Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

The Impact of Tutoring on the Academic Success of Undeclared Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Reading and Learning

The Impact of Tutoring on the Academic Success of Undeclared Students

Article excerpt

Regardless of university efforts to retain students, nearly half of all students are still failing to graduate from four-year institutions (Dennis, 1998; Fiske, 2004; Lederman, 2009). Data show that the proportion of first year students who returned to their colleges as sophomores in 2007-8, 65.7 percent, dropped to the lowest level in 25 years (Lederman, 2009). The intractability of this low retention rate has led to a plethora of research studies into the efficacy of student support programs in improving retention rates. Unfortunately, research has not provided clear results for how to improve retention rates, especially for the particular type of college student who has not yet declared a major- the undeclared student.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss a study conducted to investigate whether retention rates of the undeclared student improve with tutoring. This study is a new area of research that may provide some strategies for improving the retention rates of undeclared college students.

Review of Literature

There is little research on the effects of tutoring on the retention of undeclared students. The greater part of the research on retention has focused on the social and academic integration of students; characteristics of the university, such as public versus private, size, and quality; pre-enrollment attributes, such as race-ethnicity, age, first-generation status, hours in paid employment, socioeconomic status, high school performance, and SAT scores; and programmatic interventions, such as first-year seminars, supplemental instruction, financial aid programs, learning communities, and interactions with peers and faculty (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Tinto, 1993). A review of studies on tutoring reveals that the area of research most closely related to persistence of undeclared students is efficacy of tutoring for success of students at risk of dropping out of college due to GPA issues, academic background, poor decision-making skills, and other factors. Such research has documented the positive effectiveness of tutorial programs on retention of the at-risk student (Colvin, 2007; Topping, 1998).

Undecided or undeclared students are students who are unwilling, unable, or unready to make educational or vocational decisions upon entering college (Gordon, 1 995). Undeclared students typically represent one of the largest clusters of potentially at-risk students on a university campus. Twenty to 50 percent of college students enter college undecided about their vocational goals (Stark, 2002), making the "undeclared major" usually one of the largest majors on a university campus. Within the last decade, research interest in the undeclared student has increased because of concerns about decreasing retention rates among this student population (Gordon, 1995; Jurgens, 2000).

According to Gordon (1995), there are multiple subsets of subgroups of students who can be found within the undeclared population. The following are the three most common subsets at the institution where this study took place:

1. Academically underprepared students. Some undeclared students enter college as undeclared due to poor academic performance in high school, which has prevented them from entering the degree program they want to pursue.

2. Developmentally not prepared students. Some undeclared students are not ready to make life-long career decisions.

3. Investigating students. Some undeclared students are interested in exploring various majors by taking general education courses and introductory level major courses before declaring a major.

Because the undeclared student is often unwilling or unable to declare a major, the undeclared student maybe disconnected academically and socially. As Tinto (1993) postulates, students who are disconnected and not integrated (socially and academically) into the fabric of a university are less likely to be retained. The undeclared student may not become fully integrated because she does not identify herself with an academic department (Young & Redlinger, 2000). …

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