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Motivating and Retaining Adult Learners Why don’t they stay? Do you ever ask yourself these questions? Why do students drop out rather than complete an adult education program? How can student retention be increased in our adult education classes? How can we help our students succeed?

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why don t they stay
Why don’t they stay?
  • Do you ever ask yourself these questions?
    • Why do students drop out rather than complete an adult education program?
    • How can student retention be increased in our adult education classes?
    • How can we help our students succeed?
  • Important questions because student persistence is important!

McLendon and Polis

why is persistence so important

Another gain after 250 – 300 hours

Why is persistence so important?

Learner Persistence Study, NCSALL (2004)

GLE Increase

EFL Gains

Duration and

Intensity

75 percent chance of making a 1+ GLE increase at 150 hours

100 hours required for a 1 GLE increase

McLendon and Polis

intensity and duration
Intensity and Duration
  • We need intensity (hours/month) and duration (months/year) for many students to succeed.

So how do we get it?

  • That’s what we’ll be discussing today but first…

McLendon and Polis

what are you doing
What are you doing?
  • Tell us about one strategy your program has implemented to increase learners’ persistence.
  • What impact did implementing this strategy have on learner motivation and persistence? Why do you think it had this impact?

McLendon and Polis

today s training objectives
Today’s Training Objectives

You will:

  • Examine the latest research on student persistence and motivation to determine implications for program management.
  • Determine the most appropriate definition of “persistence" for use in your own program.
  • Conduct a retention rate study.
  • Examine factors that promote student persistence and a variety of instructional and management strategies to address those factors.
  • Explore professional development and management options that you can provide to help your instructors support student persistence.

McLendon and Polis

what does the research tell us
What does the research tell us?
  • Latest Research - Learner Persistence Study
    • John Comings et al., NCSALL, 2004
      • John_comings@harvard.edu
      • http://ncsall.gse.harvard.edu
    • Surveyed 150 adult learners
    • Observed 9 programs that were trying to improve persistence

McLendon and Polis

student pathways
Student Pathways
  • Long-Term: highly motivated, few barriers, older, slow progress
  • Mandatory: poor motivation
  • Short-term: project learners
  • Try-out: fairly large, too many barriers, drop out
  • Intermittent: largest group, motivated, participate, barrier emerges, stop-out, return later

Comings, 2004

McLendon and Polis

theoretical models
Theoretical Models

Persistence is a balance between:

Perceived

Benefit &

Cost

Motivation &

Barriers

Supports &

Barriers

McLendon and Polis

supports and barriers
Supports and Barriers

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adult student characteristics that support persistence
Adult Student CharacteristicsThat Support Persistence
  • Immigrant status, age over 30, and parent of teen or adult children
  • Involvement in previous efforts at basic skills education, self study, or vocational skill training
  • Specific goal

McLendon and Polis

adult student characteristics that did not influence persistence
Adult Student CharacteristicsThat Did Not Influence Persistence
  • Gender and ethnicity
  • Single parent status
  • Employment status/working hours
  • Negative school experience
  • Parent’s education

McLendon and Polis

three barriers to persistence
Three Barriers to Persistence

B. Allan Quigley (1993)

The Critical First Three Weeks

Situational

Institutional

Dispositional

  • Examples:
  • Transportation
  • Family Responsibilities
  • Financial Obligations
  • Examples:
  • “Red Tape”
  • Scheduling Problems
  • Intake Procedures
  • Examples:
  • Learners’ Attitudes
  • Values
  • Perceptions

McLendon and Polis

turbulence and focus
Turbulence and Focus

Thomas Sticht et al. (1998)

  • Open-entry/continuous enrollment makes it harder for students to stay in the program.
  • Multi-focused/multi-level classes make student persistence more difficult.
  • Persistence rates increase in classes where the focus of students and classrooms are more closely aligned (e.g., job readiness, GED).

McLendon and Polis

persistence supports
Persistence Supports

John Comings et al. (2004)

Managing

Positive and Negative Forces

Building

Self-

Efficacy

Clear

Goals

Progress

Self Management

Sponsors:

Family

Friends

Teachers

Students

Feeling that student will be successful in adult education and obtain his/her goal

With instructional objectives that must be met to reach that goal

Measures that are meaningful to the student

McLendon and Polis

stop outs not drop outs
Stop Outs, Not Drop Outs

Alicia Belzer (1998)

  • Leavers don’t consider themselves “drop-outs”
  • Stop attending but plan on returning later
  • Departure from a program not viewed as a “negative” or “failure” by students, but rather as a temporary hiatus

McLendon and Polis

persistence should be
Persistence Should Be…

“Adults staying in programs for as long as they can,

engaging in supported self study or distance education when they must stop attending program services, and

returning to program services as soon as the demands of their lives allow.”

