The demands for mass higher education has increased throughout Europe. Hence, when students enter higher education study programmes we want them to stay and at the same time make the most of it. In this presentation we give an overview of how research within the last 15 years have addressed students’ persistence and conclude by outlining the current emerging focus on identity to understand students drop out.
The work of Vincent Tinto (1975, 1987, 1993, 1997, 1998, and 2012) on retention and persistence has achieved an almost paradigmatic stature within higher education (Braxton et al. 2000). In 1975 he sets out to develop a theoretical model that seeks to explain, not simply describe, the processes of interaction between the individual and the institution that bring individuals to leave institutions of higher education (Tinto, 1975). Tinto’s work marked a shift from a psychological approach to understand students leaving college. Here, focus was on ‘the ability or willingness of the individual [student]’ and seeing student departure as reflecting shortcomings and/or weakness in the individuals (Tinto 1993: 85). Tinto’s approach instead emphasized a sociological approach including the level of the institutions. Here, focus is on the relation between the student and the institution as well as a longitudinal approach to student persistence and retention. During the years Tinto develops his so-called institutionally-oriented model both theoretically (1993) and empirically (1997, 1998) and especially his concepts of academic and social integration has been influential and contested within the research field (Ulriksen et al. 2010).
In the presentation, we provide an outline of the literature within higher education that draws on the work of Vincent Tinto. We both embrace the various applications of his institutional-oriented model in different educational settings and the debates and disagreements on the model and its approaches. Our aim is to revitalise the debate of research approaches to students’ academic integration. As put forward by Tinto already in early 1990s the issues of student dropouts have gradually become an affair for bodies outside academia, and part of the global tendency of growing administrative bodies of higher education institutions:
‘Though they [institutions of higher education] have certainly not ignored the classroom, most have not seen it as the centrepiece of their efforts to promote student persistence, preferring instead to locate these efforts outside the classroom in the domain of student affairs’ (Tinto 1993: 599-600).
This tendency has only been increasing and enforced recently with the growing number of international students and introduction of fees in a number of countries thus pushing institutions to prioritize cost-benefit measures. However, in this review we argue that in order to address the issues of persistence and retention we need to turn not only to the classroom as suggested by Tinto but also to the broader learning experience of the students. Importantly, this must be handled by academics concerned with the students’ learning experience integrally and not in parallel to what students otherwise experience as the academic institution.
Hence, the aim of this paper is twofold: firstly, to outline and discuss the concept of academic integration and how it has been used in higher education literature thereby giving an insight into how the notion of academic integration has been used to understand students’ relation to higher education. Secondly, from this body of knowledge we wish to present and outline the concept of academic navigation particularly suited as a tool for future research concerned with students’ retention and persistence in higher education.
Braxton, J., Milem, J.F. and Sullivan, A.S. 2000. The influence of active learning on the college student departure process: Towards a Revision of Tinto's Theory. The Journal of Higher Education, 71: 569–590. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Holmegaard, H.T., Madsen, L.M., & Ulriksen, L. 2014. A journey of negotiation and belonging: understanding students’ transitions to science and engineering in higher education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9(3), 755-786. Søndergaard, D.M. 1996. Tegnet på kroppen. Køn: Koder og konstruktion blandt unge voksne i Akademia. København: Museum Tusculanum Press. Tinto, V. 1975. Dropout from higher education – theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of educational Research 45 (1) Tinto, V. 1987. Leaving college: University of Chicago Press: Chicago Tinto, V. 1993. Leaving college: Rethinking the course and cures of student attrition. University of Chicago Press: Chicago. Tinto, V. 1997. Classrooms as communities – Exploring the educational character of students’ persistence. Journal of Higher Education 68 (6) Tinto, V. 1998. Colleges as communities: taking research on student persistence seriously. Review of Higher Education 21 (2) Tinto, V. (2012). Enhancing student success: Taking the classroom success seriously. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 3(1) Ulriksen, L., Madsen, L. M., & Holmegaard, H. T. (2010). What do we know about explanations for drop out/opt out among young people from STM higher education programmes?. Studies in Science Education, 46(2), 209-244.
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