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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Stephen J. Snyder
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Educational Leadership, Research and Technology
Title: Overcoming Non-Academic Issues to Gain Admission into Competitive Entry College Mojors: The Power of Positive Psychological Development
Louann Bierlein-Palmer, Ph.D., Chair
Donna Talbot, Ph.D.
Bradford Winkler, J.D.
Date: Monday, May 14, 2012 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Grand Rapids Beltline Campus, Room 3008
This study focuses on non-academic aspects of student success by examining a specific combination of positive psychological strengths and processes: hope, optimism, coping and self-efficacy. To facilitate analysis and separation between non-academic and academic issues, two academic conditions – students prepared at entry to college and students prepared by completing remediation after entry – are established for the sample population. The measure of success is acceptance into a GPA sensitive program of study. The study is conducted at a multi-campus, Michigan-based, private, not-for-profit, right-to-try, career-college.
The presence of the psychological factors is measured through a three-section, web-based survey. An academic profile section determines academic status including the need for and completion of remediation and acceptance into a competitive-entry program. A student reflection section measures the psychological variables by combining four published, psychometrically sound, open-use instruments for each factor. The instruments are The State Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1996), The Revised Life Orientation Test (Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994), The New General Self-Efficacy Scale (Chen, Gully, & Eden, 2001) and The Proactive Coping Inventory (Greenglass, Schwarz, Jakubiec, Fiksenbaum, & Taubert, 1999). The final section collects standard demographic data (e.g., gender, age, race/ethnic background) and some factors important in post-secondary education (e.g., GPA, class load, first generation student).
Of the survey responses, 212 meet the criteria for the study: pursuit of a competitive-entry college major. Non-parametric data techniques were used in the statistical analysis in response to initial reviews of normality and unequal and small sample sizes. The data shows students accepted into a GPA sensitive major, regardless of academic preparation, evidence a statistically significant higher level of the variable hope than students who were not accepted. There are also strong correlations among the variables; confirming previous research reported in the psychological literature. Recommendations include suggestions for increasing students’ positive psychological development as a response to the demands being made on institutions of higher education to increase rates of student retention and persistence to graduation.