Pugh, Kevin J.
Phillips, Michael M.
Bergstrom, Cassendra M.
School of Psychological Sciences
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
This intervention study explored potential motivation, achievement, and gender differences among students within an existing first-year program (n = 388). This intervention program (FYE 101) was chosen because it has a diverse population and a large number of underserved students, it fosters content that is grounded in motivational research, and it has had a positive impact on increased student GPA and fall-to-fall persistence. Prior research showed that FYE 101 was effective in mitigating academic outcomes for students within the course when compared to students who did not participate, however, we do not know if it would be equally effective for all students within the course. The purpose of this study was to determine if the existing intervention was equally effective in mitigating potential differences among varying groups of underserved students within the FYE 101 course. Unfortunately, there are a disproportionate number of students entering college who will actually complete their degree, nearly half of these students come from underrepresented backgrounds (Martinez, Sher, Krull, & Wood, 2009; Musoba, Collazo, & Placide, 2013; Shapiro et al., 2017; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). We also know that attrition rates are high for iv students during their first year, where nearly one in four students will leave college (Snyder, Dillow, & Hoffman, 2009; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004). Fortunately, one intervention designed to support incoming students is a first-year experience course, which has been effective at mobilizing students to be diligent stewards of their college experience. Furthermore, these courses have been shown to positively influence student engagement, academic achievement, and completion rates (Goodman & Pascarella, 2006; Tinto, 2006-2007). Another area that mediates student success is achievement motivation. Curricula that are grounded in motivational theories contribute to student academic success and motivation research shows that students’ perceptions and beliefs about learning influence their effort, engagement, approach to learning, and persistence (Schunk, Pintrich, & Meece, 2008). Unfortunately, research on the efficacy of motivation constructs and their benefit to specific underserved students is lacking, specifically as it relates to students enrolled in first-year experience intervention programs. Currently at this Rocky Mountain University (N = 13,000), there is an effective and comprehensive FYE program (FYE 101) that focuses on intellectual, personal, and professional development, more specifically, it has constructs grounded in goal and motivation theories. This Rocky Mountain University has a diverse student population with nearly 40% of students being of ethnic minority and 40% being first-generation. FYE 101 is offered as a three-credit course that is structured over the duration of the semester. This course targets incoming freshman who have the option to self-select into the program their first semester. The smaller class sizes (25 or few students) allow instructors to foster a student-centered, autonomy-supportive learning environment. FYE 101 is a comprehensive and robust course that aims to help students improve their academic experience by focusing on essential skills needed to be successful in college. As expected, many of the results from this study did not align with prior research. There is consistent research on the disparities among underserved students, however it is predominately limited to the context of overall performance in college and not of specific students participating in an intervention such as a first-year experience course. Therefore, finding little differences among students suggests that the FYE 101 course is effective at mitigating potential differences and disparities. Findings from this study revealed no significant differences for underserved students in terms of motivation or self-regulation, suggesting the intervention is beneficial in mitigating negative motivational outcomes. However, there were a few significant differences in first-generation and conditionally-admitted status in terms of academic achievement. This suggests the intervention may not be able to fully mitigate the outcomes for these students. The course might still be helping these students to some degree but this cannot be concluded from the data. Findings from this study did reveal a few significant gender differences in terms motivation but overall, did not find any gender differences for self-regulation. In addition, the findings showed no significant gender differences in terms of academic achievement. This suggests that overall, the intervention is beneficial in mitigating negative motivational and achievement outcomes for both males and females. The results from this study align with generational research and the need to explore interventions to further support first-generation and conditionally- admitted students who are enrolling at greater rates than ever before. It is important to note that previous research with first-generation and conditionally-admitted students is not in the context of an intervention such as a first-year experience program but their overall performance in college. Historically, data show a disparity for first-generation students and achievement, and while interventions have been effective in narrowing this achievement gap, nonetheless it still exists. First-year programs attempt to support these students, however, the concerns associated with academic achievement might expand beyond the content covered in FYE courses. To better serve and retain this fast-growing population, it is noteworthy to consider tailoring classes and curriculum that address some of the salient impediments they face.
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