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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Disrupting the norms : towards new understandings of persistence and success in postsecondary education Graydon Kelsall, Susan Beverley


The purpose of this research study was to explore longitudinally the academic outcomes and academic pathways of one cohort of students (N=790) in four general business diploma programs within one Ontario college. Informed by a life course perspective and utilizing the visual methodology of sequence analysis with optimal matching and cluster analysis, and discrepancy analysis, using R, the study maps individual student enrolment and achievement patterns beyond the expected time frame for graduation; presents diverse academic achievement measures including total courses enrolled, total courses passed, and course completion rate; and explores relationships between academic achievement measures and academic pathways, and student demographic, prior secondary school academic, and behavioural and academic characteristics related to the student-institution interaction at the time of entry. The study contributes to the research on postsecondary education student success in three ways. First, findings suggest the historical student success frameworks of Tinto (1975, 1993) and Metzner and Bean (1987) do not adequately represent the diverse academic pathways and outcomes for many students today. Second, the research supports Finnie, Childs, and Qui (2012) that reliance on student group level identification as a predictor of pathway or persistence is of limited use and therefore student success initiatives should be directed at individual students. Third, research findings suggest institutional and system structures and policies such as differentiation of enrolment status and curriculum and tuition fee structure may impede student success, particularly for those students whose lives do not align with the traditional and expected postsecondary education pathway. Although significant relationships were found between some of the student characteristics and individual academic outcomes and pathways, the effect size of these relationships is too small to be helpful from either a practical or a policy perspective to differentiate in advance students who will be successful under traditional measures and those who will not. Results suggest that early educational trajectories do not determine later ones and the transition into postsecondary education has the potential to alter prior pathways. The study also highlights the usefulness and challenges of utilizing historical institutional administrative student-level data.

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