While all students struggle from time to time to motivate themselves, typically it is students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, those without family support, and those who are the first in their family to attend higher education who struggle the most. They are also the most likely to drop out before completing their studies.
Most universities are aware of these statistics and already have mentoring programs in place. But how can these programs be more effective? What can we do to build on students’ natural motivation to learn? And how can we encourage talented high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enrol and remain in higher education?
Recent studies have identified several simple but effective means to provide support and encouragement to students:
Sending personalised letters to senior students in their final year of school, and who were in a peer group unlikely to apply to a selective university, increased the university application rate. The letters, which encouraged the students to apply to university, were signed by University of Bristol students from a similar background to the recipients, who received one letter near the beginning of their final year and another in the middle of the year. This research supports the view that providing students with relatable role models of a similar background increases their chances of educational success.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds may have people who support their efforts, but who don’t know how to help. One study allowed students to nominate a supporter, who was then sent regular text messages prompting them to ask the student about their studies (for example: “This week in maths class, Charlie studied geometry. Ask him to explain what ‘parallel’ means.”) This study showed that providing “support to the supporters” resulted in about a 10% increase in attendance.
Texting students themselves regularly to provide encouragement also increased attendance by about 10%.
In the US, a trial showed that sending just-in-time text reminder messages as key deadlines approached to students considering college enrolment, backed by on-demand support to help with decision making and application completion, increased enrolment rates.
Finally, a report by the National Union of Students in Britain recommends reducing the complexity of information students use when choosing a higher education institution, to increase the likelihood that each student will choose the option that suits them best. They recommend reducing the focus on course content and providing more information about the student experience to help students choose effectively.
These studies show that student experience is one of the keys to a successful educational journey. Mapping the student experience can highlight areas where students can be supported in specific ways to continue their education.
Contact Simon Bennett, Consulting Director on 0419 042 640 email@example.com, to discuss ways that Exceed can help your organisation to map the student journey and identify ways to support students through their educational experience.
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