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Title:The efficacy of a strengths-based approach in a university 101 course with undecided students
Author(s):Tomasiewicz, Ryan
Director of Research:Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ikenberry, Stanley O.; Sullivan, William C.; Baber, Lorenzo D.
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):university 101
first year seminar
undecided students
Clifton StrenghtsFinder
Abstract:Universities have historically approached college student success by measuring persistence and retention (Astin, 1977, 1984, 1993, 1999; Tinto, 1975, 1987, 1993). College student persistence from the first year to the second year is of primary importance to higher education administrators because higher education is subject to increasing accountability standards by stakeholders. As a result, a traditional practice employed by colleges and universities to help with the transition to college and enrollment for a second year is the first-year seminar or university 101 courses. To what extent can university 101 courses be modified to enhance the college student success and ultimately the persistence and retention of these students? The purpose of this study was to understand how a university 101 course with a strengths-based approach (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005) impacted undecided students during their first semester. The objectives of this study were: (a) to compare students’ self-reported perceptions before and after participation in the university 101 course, and (b) to allow students to share their own experiences of the changes that occurred as a result of the university 101 course. The research methodology employed by this study was a quasi-experimental design with a sequential mixed-method approach. The context of the study was an eight-week university 101 course taught for undecided students at the University of Illinois. For the intervention, the treatment cohort of students’ syllabi included a strengths-based approach while the comparison group received the traditional course as outline by the university. Using a pre- and post-test model, students were surveyed electronically to better understand the impact on students after the eight-week course. At the conclusion of the eight-week courses, fourteen students were individually interviewed to provide a better understanding of the changes occurring in students. Using a multivariate model controlling for race, gender, and ACT Math, there was one statistically significant difference for the change in the frequency students have thought about their weaknesses (p<.01) between the students with the strengths-based approach and without the strengths-based approach. The effect size (Cohen’s d) for the change in the frequency students have thought about their weaknesses was medium, suggesting the result to be educationally significant (d=0.417). The results of the multivariate analysis were quite profound considering the treatment was a limited intervention of a reading, a lecture, and an inventory (Clifton StrengthsFinder) and the inventory is currently priced at approximately $15.00. In addition, the results suggested that race and gender appeared to matter to the degree and direction and in which the strengths-based approach was integrated into the students’ personal and academic lives. Further, students from the strengths-based cohort incorporated strengths into the academic and personal lives. There are three recommendations for educational policy as a result of this study: (1) increase and expand current strengths-based offerings in advising contexts, (2) increase and expand strengths-based approaches to additional campus environments, and (3) modify current campus opportunities to include strengths-based principles. I have five recommendations for further research: (1) further analysis of collected data in this study (2) continued data collection for longitudinal efficacy of the strengths-based approach (3) expansion and further development of strengths-based offerings (4) the study into the stages of strengths development (5) the integration of the strengths-based approach into the large advising environments.
Issue Date:2011-05-25
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Ryan Tomasiewicz
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-25
Date Deposited:2011-05

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