What role can faculty
members play in improving student retention? How can a balance between
academic rigor and student support be maintained? These are not
trivial questions, especially when research indicates that
students remain in settings that:
1. engage them in meaningful learning
2. support their academic and social needs.
This webpage will briefly summarize
several important resources on student retention and will provide practical
applications for the classroom:
Taking Student Retention Seriously: Vincent Tinto
Syracuse University’s Distinguished University Professor in
the School of Education, Vincent Tinto, has conducted research and written
widely about student retention issues and the role that faculty members can
play. He gives five main conditions that support student retention:
expectation, advice, support, involvement, and learning. That is, students
are more likely to persist and graduate in settings that:
expect students to succeed
provide students with clear and consistent information about institutional
requirements and give students effective advising about programs of study
and career goals
provide academic, social, and personal support
involve students as valued members of the institution
Fostering learning is ranked as the most important condition for student
retention. The implications for what happens in the classroom and the
importance of the faculty role are therefore evident.
What can faculty members do?
Set high standards in class. At the same time, provide the academic support
that students need to succeed.
Provide robust opportunities for students to be actively involved in the
Teach explicitly the academic strategies that students need in order to
learn the material and be successful in your course.
Integrate learning and study strategies (note-taking, graphic organization,
questioning techniques, vocabulary acquisition, and test prediction and
preparation) into your course.
Act Policy Report -
This document outlines the importance of integrating strategies to address both
academic and non-academic issues, such as academic success, social
integration, academic confidence, student involvement, and motivation.
Student persistence increases as the level of integration of social and
academic issues increases.
can faculty members do?
integration of both academic (performance) and non-academic (motivation,
academic self-confidence, and social integration) issues in your classes.
team building activities, peer reviews, Supplemental Instruction (tutoring by peers),
and give frequent and prompt feedback to students about their academic
performance (including explicit improvement strategies)
National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) -
The NSSE provides us with
five benchmarks of effective practice that can be used to measure student
engagement and satisfaction at 4-year institutions. The main conclusion is
that there is an obvious
correlation between student satisfaction, engagement in meaningful learning
activities, and retention.
The survey was created
after completing extensive research on 4-year institutions of higher
education that examined the qualities characterizing successful
institutions of higher education, i.e. a high degree of learning occurs, high
retention and graduation rates exist, and a high degree of student
satisfaction is present.
The benchmarks of
effective practice are:
a. Level of academic
challenge - quantity of assigned readings and papers, degree to which
higher-order thinking skills are included in the curriculum, significant
hours required to complete coursework
b. Active and
collaborative learning - making presentations, participating in
discussions in and out of class, team projects in and out of class,
tutoring other students, participating in community-based projects
c. Student faculty
interaction – discussing grades, discussing ideas from class in and out
of class, talking about career plans, receiving prompt feedback on
performance, working with faculty on activities other than coursework,
i.e. committees, orientation, etc., working on research projects outside
of course requirements
educational experiences – students have the opportunity to have serious
conversations with students of different race, ethnicity, social status,
or ideology, spending time in co-curricular activities, using electronic
media (listserv, chat, instant message, online discussion) to complete
an assignments, practicum, internship, community service, foreign
language or study abroad, independent study, culminating senior
experience, participation in a learning community
e. Supportive campus
environment – providing support for academic, social (building positive
relationships), and non-academic (work, family) needs, quality
relationships with students, faculty, administrative, and support
The survey states that "The single best
predictor of student satisfaction with college is the degree to which they
perceive the college environment to be supportive of their academic and
What can faculty members do?
* Examine each of the benchmarks above
and decide how you can incorporate them into your teaching on a regular
* Share your ideas with colleagues.
NSSE Occasional Paper: What Faculty Members Can
The NSSE Institute (an outreach extension of the NSSE survey)
produces occasional papers resulting from an intensive study of schools with higher-than-predicted graduation rates
and that also
demonstrated effective practices and policies for dealing with students with
different abilities and learning goals. Student success strategies were
documented from institutions that intentionally planned activities that
required students to spend their time and energy on activities that matter
to student learning.
They found nine strategies that faculty can
implement to promote student success:
a. Embrace undergraduates and their learning
– support academic and developmental growth. Seek to develop the talents
of your students. Learn how to support students who are under-prepared
b. Set and maintain high expectations for
student performance – However, make sure to match the academic standards
with the appropriate developmental and academic level of your students.
Meet students where they are and stretch them to the next level.
c. Clarify what students need to know to
d. Use engaging approaches appropriate for
course objectives and students’ abilities and learning styles
e. Build on students’ knowledge, abilities,
f. Provide meaningful feedback to students
g. Weave diversity into the curriculum
including out-of-class assignments
h. Make time for students
i. Hold students accountable for taking their
share of the responsibility for learning
Their research found that an essential
ingredient in promoting student success is "an unwavering, widespread
commitment to enhancing student learning on the part of faculty members."
can faculty members do?
* Incorporate the nine
strategies into your classes.
To read more about faculty roles in student retention,
visit the resources
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