22 SES 12 C, Guidance and Support of (Graduate) Students
Higher education is an educational period which witnesses more independent behaviors and selection of partner and occupation. Graduate education, as an important part of higher education, shapes the career planning, professional development, and expertise of the graduates. In Turkey, there are 480214 Master and 91267 Doctoral students in the Graduate Schools (Higher Education Council, 2017). Unfortunately, a serious amount of these student neither reregister in the semester nor attend the courses although they were enrolled in the graduate programs (Ertem & Gökalp, 2016; Hürriyet, 2015). Moreover, there are many graduate students not attending graduate education activities (Ünver, Bümen, & Başbay, 2010). All of these conditions indicate that there is s student attrition problem in graduate schools.
Student attrition has some causes which may be divided to two groups. The first group includes the personal factors like demographic variables, individual characteristics, and psychosocial features. To name a few, gender (Ferreira, 2003), academic ability (Kahn & Nauta, 2001), and psychological well-being (Napoli & Wortman, 1998) are the personal factors linked to student attrition. On the other hand, there are organizational factors on student attrition. To illustrate, admission process (Ishitani, 2006), organizational support (DesJardins, Ahlburg, & McCall, 2002), and attitudes of faculty (Lundquist, Spalding, & Landrum, 2002) are the organizational factors. In addition, department or field has an impact on student attrition. Golde (2000) interviewed with three students from three different departments and found that experiences of non-persistent students differed by departments. Moreover, Araque, Roldan, and Salguaero (2009) calculated attrition rates for different fields.Their study showed that dropout rates for Humanities (63.5%) was higher than that for Software Engineering (49.6%) and Economic Sciences (43.6%).
Although student attrition is investigated frequently in European context (Di Pietro & Cutillo, 2008; Smith & Naylor, 2001, Yorke & Longden, 2008), USA context (Crede &Borrego, 2014; Demetriou & Schmitz-Sciborski, 2011, Geisinger & Raman, 2013; Lovitts, 2001;), and Australian context (Adams, Banks, Davis, & Dickson, 2010; Grebennikov & Shah, 2012; Radloff, Coates, James, & Krause, 2011), studies in Turkey focus on more limited context like dropout problem in lower level of education (Bülbül, 2012; Özbaş, 2010; Şimşek, 2011) and unidimensional problems like attendance, infrastructure, and academician problems (Çoruk, Çağatay, & Öztürk, 2016; Nayır, 2001, Sevinç, 2011). In this respect, the researchers of the current study identified a gap such that literature in Turkey does not have any studies approaching student attrition from graduate education in a multidimensional way. Therefore, there is a need for a study investigating student attrition in-depth from a multidimensional perspective.
Examination of student attrition in Turkey will not only fill a gap in the literature but also help learning its reasons. Investigation of student attrition from the lens of non-persistent students in the different departments will give opportunity to analyze the problem in a widespread spectrum and to produce more comprehensive and sustainable strategies for different contexts to deal with student attrition problem in graduate education. Student attrition is closely related to quality and outputs of graduate education. In practice, voices of non-persistent students may be evaluated as the feedback mechanism for two important issues. Firstly, findings of the current study may project academician training policies based on target for high number of students with PhD degree in Turkey. Secondly, the current study may give opinion about how well purposes of Bologna process and European Higher Education Area were compatible in the context of Turkey. The current study aims to investigate experiences of non-persistent students about student attrition and seeks an answer to the following research question.
• How do non-persistent students in different departments experience student attrition?
The design of the current study is phenomenological study in which a phenomenon based on essence of experiences is studied (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). For the current study, the phenomenon was the student attrition from graduate education. The sample which included non-persistent graduate students who are registered in the 10 research universities of the country was selected purposefully. In 2017, Turkish Higher Education Council identified 10 of the 185 universities who are focused on graduate education and particularly doctoral education, researcher training, and that have a research culture as the research universities of the country. Non-persistent student includes those students who are not registered, or are not re-registered, or are dis-enrolled in addition to not attending courses or thesis studies regularly in the present semester. Moreover, student who thinks to either quit education or transfer to another higher education institution are described as non-persistent student. Ten non-persistent students were chosen from five different departments. The fields of these departments were education, art and science, engineering, and economics and administrative sciences. There are two main reasons why these fields were chosen. The first one is was the general tendency in the literature. The literature has studies comparing student attrition in these fields (Araque, Roldan, & Salguero, 2009; Elgar, 2003; Nettles & Millett, 2006). The second one is structure of higher education system in Turkey. Faculties in Turkey were generally structured around these fields such that almost each university in Turkey has faculties with these names. So far, the data collected from three students were analyzed. Therefore, this proposal is limited to preliminary findings from three of 10 participants whose departments were art, engineering, and education (all interviews and data will be completed by summer 2018). Students from art and engineering departments were male and working in a public organization. Student from education department was female and working in a private school. The instrument of the current study is a semi-structured interview collecting data from students about the graduate education experiences, causes of student attrition, and recommendations to address the student attrition problem. Interview recordings were transcribed by the researcher to analyze the data. Peer debriefing, member check, and maintaining a journal were conducted to increase dependability and credibility. Through content analysis, themes and codes were determined. Themes for semi-structured interviews were start of graduate education, process and structure in graduate education, reasons for student attrition, and recommendations to minimize attrition.
