P4 – Entering higher education: experiences with the ‘study choice check’ and start of a route to study success.

Room C – TUESDAY 14:15-15:15

Dr. Kariene Mittendorff

Saxion University of Applied Sciences

Dr. Kariene Mittendorff is assistant professor at Saxion University of Applied Sciences. Her research focuses on the quality of student guidance processes in vocational and higher education, student success (factors) and the transition process of students from vocational to higher education.

Summary

This paper presents the results of a study on a ‘study choice check’ for students (before entering higher education) which is meant to help students to check if they ‘fit’ the study they signed up for. Through questionnaire research (N=1711 and N=52) as well as additional interviews, students and teachers are asked to formulate what is helpful in terms of choosing a study, feelings of bonding with the school and starting their career at higher education.

Abstract

Studies have shown many students do not prepare themselves properly for the studies they are choosing after high school and students often state that the main reason they leave their studies is because they did not choose properly (Warps et al., 2009). In line with these findings, the government of the Netherlands has obliged all institutions for higher education to offer students a study choice check: an activity in which students can check whether they have chosen for the right study or not. At Saxion University a lot of time and effort is put into realizing this ‘check’ for all students. Every student that chooses a study at Saxion is invited for this ‘check’ that consists of an assessment, a personal meeting with a teacher (and sometimes students) and an individual advice. The goal of the study choice check is stimulating students to think more profoundly about their choice of study: it should contribute to a process of ‘matching’. Another goal is to bond students sooner and better to school, since this is believed to have an effect on student success (see also Tinto, 1987).

The study presented in this paper focused on the following research questions:

1. How do students experience the study choice check?
2. How do teachers (intakers) experience the study choice check?
3. What elements of the study choice check contribute to the goals (matching and feelings of bonding), according to the students and the teachers?

Data was collected with questionnaires and interviews. Students filled in a questionnaire directly after having the check at Saxion (N=1711), teachers filled in a questionnaire after they completed all study choice checks (N=52). In the questionnaire we asked students about their experiences with the study choice check and for example, whether it led to another choice of study or other actions. Teachers were asked about their experiences as well. After the summer holiday students (N=136) and teachers (N=35) were interviewed to reflect on their experiences with the study choice check and the contribution of this activity to starting a study program at Saxion.

Results show that students appreciate an individual conversation before starting their studies. Some students seem to reconsider their choice for a certain study and look further and are also more likely to follow an extra course or take other actions to prepare themselves better. Students also appreciate conversations with older students from the same program, who they can ask about what the study is like.

More efficacy can be realized by focussing the check on more specific ‘success factors’ of the study program the student chose for, so the study choice check contributes better to a process of ‘matching’. Now, every student is assessed on ‘common’ higher education competencies, such as logic reasoning, maths or language, and not on specific competencies or attributes that are important for a particular study.

References

Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: rethinking the cause and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Warps, J., L. Hogeling, J. Pass en D. Brukx (2009). Study choice and study success [Studiekeuze en studiesucces]. Nijmegen: Researchned.

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