John Comings, 2004

McLendon and Polis

research implications
Research Implications
  • In what ways are these concepts relevant to your program?
  • What are the implications for program design?

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research implications19
Research Implications
  • From an accountability perspective
    • Participation ends when an adult drops out of a program
  • From a student’s perspective
    • Participation may continue after leaving the program through self study or distance learning

McLendon and Polis

research implications20
Research Implications
  • New definition values self-study, transfer, re-entry into a program
  • Increased need for programs to stay connected and offer alternative services
  • We’ll look at ways to do this but first…

McLendon and Polis

does my program have persistence red flags
Does my program have persistence red flags?
  • Understanding attendance patterns and retention rates can help you make data-driven decisions.
  • The right kind of data can help you make decisions about what you can do to improve the retention rate.

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conducting a retention rate study
Conducting a Retention Rate Study
  • Look at Sample Attendance Roster #1.
  • How many students enrolled on August 18?
  • During the first two weeks of attendance, how many students withdrew?
  • Calculate the retention rate by dividing the number who withdrew by the total number enrolled.

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conducting a retention rate study23
Conducting a Retention Rate Study
  • Are there any common denominators among the students who withdrew?
  • Is there an assumption you can make about these students or the program at this point?
  • What questions should you ask at this point?

McLendon and Polis

activity 1 calculating the retention rate
Activity #1 : Calculating the Retention Rate
  • Look at Sample Attendance Roster #2
    • What is the retention rate for this class?
    • Are some students absent on certain days of the week?
    • Do some students miss class for a long period of time and then re-enter?
    • Do some students attend class one time and never return?
    • What implications might these patterns reveal?

McLendon and Polis

who are the reluctant learners
Who are the reluctant learners?
  • Adults who were motivated enough to enroll in class but something gets in the way.
  • REMEMBER: Students may not view themselves as “reluctant learners” but your job is to keep them engaged until they meet their goals.

McLendon and Polis

motivation blockers
Motivation Blockers

Success may seem out of reach because:

View of Themselves

May Not Include

Success

Barriers That

Block Their View

Of Success

Past

Experiences

McLendon and Polis

four supports and sample strategies for learner persistence
Four Supports and Sample Strategies for Learner Persistence

Management

Of Positive &

Negative Forces

Building

Self-

Efficacy

Clear

Goals

Progress

  • Intake Process
  • Bridge to Next Steps
  • Goals in Envelopes
  • Assessment Strategies
  • Conferencing
  • Dialogue Journals
  • Student Needs Assessment
  • Sponsorship
  • Sense of Community
  • Accessibility
  • Student Leadership
  • Assessment
  • Recognition
  • Learner-Generated Materials
  • Learning Styles and Special Learning Needs

McLendon and Polis

management of positive and negative forces
Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • Institutional Barriers
    • “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning.” Mark Twain
    • Registration, scheduling, class locations, student-centered process
  • Situational Barriers
    • Transportation, child care, health issues, family and job responsibilities, lack of support

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management of positive and negative forces29
Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • Strategy 1: Student Needs Assessment
    • Involving students in examining their supporting and hindering forces to achieving their goals
  • Sample needs assessment processes
    • Brainstorming and prioritizing
    • Acting it out
    • Classroom discussion
    • Snowball Consensus
    • Affinity Diagramming
    • Learner-to-Learner Interviews

McLendon and Polis

activity 2 listening to the students
Activity #2: Listening to the Students
  • With your table partners, select one of the needs assessment processes to read together and discuss.
    • In what ways do you think this activity would be an effective way to hear learners’ forces and work with learners to increase their persistence?
    • What are some other ways you might hear from learners about the forces that affect them?
    • What concerns or fears do you have about asking learners what helps or hinders them from pursuing their educational goals?

