“The student retention committee should formulate a plan to increase retention.” A review of as much as I could take of Jill Biden’s Ed.D paper.

Wikimedia commons.
  • “Methodology” is confused with “method.” The author called surveys methodologies. This is a rookie mistake. A survey is a method. Group discussion, also listed, is a method. It is unclear what sort of group discussion was used or how the data from any method it was collected and coded.
  • To be clear, no methodology is listed at all. And, nothing about surveys, the method used, is backed up with an articulation of why it is the most appropriate instrument, etc.
  • It’s either “pre-tech” or “pre tech.” Standardization needed.
  • “Students, faculty, and advisors were included in the methodology to hear from all the ‘voices’…”. Just an example of a poorly constructed sentence, one out of many.
  • It’s either “full-time” or “full time.” Standardization needed.
  • The survey allowed for only male or female identification, in fact the paper generally is gendered, which citation references generally advise against.
  • The survey allowed choice from only 5 specified race identifications.
  • #9 on the survey answer says “Your technology 85% or undeclared 15%” without any clarification of what the heck this even means.
  • Under analysis, broad claims are made with no foundation for such claims being cited. For example “The demographics of the pre-tech students at Delaware Tech reflect the current research findings regarding college education.” Citations? Research?
  • There are broad generalizations, e.g. “These added responsibilities make it imperative that students work while attending college.” The responsibilities are listed as children and care-taking, which may or may not mean that one must work. That depends on one’s financial situation. The assumption is problematic.
  • “The number of African and Indian American students is increasing.” No citation backs this up. Normative identification in the US has been, since the 1980’s“ Native American” or “Indigenous” or “American Indian.” The phrase “Indian American” would appear to be non standard usage for 2006.
  • Here’s an example of convoluted sentence of which there are many. “Almost 38 percent of the students sought help at the Writing Center, whereas 62 percent had never taken advantage of the help offered.” File this under the old quip, “Never use a big word when a diminutive word will suffice.”
  • “Three quarters of the surveyed students had never used library services. This statistic may be somewhat misleading as students are capable of doing research on the internet and may not feel a need to check out books, videos, or other reference materials.” The fact that students did not use the library is separate from what they may have used for research. Their use of the internet, for example, does not change the fact that 3/4 of all students surveyed never used the library. The author says that the reason students do not use the library is they may not feel the need to check out materials. Nothing backs this up and it assumes the only purpose of a library is for students to check things out.
  • Standardization on spelling out numbers or writing numbers would be nice.
  • “Retention literature strongly supports faculty mentoring….” No sources for this claim are given.
  • “55 percent of students agree that mentoring would be helpful to them.” This means, given a margin of error rate of roughly five percent, half the students do not agree that mentoring would be helpful. The implication that it is wanted is misleading.
  • “The cafeteria is impersonal — not an appealing place for students to gather.” This is the author’s view as no student data is given to back this up.
Creative Commons
  • “Approximately 85 percent of the student body felt that a student center might encourage friendships among students.” How much more vague can this get?
  • “Many students identified psychological problems they observed among students on campus.” Another unclear statement. Does this mean students observed others and attempted to distance diagnose their problems? “Among students” ? A group sharing of psychological problems?
  • Stress is cited as the main “psychological problem.” And the author assumes this is “from schoolwork” rather than including other factors.
  • On a side note I found it funny the college requires faculty to take a fitness test to use the fitness center.
  • “So, although a myriad of health services does exist, students are not aware of Delaware Tech’s Wellness Center. Yet, 135 students out of 159 state that a wellness center would be a welcome addition to the facilities.” There is no data here supporting this, and sentence two does not follow.
  • In prefacing a grid of answers, the author says “Students provided some thought provoking answers.” The responses are no more or less thought provoking than any other responses, so the statement is meaningless here.
  • Some suggestions by students “require money, which is not always available.” To say this is obvious, is an understatement.
  • “Surveys were given out during class; no one refused to take the survey.” This raises a highly problematic issue that an Institutional Review Board should have reviewed and required to be mitigated in advance of the survey dissemination. Using class time for non-course research demands a number of things that are put in place. On this issue, there is no introduction to a survey presented in the document that speaks about everything from being able to opt out, to data collection and retention, usage, and the use of course time for someone’s non-course research. Many ethical problems seem lurking but unstated, all without evidence of mitigation.
  • “The fact that 35 percent of Pre Tech college students had never seen their advisor was a problem itself.” Not necessarily. A straight A student might feel no need to see an advisor.
  • “…one would assume that the advisory component of the college experience would have a greater impact on first generation students.” One could assume a lot of things. The purpose of a dissertation is to stop assuming and build on research via rational arguments.
  • “On the whole, students found that advisors were available and approachable, yet, they seemed to view the 50 advisor/advisee relationship as purely mechanical — one designed only to schedule classes. The numbers reflect a superficial relationship, not one in which advisors are invested in the success of the students.” More broad assumptions.
  • “In general, students gave the advisors low marks in terms of helping them to succeed in college.” Students who do poorly often transfer their lack of success onto others. The authors takes this to mean that advisors were not “invested in them as individuals trying to meet their educational goals.” There is no logic in this conclusion.
  • “In future student retention studies, it would be interesting to note the students who consistently registered negative answers to questions. These students are the alienated students who could be addressed through early intervention.” There is nothing to back up this assumption.
  • “As is usually the case, this data could be looked at through several different lenses. The research needs to be cognizant of other assumptions and conclusions that can be reached.” Now this is just silliness as this level. This is a first year university learning outcome. A dissertation is supposed to make explicit the author’s lens and to address possible misreadings by way of arguments backed up by research that exhausts relevant research in the field.
  • Lots of additional faculty workload is proposed by the author, from engaging in extended listening, to guidance, to student mentoring. It’s easy to say that job scope for faculty should expand in all directions but for right or wrong, a good deal of research and it’s citation is required here.
  • “The student retention committee should formulate a plan to increase retention.” This smells like a student struggling to fill paragraphs.
  • “Then, the student retention committee should convey the views of counselors, faculty and administration in finding solutions.” To convey to whom, if they are charged with finding the solution?
Creative Commons
  • It appears the discussion is mixed up with the methodology section, which in turn leads to hardly a conclusion before recommendations are offered.
  • “We know that the first year of the college experience is the most important as statistics prove that the first year determines student persistence.” Again, nothing is cited to back this up.
  • In the appendix, this is the introduction section of the survey given to faculty: “Dear Colleague, I am using this information for my dissertation. Please fill out and return to me by May 31, 2006.” This would normally not pass an Institutional Review Board.

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Christopher Willard

Christopher Willard

Novelist, poet, a post-studio visual artist, and the founder of The Invisible Art Collective International. Recent novels include “Sundre” and “Garbage Head.”