Title page for ETD etd-110398-124506


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Dean, Anne Margaret
Author's Email Address anned@vt.edu
URN etd-110398-124506
Title Defining and Achieving University Student Success: Faculty and Student Perceptions
Degree Master of Science
Department Teaching and Learning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Camp, William G. Committee Chair
Asselin, Susan B. Committee Member
Blanks, Felica Wooten Committee Member
Scott, Delores W. Committee Member
Keywords
  • Student Success
  • Faculty Perceptions
  • College
  • Student Achievement
  • Student Perceptions
Date of Defense 1998-07-28
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Many different parties are involved in trying to promote student success: faculty, student affairs professionals, parents, mentors, and students themselves. All may speak of their endeavors to work toward the goal of "student success", but if success is defined differently by each party, then each pursues a different goal. With this in mind, this study was designed for three purposes. First, the researcher sought to define student success based on the perspectives of student and faculty populations within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Second, the researcher sought to identify the barriers to student success. Finally, the researcher sought to identify strategies that would foster student success.

Qualitative methods were employed to conduct this research within the population of undergraduate students and faculty within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Eight focus groups were conducted in the spring of 1997 with a total of 27 students participating and two focus groups were conducted the following spring with 7 faculty participating. Questionnaires and the transcripts of the focus groups were analyzed for this study.

Findings showed that faculty and students have somewhat dissimilar perspectives on student success. Faculty participants were more interested in the academic elements of being successful, while students placed more weight on what they felt were personal indicators of success, such as happiness. In terms of the barriers to student success that were discussed, students were much more likely to discuss barriers that were outside of their control, such as the classroom environment. Faculty, on the other hand, concentrated on the personal characteristics of students, feeling that students ultimately had personal responsibility for their own success. Based on the questionnaires, the groups were fairly well balanced and represented a fairly wide range of collegiate experiences.

Faculty and students have demonstrated through this study that they are quite valuable as a resource to consult when conducting needs assessments or developing student interventions. Many of the solutions that were suggested, interestingly, dealt not with the creation of new programs but with improving communication within the university to ensure the awareness of programs that already exist. Participants also felt that orientation activities for new students should be extended well into their first semester at the university.

From a research perspective, this study provided a great deal of insight into the ways that faculty and student perspectives are both similar and different. It would be interesting to see whether perspectives are similar across colleges within the university, or even similar between universities with similar characteristics. In trying to determine the nature of the collegiate experience, few would deny that no groups are more intimately involved in that experience than the faculty and students. Ultimately, then, the answers concerning the nature of student success must lie with them.

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