Student Success: "Did Anybody Notice My Good Results?"

Thursday, 25 July 2013: 8:50 AM

Gisela H. Van Rensburg, DLittetPhil, MACur, BACur (Hons), BACur
Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to understand the importance of also exploring the experiences of those students in obtaining distinctions in an undergraduate module.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to describe the use of an appreciative approach to student success.

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to explore the views of students who excelled in an undergraduate research methodology module as to what contributed to their success. Understanding student success from the viewpoint of academic achievers could contribute to the improvement of support to all students.

Methods: A qualitative study that allowed for narrative, non-numerical and unstructured comments was conducted. Data analysis was done by using the eight steps for analysing qualitative data as proposed by Tesch. Field notes were also kept during the time of data collection and analysis. A total of 43 responses were received.

Results: Five themes emerged from the data. The themes related to student support, recommendations regarding peer support, experiences regarding individual differences in the learning process, content and exposition of the module, and personal experiences. Field notes were made based on telephone calls, emails and personal visits and these corresponded with the narrative responses.

 Conclusion: When providing student support, existing academic and support practices, services and initiatives should be reviewed, both from a risk-based as well as a success-based point of view. Gaining new insights into the diversity among our students becomes imperative in developing best practices. New initiatives should be identified to minimise risk and maximise success by providing appropriate and pro-active support. The complexities in understanding student success should therefore not only depart from a challenge point of view but at the same time from an appreciative point of view. Without advocating that a distinction is the mirror image of a fail mark, the complex interrelationships of achievements should be recognised. Despite the absence of one common, shared understanding of what student success entails, educators should be committed to embracing and enhancing those successes that motivate students.