04 SES 03 B, Supporting Inclusion By Supporting Language Learning
In this study, we aimed to close the achievement gaps in the success and program completion of the underprepared EFL learners at a state English Medium Instruction (EMI) university through an Academic Support Center (ASC). By providing specifically designed learning assistance, advice, and resources in addition to their classroom hours, we intended to deal with barriers such as low English readiness to study at an EMI university. We provided extra support and resources that are truly accessible and free of charge to the underserved students at our department to decrease the academic and socioeconomic barriers for language learning and academic success at an EMI university context. In this mixed methods study, we aimed to test if the academic support services provided to the underprepared college students influence their retention and academic achievement on an EMI university campus.
In the EMI universities in Turkey, students are required to take a one year preparatory English language programme. After passing the end-of-year English proficiency test, they can commence their chosen field of study. However, students who are lucky enough to receive a high quality language instruction at high school are more likely to be academically successful at EMI universities than their peers who could not get quality language instruction (Dearden, & Akincioglu, 2016). Literature suggests that those students who are at highest academic risk need support services and tutoring (Ginsburg-Block, Rohrbeck, & Fantuzzo, 2006; Miller, 1990; Ogden, Thompson, Russell, & Simons, 2003; Peterfreund, Rath, Xenos, & Bayliss, 2007; Ramirez, 1997). We know that support services offered at college predict improved grades and retention (Arendale, 2002; Blanc, DeBuhr, & Martin, 1983; Martin & Arendale, 1993; Ogden et al., 2003). However, for our unique case, literature did not offer much. That is, many studies simply focused on students’ academic skills, not their foreign language skills and none of the available studies were conducted at an EMI university, where academic skills may not be enough for a student to be successful. Our study adds to the literature by addressing these issues.
This mixed methods study aimed to test if the academic support services provided to the underserved college students studying at a preparatory English program at an EMI university influence their retention and academic achievement. Participants: The participants of this study were 100 underserved and underprepared EFL learners studying at a public EMI University in Turkey in the 2020-2021 academic year. To determine the target group three variables were used: socioeconomic profile of the families and the high schools students attended and the language scores received at the placement exam. Intervention (Academic Support Services Provided): The participants were provided with a variety of academic support services during the spring term of the 2020-2021 academic year. Data Collection: The outcomes of the intervention were evaluated using different data collection tools and getting different stakeholders’ perspectives. Instruments:Student Achievement Data (i.e., English Proficiency Exam Results): The English Proficiency Exam results of the underserved students receiving academic support services were collected and be compared to the other students who are placed in the same level but did not receive any support services. Student Attendance Data: Attendance data of the target group were collected and compared to the attendance of the other students in the same level. Student Interviews: A random sample of 20 students being supported was interviewed about their perception of the impact of the academic support services they received on their language development. Data Analysis: Quantitative: All quantitative data obtained were analyzed using SPSS. A Chi-Square Test of Independence was conducted to determine the relationship of receiving academic support on underserved college students’ retention and academic achievement as compared to a matched group of non-supported participants. Retention was measured by determining the student attendance in the fall 2019 semester while being supported. Academic success was measured by using archived student grades earned in the gatekeeper exam, English Proficiency Exam. The grades above 60 were used as successful completion, as a student must get minimum 60 in order to their departments. Qualitative: All of the qualitative data collected from 20 students were analyzed through content analysis by the researcher. First, the data were organized and categorized. Then, the researcher analyzed the data by coding, categorizing, and subcategorizing the data. Categories were moved into concepts and analyzed further for emergent patterns and themes.
Quantitative Data: Retention: A Chi-Square Test of Independence was conducted to determine whether a relationship existed between being academically supported and retention to the lessons. The results of the Chi-Square Test of Independence suggested that a statistically significant relationship existed between whether a student had been supported and continued the courses at the department, χ2(1, N = 100) = 6.360, p = .012. The supported students attended the eighty percent of their regular courses at the program, as opposed to the fifty-six percent attendance of the students who were not supported. Academic Achievement: A Chi-Square Test of Independence was conducted to determine whether a relationship existed between receiving academic support and English Proficiency Exam grades. A statistically significant relationship was found to exist between the two, χ2(7, N = 100) = 30.337, p < 001. Students who were supported (57.3%) got a pass score (60 and more) in the exam, as opposed to 13.4% of students who were not supported getting 60 and more. Qualitative Data: Qualitative data suggested that the participants believed that they improved not only their English language proficiency but also their study skills to a great extent thanks to the academic support services they received. These skills were seen by the participants to be very helpful in their transition to college and in becoming a successful student in college. The study also revealed that problem-solving skills, learning strategies and being more committed to their learning goals were the other important benefits of the academic support services they got. Conclusion The findings of this study suggest that providing academic support services to underprepared college students is likely to improve their retention and academic achievement; thus, can be useful in reducing the socioeconomic and linguistic barriers in university context.
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