BCC Instructor Conducts Student Retention Study

Aug 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 17-1: Telling Our Stories, Tribal College News

Research by Sam Thornton of Blackfeet Community College (BCC, Browning, MT) disputes some widely held assumptions about student retention — that students won’t attend 8 a.m. classes or Friday classes.

“There’s no significant difference in success based on class times or days or any other factors I have examined,” says Thornton, based upon preliminary results from his study. These results seem to indicate that students’ success is influenced more by individual motivations and are more personal in nature.

Organizational factors may not play as large of a role as previously thought. Thornton, who is working toward his master’s in education through Montana State University, developed the idea for this retention thesis project during his first master’s level course. He had an assignment that required him to survey students, but on the day of the survey only three attended class. He realized that before he could be a successful classroom instructor, students had to be present. Hence, his thesis project was born.

The study includes student surveys and baseline data from the college registrar’s records. Now Thornton is attempting to identify at-risk students by assessing personality, distance from campus, transportation, and family situation as well as demographic data such as age and gender.

Using the study, BCC could ask incoming students about issues that could prevent their attendance, like transportation and day care. “If we can identify at-risk students, we can intervene early,” Thornton said. He is excited about the findings and believes some of the results might be extrapolated to other tribal colleges as well.

Thornton is obtaining his master’s with support from the Archibald Bush Foundation, which has provided support for several other BCC instructors seeking advanced degrees, including Dee Hall, Jim Peterson, Keith Tatsey, Mike LaFromboise, Jack Vaile, Elsie Ground, Leona Skunk Cap, Angela Johnson, and Matthew Johnson.

For more information, contact Colleen O’Brien at Blackfeet Community College, (406) 338-5441 ext. 501, or email colleen_obrien@bfcc.org.

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