McLendon and Polis

management of positive and negative forces31
Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • Strategy 2: Sponsorships
    • Personal
      • Relatives, godmothers, children, spouses and partners neighbors, friends, co-workers
    • Official
      • Paid professionals: Social workers, parole officers, DHS case workers, librarians, teachers
    • Intermediate
      • Pastors, fellow recovery program members and sponsors, volunteer tutors, other students

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management of positive and negative forces32
Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • Sponsorship Strategies
    • Identify sponsors during intake process.
    • Discuss with student the role the sponsor can play in supporting him/her.
    • Help students identify sponsors if they don’t have any.
    • Ask student’s permission to contact sponsor if persistence challenges occur.
    • Employ a Student Persistence Coordinator (paid or volunteer) to support students.
    • Form a Student Retention Team to contact and support at-risk students.

McLendon and Polis

management of positive and negative forces33
Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • How important do you feel the role of sponsors would be with your students?
  • How might you support this sponsorship role in your program?

McLendon and Polis

management of positive and negative forces34
Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • Strategy 3: Building a Sense of Community
    • Managed intake and managed enrollment classes (students begin and progress together)
    • Field trips, potluck dinners, etc. that bring learners together in different ways
    • Student-run activities (e.g., Second Chance Prom)
    • Class ground rules set by students
    • Diversity training
    • Buddy system for new and returning students
    • Group Activities
    • Group Projects

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management of positive and negative forces35
Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • Strategy 4: Accessibility
    • Intake Process: Barrier resolution to find out what potential hindering forces may be and providing assistance (directly or through referrals)
    • Persistence Plan: developing a plan during intake for continued work during potential “stopping out” period
    • Support Services: networking with community agencies, prioritizing services to include a counseling position
    • Enrollment and Attendance Policies: changing policies to reduce classroom chaos from constant entering and exiting of students
    • Flexible Scheduling

McLendon and Polis

activity 3 management of positive and negative forces
Activity #3: Management of Positive and Negative Forces
  • Review the handout on Sample Activities for Management of Positive and Negative Forces.
  • Have you implemented any of these activities? If so, how did you do it and what were the results?
  • What are some other activities that you feel would address institutional or situational barriers?

McLendon and Polis

four supports and sample strategies for learner persistence37
Four Supports and Sample Strategies for Learner Persistence

Management

Of Positive &

Negative Forces

Building

Self-

Efficacy

Clear

Goals

Progress

  • Student Leadership
  • Assessment
  • Recognition
  • Learner-generated Materials
  • Learning Styles and Special Learning Needs

McLendon and Polis

building self efficacy
Building Self-Efficacy
  • A belief by learners that they can be successful when attempting new activities as learners.
  • Sample strategies
    • Student Leadership
    • Assessment
    • Recognition
    • Learner-generated Materials
    • Learning Styles and Special Learning Needs

McLendon and Polis

building self efficacy39
Building Self-Efficacy
  • Strategy 1: Student Leadership
    • Peer orientations
    • Peer teaching
    • Advisory board members
    • Student Advisory Board
    • Student Retention Team
    • Student-led projects

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building self efficacy40
Building Self-Efficacy
  • Strategy 2: Assessment
    • Intakes procedures to identify at-risk drop outs
      • Prior Schooling and Self-Perception Inventory (Quigley, 1998)
        • Reflect on previous school experiences and contrast them to their anticipated participation in adult education
      • Witkin Embedded Figures Tests
        • Determines whether the learner is a global, interactive learner (field-dependence) or a logical, analytical one (field-independence)
        • At-risk learners – field-dependent; focus on seeing the “big picture;” learn best in small group, interactive situations

McLendon and Polis

building self efficacy41
Building Self-Efficacy
  • Assessment
    • Begin with informal non-academic measures before using formal (TABE, CASAS) measures
    • Begin standardized testing with the student’s greatest comfort area
    • Involve learners more in assessment process
      • Portfolio assessment
      • Conferencing
        • Student Teacher Evaluation Process (STEPS)

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building self efficacy42
Building Self-Efficacy
  • Strategy 3: Recognition and Incentives
      • National Adult Student Honor Society

http://www.naehs.org/Default.htm

      • Student of the Month
      • Family of the Month
      • Graduation Ceremonies
      • Perfect Attendance Recognition
      • Incentive Store
      • Other

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building self efficacy43
Building Self-Efficacy
  • Strategy 4: Learner-Generated Materials
    • Student newsletter
    • Student writings publication
    • Class anthology
  • Strategy 5: Addressing Learning Styles and Special Learning Needs
    • Learning style inventories
    • Special learning needs screening instruments
    • Special equipment
    • Quiet work space
    • Work load
    • Repetition and variety

McLendon and Polis

activity 4 building self efficacy
Activity 4: Building Self-Efficacy
  • With your table partners, select one of the strategies from the handout on Sample Activities for Building Self-Efficacy.
  • How might you implement this strategy in your program?
  • How would you know if the strategy was successful?

