Just like many institutions of higher education, Flemish higher education struggles with the success rate of at-risk students. Many studies, researching the success rate of at-risk students in higher education (e.g., Cuseo, 2012; Hurtado, 2013), measure a specific settings (e.g., colleges in the US or Canada) for specific at-risk students (e.g., Afro-American students). Goal of this study is to see where at-risk students experience stumbling blocks in their higher education career in Flemish academic higher education.
Most studies into the success rate of at-risk students, indicate that stumbling blocks can be found on three levels. These levels are best described by the Self-System of Motivational Development (Ryan & Deci, 2000), which subdivides the learning process into ‘action’ (level 1), ‘self’ (level 2), ‘context’ (level 3) which leads to ‘results’ (i.e., study success).
Action (level 1). Multiple studies conclude that the academic engagement of students is an important predictor for academic success (e.g., Hattie, 2008), which is closely linked to self-perceptions and social connectedness, and strongly influenced by context variables such as class- and school climate (Skinner, et al., 2008).
This study uses the theoretical framework of described in Skinner, et al. (2008) to determine the risk and protective factors for at-risk students. As such, many studies indicate that at-risk students experience more problems concerning their academic engagement (level 1, action) compared to other students (e.g., Skinner, et al., 2008). But studies also indicate that this has to do with processes on the level of the ‘self’ (level 2).
Self (level 2). In theories on engagement, motivation has been found to be determined by (1) the need of competence (i.e., the need to interact in an effective way with our environment). We will study this using the concept of achievement stress. With achievement stress, the student compares himself and his abilities (and his doubts about his abilities) with other students. (2) the need for autonomy (i.e., desire to act independently). This need is operationalized through the concept of goal orientation. This construct aims at understanding how students are consciously and systematically attempting to achieve academic goals. (3) The need for connectedness (i.e., the desire to interact and form social relationships). This desire is achieved by attempting to look how students describe their social adaptation in university.
Context (level 3). The theory indicates that school climate (level 3) can facilitate or impede development at level 1 and 2. As such, studies indicate that the way students experience their learning environment, influences educational effectiveness (e.g., Hattie, 2008). Research indicates that at-risk students experience stumbling blocks in school climate (Hurtado, 2009). According to Hurtado (2013) cultural and/or ethnic minorities have more chance in finding impediments in the school climate, due to 1) a lack in positive interaction with the diversity in that school environment, 2) the level of student centeredness. Because their is sufficient empirical support for the causality between the different constructs described above (e.g.,, Hattie, 2008; Hurtado, 2013; Skinner, et al., 2008), this study aims at understanding how at-risk students are impacted in their study success by these variables, in the frame of a flemish university.
Beyers, W., & Goossens, L. (2002). Concurrent and predictive validity of the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire in a sample of European freshman students. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 62(3), 527-538. Cuseo, J. (2012). Academic-Support Strategies for Promoting Student Retention and Achievement During the First Year of College. University of Ulster, Student Transition and Retention, http://www. ulst. ac. uk/star/data/cuseoretention. Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge: New York. Hurtado, S. (2013). Diverse Learning Environments: Assessing and Creating Conditions for Student Success. Final Report to The Ford Foundation. Gevonden op 5/05/2016 op: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.423.613 Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68. Skinner, E., Furrer, C., Marchand, G., & Kindermann, T. (2008). Engagement and disaffection in the classroom: Part of a larger motivational dynamic?. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 765. Smedley, B. D., Myers, H. F., & Harrell, S. P. (1993). Minority-status stresses and the college adjustment of ethnic minority freshmen. Journal of Higher Education, 434-452.
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