Exploring the potential of early identification and intervention within a college of applied arts
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This study probed for an answer to the question, "How do you identify as early as possible those students who are at risk of failing or dropping out of college so that intervention can take place?" by field testing two diagnostic instruments with a group of first semester Seneca College Computer ,Studies students. In some respects, the research approach was such as might be taken in a pilot study_ Because of the complexity of the issue, this study did not attempt to go beyond discovery, understanding and description. Although some inferences may be drawn from the results of the study, no attempt was made to establish any causal relationship between or among the factors or variables represented here. Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered during four resea~ch phases: background, early identification, intervention, and evaluation. To gain a better understanding of the problem of student attrition within the School of Computer Studies at Seneca College, several methods were used, including retrospective analysis of enrollment statistics, faculty and student interviews and questionnaires, and tracking of the sample population. The significance of the problem was confirmed by the results of this study. The findings further confirmed the importance of the role of faculty in student retention and support the need to improve the quality of teacher/student interaction. As well, the need for skills assessmen~-followed by supportive counselling, and placement was supported by the findings from this study. strategies for reducing student attrition were identified by faculty and students. As part of this study, a project referred to as "A Student Alert Project" (ASAP) was undertaken at the School of Computer Studies at Seneca college. Two commercial diagnostic instruments, the Noel/Levitz College Student Inventory (CSI) and the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI), provided quantitative data which were subsequently analyzed in Phase 4 in order to assess their usefulness as early identification tools. The findings show some support for using these instruments in a two-stage approach to early identification and intervention: the CSI as an early identification instrument and the LASSI as a counselling tool for those students who have been identified as being at risk. The findings from the preliminary attempts at intervention confirmed the need for a structured student advisement program where faculty are selected, trained, and recognized for their advisor role. Based on the finding that very few students acted on the diagnostic results and recommendations, the need for institutional intervention by way of intrusive measures was confirmed.