McLendon and Polis

four supports and sample strategies for learner persistence45
Four Supports and Sample Strategies for Learner Persistence

Management

Of Positive &

Negative Forces

Building

Self-

Efficacy

Clear

Goals

Progress

  • Intake Process
  • Bridge to Next Steps
  • Goals in Envelopes

McLendon and Polis

clear goals
Clear Goals
  • Motivation Blockers
    • Learner expectations versus reality
    • Changes in long or short term goals
    • Cost of participation compared to benefits of education program

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clear goals47
Clear Goals
  • Adults are motivated to enroll by the desire to reach a specific goal.
  • Therefore, you must
    • Identify their specific goals
    • Show the student how the class will help them reach their goals
    • Understand the difference between student and NRS goals
  • Important to:
    • Help them determine realistic goals (short-term and long-term)
    • Set interim success benchmarks
    • Regularly review progress to those goals

McLendon and Polis

clear goals48
Clear Goals

Sample Strategies

Goals in

Envelope

Intake Process

Bridge to

Next Steps

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clear goals49
Clear Goals
  • Strategy 1: Intake Process
    • Do not focus on academic goal setting only.
      • “What do you want to do that you cannot do now?”
      • If he/she wants a GED, “What will the GED do for you that you cannot do now?”
    • Begin with a preliminary goal setting activity during the intake process to identify interests and strengths (samples in notebook).
    • Complete academic assessments before finalizing goals, as well as learning style inventories and special learning needs screening, if appropriate.

McLendon and Polis

clear goals50
Clear Goals
  • Strategy 1: Intake Process
    • Schedule a goal conference with individual student to discuss short-term and long-term goal attainment, realistic timelines, and interim success benchmarks that will need to occur in pursuit of the goal/s.
    • Discuss the reality of “episodic participation” and that there is support available when you find it necessary to stop coming to class for a while.
    • For NRS goals, refer to the handout Considerations for Setting Realistic NRS Goals.

McLendon and Polis

clear goals51
Clear Goals
  • Strategy 2: Bridge to Next Steps
    • Students may not know all of their options for further training and employment. “They don’t know what they don’t know.”
    • Realistic goal setting may be hindered or short-sighted.
    • Provide opportunities for students to become familiar with options for further education or work.
      • Field trips to community college
      • Job shadowing opportunities with local employers
      • Guest speakers from Michigan Works

McLendon and Polis

clear goals52
Clear Goals
  • Strategy 3: Goals in Envelope
    • Goals can change over time.
    • Once the initial goals are determined, have the student write them down.
    • Place the goal sheet in an envelope.
    • Explain to the student that the two of you will open the envelope every four-six weeks to determine if the goals need to be changed.

McLendon and Polis

activity 5 clear goals
Activity 5: Clear Goals
  • What are you currently doing to help students set realistic goals?
  • What are some of the greatest challenges to setting clear goals?
  • How might you address these challenges?

McLendon and Polis

four supports and sample strategies for learner persistence54
Four Supports and Sample Strategies for Learner Persistence

Management

Of Positive &

Negative Forces

Building

Self-

Efficacy

Clear

Goals

Progress

  • Assessment Strategies
  • Conferencing
  • Dialogue Journals

McLendon and Polis

progress
Progress

Assessment Strategies

  • Use a variety of methods to allow students to see their progress (e.g., portfolios, checklists, technology-based tracking mechanisms)
  • Train students in self-evaluation procedures

McLendon and Polis

progress56
Progress
  • Conferencing
    • STEPS – regularly scheduled sessions to review student progress and evaluate materials, methods, etc.
  • Dialogue Journals
    • Using a process for learners to share their concerns in a private way and for teachers to respond to those concerns

McLendon and Polis

activity 6 progress
Activity 6: Progress
  • Table Reflection
    • Does your program have any guidelines or procedures for keeping students informed of their progress?
      • If yes, what are they and are they effective?
      • If no, what might be some effective guidelines to institute related to tracking and discussing progress with students?

