Collaborative Research on Student Retention and Best Practices in Counseling
David Arendale, Ph.D.
Faculty Advisor for Outreach
For the past year I have worked with leaders of the Minnesota State College Faculty Counselors Association (MSCFCA). Their Retention Task Force established two major objectives: improve counselor effectiveness and increase counselor impact on student retention. My role has been to facilitate some Retention Task Force meetings and consult regarding evaluation models. Involvement with MSCFCA on this project builds on previous collaborations between CRDEUL and MnSCU ( Minnesota State Colleges and Universities).
This research project will be conducted in six phases over the next several years. Two phases are in progress or completed. Phase one, completed in summer 2004, was an environmental scan identifying research studies, evaluation models, and professional standards for counselors regarding their role with student retention. Phase two of the research identifies the frequency of specific counselor work activities and expressed student needs.
Two data collection protocols were created. A Retention Task Force member used Microsoft Access to create a database template for counselors to record data from their counseling appointments, such as topics discussed, actions taken, self-reported needs by the student, etc. This template will be pilot tested by several MSCFCA members this spring and then made available to other interested counselors after revisions are made and training workshops are provided for its use. Following privacy protocols, the data will be aggregated. The second data collection protocol is a counselor activity survey to identify common work tasks that occur outside of individual counseling appointments. This survey was administered and data collected from counselors at a recent state-wide meeting in February 2005.
The next phase of the project will be to understand expectations by stakeholders and compliance with national standards regarding the role of counselors with student retention. Focus group interviews would be conducted with MnSCU chief academic and student affairs officers, students, and other groups. Phase four will analyze this data by conducting a gap analysis of the expectations of the stakeholders groups (phase three), current counselor activities (phase two), expressed needs of students (phase two), and national professional standards (phase one). Phase five of the project will conduct a qualitative and quantitative study regarding the relationship of counselor activities with student outcomes (i.e., retention). The final phase of the project will identify best practices regarding the role of counseling with improved student outcomes such as higher grades and increased student persistence rates.
Since little has been published on counselor impact with student persistence, this project may identify new best practices. Improved evaluation models may emerge that demonstrate the impact of counseling with improved student outcomes. As a result, this may increase support from policymakers to assign more resources to counseling. Based on the professional literature, the percent of college students who have significant personal counseling issues has increased. These students are at high risk to drop out. This research may also identify professional development needs for counselors that MSCFCA can provide. Finally, these findings, models, and data collection protocols can be adapted for use by counselors at other institutions in the U.S.
Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, General College
CRDEUL faculty adviser for outreach