Theories of Retention and Student Success Matthew D. Pistilli, Ph.D. Director of Assessment & Planning, Division of Student Affairs Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis John N. Gardner President John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education January 14, 2015 · Costa Mesa, CA Prominent Retention Theories •Astin •Tinto •Padilla •Bean and Eaton •Gardner Astin’s Student Involvement Theory Focuses on three aspects of college: • Inputs • Environment • Output Developed as an alternative to other complex theories Environment Inputs Output Astin’s Student Involvement Theory (1984) Definitions • Involvement: The amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience. (1985, p. 134) • Exists on a continuum, with students investing varying levels of energy • Is both quantitative and qualitative • Direct relationship between student learning and student involvement • Effectiveness of policy or practice directly related to their capacity to increase student learning (Astin, 1985, 1999) Inputs • The personal, background, and educational characteristics that students bring with them to postsecondary education that can influence educational outcomes (Astin, 1984). • Astin (1993) identified 146 characteristics, including • Demographics • High school academic achievement • Previous experiences & self-perceptions Output • Basic level • Academic Achievement • Retention • Graduation • More abstractly • Skills • Behaviors • Knowledge The things we are attempting to develop in students Environment • Where we have the most control • Factors related to students’ experience while in college • Astin (1993) identified 192 variables across 8 overarching classifications Institutional characteristics Financial Aid Peer group characteristics Major Field Choice Faculty characteristics Place of residence Curriculum Student involvement Takeaways from Astin • We have little control over inputs • Outputs are usually measured in binary terms, but we have a greater opportunity beyond simply retaining/graduating students • We have a great deal of control over the environment into which we place our students What aspects of the environment can you focus on as you develop plans to increase student success? Tinto’s Model of Student Departure • Near-paradigmatic stature (Braxton, 1999) • Based on • Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide • van Gennep’s “successful rites of passage” • Looks at students’ pre-entry attributes, goals & commitments, and internal/external experiences (Tinto, 1993) Tinto’s Model (continued) • Considers both formal and informal interactions and experiences • Does not leave learning to chance – intentionally creates purposeful environments • Places strong emphasis on academic and social integration (Tinto, 1993) PRE-ENTRY ATTRIBUTES GOALS & COMMITMENTS (T1) INSTITUTIONAL EXPERIENCES PERSONAL / GOALS NORMATIVE & INTEGRATION COMMITMENTS (2) OUTCOME ACADEMIC SYSTEM FORMAL ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE FAMILY BACKGROUND FACULTY/STAFF INTERACTIONS INTENTIONS INFORMAL ACADEMIC INTEGRATION INTENTIONS SKILLS & ABILITIES DEPARTURE DECISION GOAL & INSTITUTIONAL COMMITMENTS PRIOR SCHOOLING FORMAL EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES SOCIAL INTEGRATION GOAL & INSTITUTIONAL COMMITMENTS PEER-GROUP INTERACTIONS INFORMAL SOCIAL SYSTEM EXTERNAL COMMITMENTS TIME (T) Theoretical Model Of Student Retention Tinto’sTinto’s Model of Student Departure (1993) Takeaways from Tinto • Students’ goals and external commitments are real factors in their success and persistence • Students need to excel both academically and socially • Initiatives such as learning communities, academically-themed housing, and leadership programs can increase academic and social integration Where are there opportunities to foster academic and social integration on your campus as part of your retention planning? Padilla’s Conceptualization of Expertise • Developed a theory based on minority student success • In short, what separates students who successfully complete college from those who do not graduate? • Black Box Model • Geography of Barriers • Knowledge acquisition • Negotiating Barriers • Successful negotiation of Barriers • Developed after studying successful minority students at an institution in the Southwest (Padilla, 1999) Incoming Students Campus Experience Graduates (Black Box) (Output) (Input) Dropouts (Output) (Padilla, 1999) Campus Experience: Geography of Barriers Incoming Students Graduates (Input) (Output) Dropouts (Output) (Padilla, 1999) Conceptualization of Expertise Heuristic Knowledge Component Rules of Thumb Campus Dependent Experiential Learning Initial Knowledge Classroom Learning Campus Independent The gray curve is a potential distribution in the acquisition of theoretical and heuristic knowledge over time. Laws, Axioms & Principles Total Knowledge at Graduation (compiled knowledge) Theoretical Knowledge Component (Padilla, 1999) Takeaways from Padilla • Our campuses are full of barriers for students – usually in the form of policies, regulations, and practices. • Students are experts in their own success – and their peers’ failure • Heuristic and/or theoretical knowledge must be tapped by students to overcome barriers What barriers exist on your campus that can be removed to facilitate processes students must navigate or to allow for progress towards degree objectives? Bean and Eaton’s Psychological Model of Student Retention • Based in four psychological theories • Attitude-behavior theory • Provides overall structure of model • Coping-behavioral theory • Self-efficacy theory • Attribution (locus of control) theory • These three things combine to form a model for understanding academic and social integration (Bean & Eaton, 1999) Bean and Eaton’s Psychological Model of Student Retention (1999) Takeaways from Bean & Eaton • Students enter with characteristics over which we have little control (see Astin’s inputs) • Interactions occur between students and the institution in many forms and on multiple occasions – but these interactions do not automatically integrate students into the environment • Students determine the extent to which they belong during these interactions How can your retention plan work to increase the extent to which students believe they belong on your campus? Definition of First-Year Student Success Academic Success/GPA This broad definition of Relationships first-year student success Identity Development is achievable only through partnerships. Career Decision Making Health & Wellness Faith & Spirituality Multicultural Awareness Civic Responsibility Retention – the baseline Broad discussion • Commonalities • Differences distinct enough to matter • Application What are your takeaways from these theories? What parts of these theories speak to your home institution? References Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 24, 297-308. Astin, A. W. (1985). Involvement: The cornerstone of excellence. Change, 17, 35-39 Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college? Liberal Education, 79(4), 4-15. Astin, A. W. (1999). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40, 518-529. Bean, J., & Eaton, S. B. (2001). The psychology underlying successful retention practices. Journal of College Student Retention, 3(1), 73-89. Braxton, J. M. (1999). Theory elaboration and research and development: Toward a fuller understanding of college student retention. Journal of College Student Retention, 1, 93-97. Padilla, R. V. (1999). College student retention: Focus on success. Journal of College Student Retention, 1, 131-145. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.