McLendon and Polis

program improvement
Program Improvement
  • When programs improved services,
    • Months of engagement did not increase but
    • Hours of participation did.
    • A major cause was increase in computer use in the first six months of participation.

Learner Persistence Study

Comings et al., 2004

McLendon and Polis

program improvement59
Program Improvement
  • Quality of Instruction
  • Non-Classroom Support
  • Reengagement Expectation and Plan

McLendon and Polis

quality of instruction
Quality of Instruction
  • Relevance to learners’ goals and needs
  • Opportunities to build class cohesion
  • Builds on learners’ experiences
  • Instructional objectives and curriculum clearly connected to learner’s goals
  • Respect and understanding of cultural diversity
  • Students actively engaged in planning and evaluating own learning
  • Student mentors
    • Establishing a process for more experienced students to talk with new or at-risk students about their educational path

McLendon and Polis

non classroom support
Non-Classroom Support
  • Student Orientation
    • Let students know up front that support is available if they are forced to “stop out.”
    • Make a written plan with the student.
  • Follow-Up
    • Develop a system for contacting students after they have “stopped out” to see if the program can help them resolve issues that might have lead to them leaving.
  • “Stopping Out” Activities for Students
    • Develop a system for sending fun and challenging activities to learners after “stopping out.”
    • Explore distance learning and the variety of resources available on the internet for at-home learning.

McLendon and Polis

reengagement
Reengagement
  • Set the Expectation
    • At intake,
      • Acknowledge the need for regular attendance BUT acknowledge the possible reality of episodes of participation
      • Review available non-classroom support
      • Review re-entry procedures
      • Review transitions to other programs and Post Secondary
    • During Class
      • Acknowledge re-entering students
      • In group discussions, include re-entry and transitions

McLendon and Polis

program director as instructional leader
Program Director as Instructional Leader
  • The role of the program director as instructional leader for student persistence
    • Two factors that positively affect teacher change (Smith, 2002) are:
      • Involving teachers in the decision making process
      • Teachers working together to solve problems—collegiality
    • Involve teachers in the process of analyzing student persistence data and recommending program improvement strategies
      • Professional Development
      • Persistence Policies and Procedures

McLendon and Polis

professional development options
Professional Development Options
  • Organize a study circle on student persistence
    • Resource: NCSALL’s Study Circle Guide on Learner Persistence in Adult Basic Education

http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~ncsall/teach/lp.pdf

    • Follow-up the study circle with pilot tests of various persistence strategies
  • Select a few research studies for teachers to review and discuss at a staff meeting
    • Variety of research included in your notebook

McLendon and Polis

professional development options65
Professional Development Options
  • Encourage practitioner research projects related to student persistence
  • Encourage teachers to enroll in a free student retention online course at http://adulted.successfast.net/

McLendon and Polis

persistence policies and procedures
Persistence Policies and Procedures
  • With input from teachers, set clear guidelines and procedures for student persistence.
    • Examine your policies and procedures for:
      • Student intake
      • Assessment
      • Student involvement
      • Tracking and illustrating progress to the student
      • Follow-up procedures as students exit the program
      • Non-classroom support
      • Re-engagement/re-entry
  • With input from teachers, develop a Persistence Action Plan
    • Resource: Institutional Effectiveness Goals Report: Student Services (in notebook)

McLendon and Polis

always willing to help
Always willing to help…
  • Lennox McLendon

lmclendon@naepdc.org

  • Kathi Polis

polis123@adelphia.net

McLendon and Polis

references
References
  • Belzer, Alicia (1998)
  • Comings, John, Learner Persistence, paper presented at the Meeting of the Minds: National Adult Education Practitioner-Researcher Symposium, 2004
  • Quigley, B. Allen, The First Three Weeks: A Critical Time for Motivation, FOCUS ON BASICSVol 2, Issue A • Mar 98, http://ncsall.gse.harvard.edu/fob/1998/fobv2ia.htm
  • Sticht, Thomas, ……1998

McLendon and Polis

slide69

This project was developed by National Human Resources Development, Inc. (NHRD) and the National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Career Development and funded through a grant under Section 222(a)(2) State Leadership Activities of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, amended.

For more information visit:

http:www.maepd.org

McLendon and Polis