Using psychometrics to identify traditionally-aged and mature students at risk of non-completion
Forum for Access & Continuing Education
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Returning to higher education can be a life-enhancing step, but returning then not completing can have a deleterious effect on self-esteem. Early identification of those at risk of non-completion would enable focussed deployment of supportive interventions. The work reported was designed to evaluate the use of two psychometric scales to predict successful completion of the first year of study in Higher Education. The aim of this paper is to explore the efficacy of these tests for both traditionally aged and older students returning to study. In both studies participants were asked to complete the Performance Expectation Ladder and the Academic Behavioural Confidence (ABC) Scale at the start of the academic year. These data were then analysed by the subsequent outcome data from the examining boards at the end of that year. The first study comprised 160 Foundation Year students from four courses across two universities in different countries in the UK. For the sample as a whole, one subscale on the ABC Scale, Attendance, was significantly associated with successful end of year outcome. Broken down by age group, this applied to traditionally aged students and returning students under 40, but not to the small number of older returning students (N=5). The second study comprised 503 first year degree students from 19 courses across two universities. Again the Attendance subscale was the most effective predictor of end of year outcome for students under 40, with the 21 older students showing a different pattern. In both studies the older students had high scores on the Attendance subscale, but lower end of year success rates than their younger contemporaries. It is acknowledged that the examining board outcome data provided a relatively crude distinction between those who were able to progress at this juncture from those who were not; this lack of subtlety in grouping however is likely to underestimate any real differences between successful and unsuccessful students. The findings suggest that the ABC may be used to identify those at risk of non-progression for traditional aged and younger returners. It appears ineffective as a diagnostic tool for more mature students. The latter’s high level of confidence in attending yet relatively poor outcome is worthy of further consideration in the context of thwarted commitment for the mature returner to education. It would be informative to extending this research to compare graduation outcomes although it is noteworthy that national statistics evidence that student withdrawal peaks during the first year of study.
Sanders, L., Mair, C. and James, R.(2016) 'Using psychometrics to identify traditionally-aged and mature students at risk of non-completion', FACE 2016 Conference.Widening participation within the context of economic and social change: engaging applicants and empowering students to create successful graduates. Queen's University,Belfast, 29 June - 1 July 2016.
This paper will be published in the FACE Annual conference publication which will be launched during the FACE 2016 Conference in Belfast from 29 June to 1 July 2016.
Welsh Government’s New Ideas in Social Research Fund, British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant Scheme
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