Promoting student retention in two FE colleges
Achinewhu-Nworgu, Elizabeth W.
- Publisher: University of Greenwich,
The central question of this thesis is: How effective are strategies aimed at promoting student retention in Further Education (FE) colleagues? Non-completion is typically the result of combinations of risk factors, including demographic characteristics, financial constraints, students’ motivation, type of course, and students’ experiences of education. Therefore the ‘risk factors’ for students not completing courses vary in the degree to which they are within the control of colleges. While some researchers have made recommendations for improving student retention, a notable gap in the literature is research into the effectiveness of the existing strategies for improving student retention.\ud \ud Focusing on Business course in two London colleges, this research explores students’ and staff views on existing retention strategies. This is done through methods including questionnaire surveys involving a total of 419 students; interviews and a focus group with students; interviews with college managers and teachers; and classroom observations of a sample of teaching sessions. A central finding is that both students and staff highlighted strategies centred on motivation and teaching and learning as the most important for improving retention. These were also the strategies that were seen as being most effectively implemented, whereas strategies linked to student support services, the college environment and quality assurance processes were seen as being least effectively implemented. Students’ views were different however, with level 3 students and Black students most likely to rate the implementation of retention strategies favourably. These differences were more significant than differences between the two colleges studied. It is recommended that retention strategies that sort, support, connect and transform (cf. Beatty-Guenter, 1994) should be implemented in a more co-ordinated fashion that places teaching and learning at the centre and focuses on groups of students most at risk of dropping out, with more good practice sharing between colleges. An important recommendation from the findings is that differences between level 2 and level 3 students, and also between students from different ethnic backgrounds, point to the importance of targeting strategies on those groups most at risk of dropping out.
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