2 November 2010

Researchers from UQ's Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences are set to highlight the factors behind attrition of university students after winning a $25,000 UQ Teaching and Learning Strategic Grant.

The research team, headed by Dr Blake McKimmie from the School of Psychology, will examine the extent to which identity, attitudes, norms, and perceptions of control contribute to students’ intention to remain enrolled at university.

The team will also investigate whether high impact learning practices, such as one-on-one personal interviews or round table sessions with academics, reduce the likelihood of a student withdrawing from a course or program, or from university altogether.

Dr McKimmie said it was crucial to understand why students withdrew from university to be able to put in place mechanisms to reduce attrition.

“Our aim here is to learn more about ‘what works’," he said.

"Through focus groups with first year students, online surveys, and evaluations of high impact learning practices we hope to provide practical methods of reducing attrition with the aim of encouraging the disseminating of best practice.”

The project will be conducted over a number of phases. The first will involve a number of focus groups with first-year students to measure students’ beliefs about staying enrolled past the first year, as well as the facilitators and inhibitors to staying enrolled.

The second phase includes an online survey to be administered to a cohort of first-year students, based on the findings of the focus groups.

This survey aims to track students over the course of a year and identify the extent to which high impact learning activities and other attitudinal and identity-related factors shape students’ intentions to stay enrolled.

In the final phase, students will be contacted by telephone to allow the project team to match student behaviours to their anticipated behaviours.

“By identifying those aspects of students’ attitudes, norms, perceptions of control, and identity that are most strongly related to enrolment intention and behaviour, this project will provide information about the best way to enhance student engagement through teaching and learning strategies," Dr McKimmie said.

“From here we can selectively embed these types of learning activities into our programs to ensure students expectations are met.”

The results of the project will be disseminated through presentations at UQ’s Teaching and Learning Week.

The research team includes:
Dr Blake McKimmie, UQ School of Psychology
Dr Barbara Masser, UQ School of Psychology
Associate Professor Andrew Hindmoor, UQ School of Political Science and International Relations
Associate Professor Julie Duck, UQ SBS Faculty
Dr Greg Marston, UQ School of Social Work and Human Services
Dr Patricia Short, UQ School of Social Science.

Media: Helen Burdon (Marketing and Communications Manager, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences) 3346 9279, h.burdon@uq.edu.au