The researchers identified some themes describing student attrition experiences and perceptions of non-persistent students. The first theme was start of graduate education. They were asked question about decision to start and feelings about graduate education. The reasons to start graduate education were different. Engineering student emphasized professional development and opportunity for group work. Education student stated a desire to be an academician. However, Art student stated that he began to graduate education due to delaying military duty. All three students indicated that they were excited and had positive feelings at the beginning of graduate education. For the theme of process and structure of graduate education, the frequently stated sub-themes were motivation, relations with advisors, relations with peers, attitudes of administrators, attendance problem, course programs, economic support, and family. For the theme of reasons for student attrition, personal factors were dominant. The students of education and engineering departments attributed attrition decisions to themselves whereas student of Art department attributed his attrition to occupation. Although all of the participants emphasized the problem with their advisors, they accepted that they had not shown any effort to solve this problem. When the reason of this condition were asked, they responded that they did not struggle with this problem because their occupational responsibilities were more dominant. In other words, they became non-persistent students because they could not adjust the balance between their educational and occupational lives. Finally, the general recommendations of the participants may be summarized as reorganization of student-advisor relationships, positive attitudes of administrators towards graduate education, legal procedures for permission to participate in graduate education activities, adjustments of course programs by considering the students working anywhere, and financial support for the students.
Adams, T., Banks, M., Davis, D., & Dickson, J. (2010). The Hobsons retention project: Context and factor analysis report. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne: Tony Adams and Associates. Araque, Francisco, Concepción Roldán, and Alberto Salguero. "Factors influencing university drop out rates." Computers & Education 53.3 (2009): 563-574. Bülbül, T. (2012). Yüksekögretimde Okul Terki: Nedenler ve Çözümlere Yönelik Bir Olgubilim Çalismasi. Egitim ve Bilim, 37(166), 219-235. Crede, E., & Borrego, M. (2014). Understanding retention in US graduate programs by student nationality. Studies in Higher Education, 39(9), 1599-1616. Çoruk, A., Çağatay, Ş. M., & Öztürk, H. (2016). Lisansüstü Eğitimde Kayıt ve Devam Sorunları. Uşak Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 2015(25). Demetriou, C., & Schmitz-Sciborski, A. (2011). Integration, motivation, strengths and optimism: Retention theories past, present and future. In Proceedings of the 7th National Symposium on student retention (pp. 300-312). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma. DesJardins, S. L., Ahlburg, D. A., & McCall, B. P. (2002). An event history model of student departure. Economics of Education Review, 18(3), 375-390. Di Pietro, G., & Cutillo, A. (2008). Degree flexibility and university drop-out: The Italian experience. Economics of Education Review, 27(5), 546-555. Elgar, F. J. (2003). PhD degree completion in Canadian universities. Nova Scotia, Canada: Dalhousie University. Ertem, H. Y. & Gökalp, G. (2016). Sayıların dili: Lisansüstü eğitimde okul terki. In K. Beycioğlu, N. Özer, D, Koşar, & İ. Şahin (Eds.) Eğitim yönetimi araştırmaları (pp. 239-250). Ankara: PegemA Ferreira, M. (2003). Gender issues related to graduate student attrition in two science departments. International Journal of Science Education, 25(8), 969-989. Gall, M. D., Borg, W. R., & Gall, J. P. (1996). Educational research: An introduction. Longman Publishing. Geisinger, B. N., & Raman, D. R. (2013). Why they leave: Understanding student attrition from engineering majors. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(4), 914. Golde, C. M. (2000). Should I stay or should I go? Student descriptions of the doctoral attrition process. The Review of Higher Education, 23(2), 199-227. Grebennikov, L., & Shah, M. (2012). Investigating attrition trendsin order to improvestudent retention. Quality Assurance in Education, 20(3), 223-236.
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