02 SES 09 C, At-Risk Careers
Drop- out among young adults (18-24 years old) is high. A report from CEDFOP shows that dropout has been prioritized in EU policy since the adoption of the Lisbon strategy in 2000, with the current aim being to reduce dropout for this group to below 10% by 2020. file:///C:/Users/au230713/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/IE/406D0Z8L/5557_en.pdf
Much of the extensive research about drop out focuses on institutional and individual factors and the relations between these in relation to drop out including emphasing that dropout must be seen as a long process (Alexander et al. 1997; Rumberger and Rotermund 2012; Fine 1991; Fine and Rosenberg 1983; Brown and Rodriquez 2009; Finn 1989; Hodgson 2007; Lee and Burkham 2003; Archambault et al. 2009; Jimerson et al., 2000).
However, there is little research concerning students’ decision-making processes in relation to dropout. The aim of the project is to improve strategies for preventing dropout by gaining knowledge about students’ thoughts and actions related to decisions to stay in or drop out of an educational programme. The educational programmes included in the study are either vocational, situated in vocational colleges, or general, situated in adult education centres.
The project concerns the following three research questions:
- How do young adults in VET and general adult education typically decide whether they want to continue with the educational programme in which they are currently enrolled?
- What leads students to change their minds about staying or dropping out?
- What do students think and do during periods in which they alter their perceptions?
Theoretically the project is inspired by the concept of teetering (Lessard et al. (2007). Teetering describes the oscillating processes in relation to decisions about drop out. Furthermore the study of the students’ decision-making processes is inspired by Harren’s typology of three styles of decision-making illustrating the degree to which an individual takes responsibility for the process and to which this individual uses logic (the more rational), emotions and feelings (the more intuitive), or expectations of authorities and peers (the more dependent) as the primary approach in thoughts and actions during the decision-making process (Harren 1979).
The empirical data includes surveys and interviews conducted with 31 students, who were enrolled in programmes at a total of six vocational schools and eight adult general education centres during autumn 2017. The purpose of the student surveys was to study how the students’ desire to continue in the specific educational programme develops over time. Assuming that the students’ satisfaction with the programme in general, the lessons, and the atmosphere at the school has an impact on their desire to continue, a multidimensional construct was used including four questions: How satisfied are you with this programme? How satisfied are you with the lessons (the teaching)? How satisfied are you with the atmosphere at the school? How strong is your desire to continue in this programme? The students answered these questions every week. Based on the students’ answers over an eight-week period, it was possible to trace a graph illustrating changes in the students’ attitudes. The purpose with the interviews with the 31 students was to learn about their thoughts and actions at the points when the graphs changed. The interviews were semi-structured and concerned the students’ thoughts and actions in relation to the fluctuations and directions of the graphs, including two lines of questioning reflecting the research questions above: 1. What happened at the time when you answered differently, i.e. when the graph or graphs changed? 2. What did you think and do at the time when the graph changed? Each interview was recorded, had a duration of ½-3/4 of an hour, and was transcribed with a focus on the students’ answers to these two lines of questioning.
Based on an analysis of question 4: How strong is your desire to continue in this programme?, four categories of development have been defined: 1. The stable tendency, 2. The positive developmental tendency, 3. The unstable developmental tendency and 4. The negative developmental tendency. Half of the 31 students their ratings during the survey period do not reflect a consistent pattern of change. More than one third of the students (12 out of 31 students) go through a negative development, becoming less certain that they will continue in their current programme. Finally, a few of the students (4) seem to undergo a positive development, becoming more certain that they will continue in their current programme. Comparing the findings to Harren’s typology of three styles of decision-making process - ‘the more rational’, ‘the more intuitive’, and ‘the more dependent’ (Harren, 1979) - it can be argued that many of the students’ deliberations seem to be more intuitive than rational. Furthermore, the study points to the importance of taking the initiative to seek help in finding a constructive solution to one’s problems. However this needs to be tested in further research.
Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Fallu, J.-S. & Pagini, L.S. (2009): Student engagement and its relationship with early high school dropout, Journal of Adolescence, 32 (3), 651-670. Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Horsey, C. S. (1997). From first grade forward: Early foundations of high school dropout. Sociology of Education, 70(2), 87-107. Brown, T. & Rodriquez, L.F. (2009) School and the Co-Construction of Dropout, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22 (2), 221-242. Fine, M. (1991): Framing dropouts: Notes on the politics of an urban public high school. Albany: State University of New York Press. Fine, M., & P. Rosenberg. (1983): Dropping out of high school: The ideology of school and work. Journal of Education 165 (3), 257–272. Finn, J. D. (1989): Withdrawing from school, Review of Educational Research, 59 (2), 117-142. Harren, V.A. (1979): A Model of Career Decision Making for College Students, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 14, 119-113. Hodgson, D. (2007): Towards a more telling way of understanding early school leaving, Issues in Eduational Research, 17 (1), 40-61. Jimerson, S., Egeland, B., Sroufe, L. A., & Carlson, B. (2000). A prospective longitudinal study of high school dropouts examining multiple predictors across development. Journal of School Psychology, 38(6), 525-549. Lee, V.E. & Burkham, D.T. (2003): Dropping out of High School: The Role of the School Organization and Structure, American Educational Research Journal, 40 (2), 353-393. Lessard A., Butler-Kisber L., Fortin L., Marcotte D., Potvin P. & Royer É. (2008): Shades of disengagement: High school dropouts speak out. Social Psychology of Education, 11 (1), 25–42. Rumberger, R.W. and Rotermund, S. (2012): The Relationship Between Engagement and High School Dropout, In: Christenson, S.L., Reschly, A.L. and Wylie, C. (eds.) (2012): Handbook of Research on Student Engagement. Boston, Springer.
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