it is possible to assess changes in behavioral trends (e.g., stress, sleep, visits to the gym, etc.) as a result of the goal-setting intervention and in response to college work load. This will in turn be related to academic performance.

In order to test these ideas, we will employ a multi-methodological approach, incorporating studies with consecutive cohorts at RSM, as well as follow-ups studies within the cohorts.

Regression analyses, multilevel analyses as well as random coefficients growth modeling techniques will be used to examine our basic predictions, in addition we will use bootstrapping analyses to assess mediation (Preacher & Hayes, 2004; 2008). The studies are modeled on earlier work by the research group (e.g., Schippers, Locke, Morisano, Scheepers & Perterson, 2016; Backman, J., Weiss, M, Schippers, M.C. & Hoegl, M. (2016); Schippers, Scheepers & Peterson 2015; Schippers, 2014; Schippers, Homan & van Knippenberg, 2013; Schippers et al., 2007, 2008; Zilberzahn & Schippers, 2016).

Supervisory Team

MichaƩla Schippers
Endowed Professor in Behaviour and Performance Management
  • Promotor
Guus Smeets
Guus Smeets
  • Promotor
Ad Scheepers
Ad Scheepers
  • Daily Supervisor