The posting below is a review of the literature and research on interventions that can improve student retention in the sophomore year. It is from Chapter 2, Keys to Student Success, by Kirsten Kennedy and M. Lee Upcraft in the book Helping Sophomores Succeed: Understanding and Improving the Second-Year Experience, by Mary Stuart Hunter, Barbara F. Tobolowsky, John N. Gardner, Scott E. Evenbeck, Jerry A. Pattengale, Molly A. Schaller, Laurie A. Schreiner, and Associates. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 [www.josseybass.com] Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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Institutional Interventions That Promote Sophomore Success
Unfortunately, most institutions provide services and programs targeted to first-year students but typically pay little attention to students in their sophomore year. According to Pattengale (2000), sophomores may be feeling let down from the extraordinary amount of attention paid to them during their first year. The result is that, according to Gump (2007), institutions may be simply delaying the attrition process by providing such invasive first-year interventions.
Earlier in this chapter, we suggested that the classroom environment, interactions with faculty, student use of student services, and participation in selected intentional institutional interventions positively affected student success. We further suggested that sophomores, as well as their first-, third-, and fourth-year colleagues, benefit from such institutional efforts. Sophomores, in particular, should benefit from these programs and services because they specifically address issues that are linked to the sophomore experience. However, the literature connecting these efforts specifically and directly to sophomores is sparse.
Academically Related Experiences
As reported earlier, classroom-related variables and faculty interactions enhance student success. Although studies specific to sophomores are limited in number, there are a few. For example, Nora, Barlow, and Crisp (2005) found that academic and social experiences that contribute to students being retained into the second and third years include collaborative learning experiences and engagement in classroom discussions. Also, sophomore satisfaction with faculty interactions was found to be a significant predictor of grade point averages (Graunke & Woosley, 2005). But on the whole, we must assume that the academically related variables that positively affect all student success also apply to sophomores. (For a more extensive discussion of the critical role of the classroom and faculty in sophomore success, see Chapters Seven and Eight)
As suggested earlier, the preponderance of research on academic advising suggests that advising programs are consistently effective in promoting student persistence, even when there are statistical controls for other factors (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Kramer (2000) recommended explicit interventions for sophomores, essentially tailoring academic advising sessions with sophomores to meet their developmental needs. Specifically, Kramer suggests that advisors assist their sophomore students in reflecting on what they have achieved academically and also what they want to accomplish in the future. Kramer notes that "attention from advisors may be an important factor in overcoming [the sophomore slump]" (p. 99). Nealy (2005) found that advisement is the most important variable for sophomore-year retention. (For a more extensive discussion of the impact of academic advising, see Chapter Five.)
Participation in Undergraduate Research
Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) concluded that participation in undergraduate research has a positive influence on persistence and degree completion, independent of other factors. This effect was strongest for sophomores rather than first-year students. Participation in research programs elevate degree aspirations and the likelihood of enrolling in graduate school. (For a more extensive discussion of the impact of undergraduate research, including enhanced personal growth, revised career goals, increased motivation for further educational study, and gains in critical thinking and problem solving, see Chapter Eleven.)
As suggested earlier, all in all, the evidence to support the impact of specific services and programs on sophomore student success is limited. However, that is not to say that programs and services that positively impact all students are not effective in supporting sophomore student success. On the contrary, studies on the impact of these interventions that included sophomores may be said to have an indirect impact on them, including Supplemental Instruction, place of residence, learning communities, service-learning, study abroad, availability of financial aid, peer relations, and the many other variables identified earlier in this chapter.
Moreover, it is premature to offer any conclusions about the effectiveness of specific institutional interventions targeting sophomores, such as sophomore seminars, second-year programs, faculty mentoring, career fairs, sophomore orientation, Web sites devoted to sophomores, sophomore living-learning communities, academic support services, and others. However, early anecdotal accounts are promising. An excellent resource for such programs is the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. The center's website (www.sc.edu/fye) lists institutions that have sophomore-specific programs, many of which are conducting assessments to determine the effectiveness of such interventions.
Perhaps the best summary of what institutions can do to promote student success are the benchmarks of effective educational practice, developed by the National Survey of Student Engagement (2008), based on its ten years of research with over 1,300 institutions. These benchmarks include the level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus
Readers should take note of several important caveats in interpreting this review of the literature and research on the sophomore year. First, this review is not intended to be comprehensive, but studies cited are generally representative of the genre of studies under review. Second, single institution studies must be viewed with some caution because they are not necessarily generalizable to all institutions. Third, there is no such thing as a perfect study. All of the studies cited have limitations, and the reader is encouraged to refer to the original work to evaluate these limitations. Fourth, the sophomore-year experience is very institution specific; thus, not all strategies will work at every institution. And fifth and perhaps most important, reviews of national and institutional studies can be instructive in helping institutions understand the second-year experience. They are not, however, intended to serve as the only guide to developing services and programs that promote sophomore student success. Institutions must develop initiatives consistent with their missions, resources, students, faculty, leadership, and other characteristics. Institutions must assess the effectiveness of efforts to improve student success in general, and sophomore success in particular, in order to establish as basis for sophomore-year policies, practices, and decisions.
The focus on the sophomore year is in its infancy. When the first-year experience began to emerge, practitioners were far ahead of research substantiating the effectiveness of intervention programs. The same can be said for the second-year experience in that many intervention programs have been initiated but the empirical research to confirm (or disprove) their effectiveness is lacking, as evidenced by the thin number of studies covered in this literature review. Furthermore, there is institutional anecdotal evidence that these interventions hold promise for having a positive impact on the second-year experience. We believe with ample time that the research will catch up with the practices to provide a research-substantiated basis for sophomore student success and institutional intervention effect.