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Focusing on Non-Cognitive Factors in Student Success. Adam Peck, Ph.D. Dean of Student Affairs Stephen F. Austin State University. A Traditional View of College. Academically- gifted student. Expose to new ideas and scare information.

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focusing on non cognitive factors in student success

Focusing on Non-Cognitive Factors in Student Success

Adam Peck, Ph.D.

Dean of Student Affairs

Stephen F. Austin State University

a traditional view of college
A Traditional View of College

Academically- gifted student

Expose to new ideas and scare information

Develop critical thinking and reasoning

Deficient student

Provide remediation




academically adrift
Academically Adrift
  • Fully 45 percent of undergraduates experience no improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning, and writing skills during their first two years of college, according to sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and JosipaRoksa of the University of Virginia.
  • By their senior year, more than a third see no statistically significant gains, according to a more recent report by the authors.
why we don t want to deal with emotion
Why we don’t want to deal with emotion
  • We don’t feel qualified.
  • It’s too messy.
  • It’s too personal.
  • It’s hard to standardize for everyone.
  • It may feel like coddling.
  • We may worry that we’ll unleash emotional disturbance we don’t know how to handle.
  • Others?
why we must
Why we must…
  • Expanding access to higher education.
  • Expectations from legislators, governing boards and the federal government that we improve graduation rates.
  • Because a meaningful college degree is quite simply the best way to move people our of poverty.




Four Non-Cognitive Factors We Can’t Ignore


Social Capital


Locus of Control

Consumerism in Higher Education

social capital

Social Capital

Adam Peck, Ph.D.

social capital1
Social Capital
  • What is “social capital?” Social capital is a sociological concept, which refers to connections within and between social networks. 
  • Collier and Morgan (2007) state that students must master the “college student” role in order to successfully navigate the collegiate experience. They define that role as one that demands both academic and social skills.
  • First-Generation Students are less likely to be knowledgeable about or utilize services. (Inman & Mayes, 1999).
  • They are also less likely to get involved in co-curricular programs (Garcia, 2010).
    • At SFA, according to data from our 2010 NSSE, 55.5% of first-generation college students reported spending zero hours per week on involvement while only 36.7% of continuing generation college students were likewise disengaged.
how can we address the issue of social capital
How can we address the issue of social capital?
  • Ask Jack/Tell Jack
  • The Involvement Center
  • The First-Year Commons Project
  • The AARC

In Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter, George Kuh wrote:

Many colleges claim to provide high-quality learning environments for their students. As evidence, schools point to educationally enriching opportunities they make available, such as honors programs, co-curricular leadership development programs, and collaboration with faculty members on a research topic. Too often, however, such experiences are products of serendipity or efforts on the part of students themselves – the first component of engagement. Moreover, for every student who has such an experience, there are others who do not connect in meaningful ways with their teachers, their peers, or take advantage of learning opportunities. As a result, many students leave school prematurely, or put so little effort into their learning that they fall short of benefiting from college to the extent they should (p. 9 and 10).

the involvement center
The Involvement Center

MISSION STATEMENT: Students helping students personalize their campus experience by promoting and engaging in social, service and academic opportunities within the campus, local and global community.


First-Year Commons

Academic Integration

Social Integration

  • Anchored by our Star Award Winning Academic Assistance Resource Center
  • There have been 1946 unduplicated head count of freshmen visits to AARC (83% of the freshman class).
  • There have been 9336Total number of freshmen visits to an AARC service (any location).
  • Residence Life produced 20 programs based on academic integrations with a total attendance of 558 residents (an average of 29 people at each program).
  • Each hall in the commons hosts Learning Lounges. We have had 831 students participate in the Learning Lounges between 9/4 and 9/24.
  • Anchored by our Star Award Finalist Involvement Center.
  • There have been 375 first-year students who have participated in Peer Involvement Advising.
  • Almost 55% come from a family where neither parent completed a four year college degree
  • 92.5 were able to connect with a student organization/60% are actively participating in that student group
  • 96% agreed or strongly agreed that Involvement Advising made them more aware of opportunities on campus
  • 84% said it made them more aware of what they were learning from their involvement on campus
  • 94% say they would recommend Involvement Advising to a friend and 75% have done so.
self efficacy


Adam Peck, Ph.D.

self efficacy1
  • Psychologist Albert Bandura has defined self-efficacy as one's belief in one's ability to succeed in specific situations.
  • College is harder when you don’t believe that you can do it.
what can we do about self efficacy
What can we do about self-efficacy?
  • Self-Esteem won’t do it.
  • Dr. Jean Twenge in her books, “The Narcissism Epidemic” and “Generation Me” talks about the consequences of shielding students from failure (excellence in participation).
  • Overwatering gardens.
  • We do need to provide “educational scaffolding.”
  • We might also need to shift from the mindset of failure as a consequence into one of failure as a step in learning.
locus of control

Locus of Control

Adam Peck, Ph.D.

locus of control1
Locus of Control
  • Locus of control is a theory in personality psychology referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them.
  • For students with an internal local of control, they believe that they control the factors that lead to their success.
  • Students with an external locus of control tend to perceive forces outside of themselves as most influential in their success or failure.
consider this student
Consider this student…
  • Comes from a low socio-economic status.
  • Has lived in poverty their entire life.
  • Receives a substantial amount of financial aid to attend college.
  • Knows that a college degree can change their fortunes.
  • Does not attend class.
  • Does not read for class.
  • Does not study for exams.
  • Fails out within one year.


  • Those who have not experienced success nor known anyone who have do not know how success is attained.
  • The values they are taught.
  • Fundamental Attribution Error.
  • If success is a product of luck and powerful others, why try?
income and locus of control
Income and Locus of Control







“One of the most important factors in success is good luck.”

what can we do about locus of control
What can we do about locus of control?
  • Help students to see that it exists?
    • The example of Carla.
    • The example of Annette.
  • Give them the opportunity for achievement.
  • High Impact Experiences.

In the 2007 report of the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE), George Kuh, Executive Director of NSSE, addressed a question he is often asked, “What one thing can we do to enhance student engagement and increase student success?” He replied, “Make it possible for every student to participate in at least two high-impact activities during their undergraduate program, one in the first year, and one later related to their major field” (NSSE, 2007, p. 18).

high impact platforms

First-Year Seminars

Common Intellectual Experiences

Learning Communities

Writing-Intensive Courses

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Undergraduate Research

Diversity/Global Learning

Service Learning


Capstone Courses and Projects

High-Impact Platforms


Adam Peck, Ph.D.

why does this matter
Why does this matter?
  • As public and private universities became more competitive for students, we began to “sell” students the value of a college diploma.
  • Law makers continue to value the number of completed credentials as a measure of success.
  • When students view themselves as consumers who purchase a credential, it devalues the transformational processes which are the true value of a college degree.
the week of reflection at sfa
The Week of Reflection at SFA
  • First Week of Reflection at SFA was Spring 2009.
  • Similar programs based on this model have been held at Saint Louis University, Eastern Illinois University and the University of New Orleans.
  • Received an Excellence Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
goals of the week of reflection at sfa
Goals of The Week of Reflection at SFA
  • To provide students with a context to investigate what they have learned in the previous year and how it has changed them.
  • To encourage students to reframe their role in college from learner to participant in a community of practice in which they are interconnected with others in a network of teaching and learning.
  • To make learning outcomes for Student Affairs relevant to students.
in conclusion
In Conclusion
  • Think for a moment about what made you want to be an educator.
    • For how many of you was this desire about transferring information?
    • How many of you wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.

I suggest that for those of us who want to make a difference, we’ll need to become well-versed in the emotional aspects of their learning.