Understanding Student Engagement through psychometrics

  • Dr Carolyn Mair: Reader in Psychology, Graduate School, LCF

Brief description of session and activities

Using two psychometric measures: the Performance Expectation Ladder (PEL) and the Academic Behavioural Confidence Scale (ABC), Sanders et al (2012) showed that Foundation Year students with lower expectations of their own performance at the start of the year tended not to complete. The current paper is concerned with understanding the extent to which this pattern occurs with those who enter directly on to a degree course to enable timely identification of those most in need of additional support.

Typically, around 8% first year students leave UK universities (HESA). Student withdrawal and low rates of satisfaction have adverse economic, ethical and legal consequences for the individual, institution and UK. Many factors have been identified as predictors of drop-out: confidence in choice of course, attendance and engagement. These are compounded by students’ expectations which are likely to be based on over-optimistic predictions (e.g., Mair, 2012).

The present study was conducted in order to address the efficacy of the measures with this population and to identify student’s views on the interaction between confidence and engagement. Mair and Sanders briefed new students at LCF and CMU about the study during induction week and invited them to complete the measures two weeks later. Focus groups were conducted at the two collaborating HEIs each of which has a strikingly different focus, one science, one arts. The PEL and ABC data will be compared with examining board outcomes in 2014 and qualitative data from the focus groups will be used to further understand relationships between these outcomes.

Following interactive discussion of the paper and the measures, delegates will take part in a practical exercise to demonstrate the difficulties of making accurate predictions of one’s own ability and confidence. The session will close with Q&A. Delegates may wish to use the measures in future.

How will students be involved in the session?

We would like to invite students from all years as well as staff to engage in discussions and the exercise.

What will participants take away from the session?

The questions at the start of our session would be: - What are the issues behind student withdrawal? - How accurate are we at predicting outcomes? - Can we use psychometrics to identify and then support students at risk? - What are the logistic difficulties in carrying out simultaneous research in two collaborating establishments?

Our aims are that delegates would have a better understanding of - the issues behind student withdrawal - the problems associated with accurate prediction and the impact of this on both confidence and withdrawal - knowledge of 2 psychometric measures which they could apply themselves to identify and then support students at risk - how to prepare for some of the challenges of collaborative research.