22 SES 11 B, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
Student persistence is an object of empirical enquiry for over seventy years (Braxton et al., 2000) and is international in its significance (Von Stolk et al., 2007; Crosling et al., 2008). The significance of the issue can be viewed from a student, educational institution and societal perspective (Yorke and Longden, 2004; Kezar, 2004). The present research is a case study of the intentions to persist of the first year students in the Wexford Campus of the Institute of Technology Carlow in the Republic of Ireland which offers both OECD Type A and Type B tertiary education programmes (OECD, 2004). The focus is on first year students as they are the cohort most likely to discontinue their higher education studies (Mooney et al., 2010; Yorke, 2000). The Wexford Campus is an outreach higher education institution with a significant non-traditional student representation. At this point in time the body of research conducted on non-traditional students in an Irish and European context needs development (RANHLE, 2009). The focus on non-traditional students is increasingly relevant as higher education moves from educating a limited number in society to a mass enterprise, with increased numbers of mature and low socio-economic status students (Mooney et al., 2010; Fleming et al., 2010; McCoy et al., 2010; HEA, 2008; Heagney, 2008; Dickerson and Stiefer, 2006).
The theoretical framework of the study proposed is that of adapting the social integration approach of Tinto (1993, 1975) in a classroom context as well as synthesising it with the organisation adaptation approach (Yorke and Longden, 2004; Thomas, 2002; Berger, 2000). Specifically, the concept of social integration, part of Tinto’s (1993, 1975) model of student persistence, is critiqued with a classroom based modification suggested (Tinto, 1997). This classroom based social integration approach is linked to the organisational adaptation perspective. This alternative, and as yet underdeveloped, perspective puts the onus on the HEI adapting to the diversity of students including through the use of active teaching methodologies (Thomas, 2008; Zepke and Leach, 2005; Yorke and Longden, 2004). Thus the theoretical framework reconciles the two perspectives of social integration and educational institution adaptation. The core research question of the study is ‘Will classroom based social integration and active teaching methods influence the intention to persist of first year students in Higher Education?’ Two categories of secondary research questions were developed. These two categories represent the two main approaches presented in the literature as solutions to student departure – social integration and organisational adaptation.
Crosling G., Thomas L. and Heagney M. (2008) Improving Student Retention in Higher Education, New York: Routledge. Fleming T., Loxley A., Kenny A. and Finnegan F. (2010) A Study of Work and Life Experiences of Mature Students (incl. Disadvantaged) in Three Higher Education Institutions, Combat Poverty Agency. Heagney M. (2008) Student success and student diversity. In Crosling G., Thomas L. and Heagney M. (Eds.) Improving Student Retention in Higher Education, London: Routledge. Mooney O., Patterson V., O’Connor M. and Chantler A. (2010) A Study of Progression in Irish Higher Education, A report by the Higher Education Authority, Dublin: Higher Education Authority. RANLHE (2009) Access and retention: Experiences of Non-traditional Learners in Higher Education, Literature Review, European lifelong learning project 2008-10 [online] Available from: http://www.ranlhe.dsw.edu.pl/documents.html [Accessed 30th October 2010]. Thomas L. (2002) Student Retention in higher education: the role of institutional habitus, Journal of Educational Policy, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 423-442. Tinto V. (1975) Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research, Review of Educational Research, Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 89-125. Tinto V. (1993) Leaving College, Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition, 2nd Edition, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press Tinto V. (1997) Classrooms as Communities: Exploring the Educational Character of Student Persistence, The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 68, No. 6, pp. 599-623. Van Stolk C., Tiessen J., Clift J. and Levitt R. (2007) Student Retention in Higher Education Courses, International Comparison, Prepared for the National Audit Office, Santa Monica, California: RAND Europe. Yorke M. and Longden B. (2004) Retention and Student Success in Higher Education, The Society for Research into Higher Education, Open University Press. Zepke N. and Leach L. (2005) Integration and adaptation: Approaches to the student retention and achievement puzzle, Active Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 46-59.
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