Action Research Question:
"How will implementing new motivational methods targeted at first generation college students impact the retention success rates of students obtaining their undergraduate degrees?"
My action research study will focus on new motivational methods targeted for first generation college students. My purpose is to discover ways that these methods could impact the retention success rates of students in obtaining their undergraduate degrees.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics “First-generation students are defined as those whose parents’ highest level of education is a high school diploma or less. In cases where parents have different levels of education, the maximum education level of either parent determines how the student is categorized.” (U.S. Department of Education, 1998)
The target population for my action research will be the number of active first generation participants enrolled in the TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) program at Lamar. Since more than half of the students in the SSS program at Lamar are first generation college students, addressing their needs and barriers to increase their motivation toward completion of a degree would likely result in a greater impact on the performance of the program as a whole.
There are 160 active participants in the SSS program and out of these students, 82% have been identified as first generation students. I believe this would provide a good representative sampling of the students from the larger student population at the university since in 1989 – 90 almost half or about 43 percent of first-time beginning students were identified as first-generation students.
To my knowledge, no previous action research has been conducted on the Lamar campus in this area and it is believed that providing information on this topic would benefit all of the university staff that serve in the area of retention.
The goal or objective of my action research plan is to increase the student retention success rates for the Student Support Services program at Lamar University. The activities I plan to achieve this outcome will be to begin by analyzing the quantitative student data using the Student Access and Banner student management systems, as well as gathering qualitative data by collecting surveys and conducting student and advisor interviews, soliciting comments from students using the SSS blog, maintaining a journal or weblog including links to articles of interest, and reading literature related to research and ideas for motivating first generation students. As a part of the activities included in the plan will be to share the results of my research and findings on a blog site and to prepare a Powerpoint for presentation to retention advising staff.
The timeline for implementation of this research will be from September 2010 to May 2011. The persons responsible for implementation of the plan will include me, and the SSS program director, Andrea Stephenson. The process for monitoring the achievement of goals and objectives will be to meet with my director on a monthly basis to review the progress toward completion. The assessment instrument to evaluate the effectiveness of the action research study will be the annual program reports which are submitted to the federal government reporting the retention success rates of first generation student who are actively enrolled in our program.
I plan to share my action research project by first writing about the results of my findings on my action research blog site. I agree with noted education ethnographer Harry Wolcott (1990) who stated that writing not only reflects thinking, but “writing is thinking”. Writing about the action research process will help me clarify my thoughts and create an outline so that I can then move toward preparing a Powerpoint to use as part of an oral presentation which I will initially share with SSS staff in an informal weekly staff meeting format. According to Dana (2009), “Writing up your inquiry, .... remains a wonderful way to clarify your thinking and make your inquiry tangible so that it can be shared with others.” Sharing my research on a blog will allow me to take ideas a step further and explore and develop concepts. It will also allow me to connect to a larger audience and allow them to post comments and expand on the research.
Next, I will ask to share my findings with a larger audience in a Partners in Advising meeting with campus advising staff members. I will begin by sharing my own personal success story of being a first generation college student and some of the barriers that I encountered along the way to achieving my goals.
Lastly, I will summarize my findings by creating a brochure that can be used to enable advisors to effectively identify the barriers of first generation students. This brochure will also serve as a desk aid / tool to suggest a variety of motivational methods that have been proven to be effective in working with first generation college students.
Dana, N.F. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge: The principal as action researcher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. First-Generation Students: Undergraduates Whose Parents Never Enrolled in Postsecondary Education, NCES 98-082, by Anne-Marie Nunez and Stephanie Cuccaro-Alamin.Project officer: C. Dennis Carroll. Washington DC: 1998.
Wolcott, H.F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Action Research Planning Template