Thursday, December 19, 2013

Research Update: The Retention Agenda

Several best practices and models that positively impact retention are explicated in the The Retention Agenda. This publication is a collection of case studies that focus on how colleges have changed to improve retention at their institutions. Articles include methods on understanding the student’s motivation to pursue an undergraduate degree and revising admissions procedures.

One such article focused on including applicant essays as part of the admissions process. The essay was used to identify students that are creative but may not test well on standardized tests. These essays tend to measure creative thinking better than standardized tests that typically do not assess this skill. In the article, Beyond the Standard Essay, Kyle L. Wray, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing at Oklahoma State University, states that standardized tests, "measure very low in terms of creativity, and only a small bandwidth of intelligence... [and] we’re in a state that wants to produce more college graduates, so it does not make sense for us to reject more students. We want to identify [prospective students with] creativity in ways that standardized testing does not.” (Jaschik p. 15).

In Research to Improve Retention, 12 research-validated risks, 10 associated with personality and behavior, were identified as reasons why students drop out of college. Robert J. Sternberg, President of the University of Wyoming, explains that one reason students drop out is being deficient in math, science, and writing. Other personality and behavioral risks identified by Sternberg include:
  • Impaired self-efficacy and resilience
  • Inadequately developed self-regulation
  • Impaired ethical judgement
  • Lack of interest and disengagement from the campus
In The New R&R, Michael Bugeja, Director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University discusses the importance of focusing on recruitment and retention to help retain students. Bugeja and other faculty noticed a trend in declining enrollment, in part, due to student's deficiency in language skills. To help with the remediation of these students, several strategies were implemented. Among those strategies were letting students design their own plans of study and making student internships a priority.

Summaries of the other seven articles in this document will be posted to the web and/ or can be provided by contacting Ryan Rose at

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