Conference Agenda

RN10_03a: Grade retention and dropout
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Jannick Demanet, Ghent University
Location: UP.3.210
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Third Floor Oxford Road


Comparing the Experiences of Youth at Risk of Dropping Out in Different Country Contexts

Dr Szilvia Schmitsek

The University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Early School Leaving (ESL) as an important societal issue has been a matter of debate in policy making in most EU countries for more than 30 years, and it is currently under more intense debate. But the differences in young people’s experiences of being at risk of dropping out have often been neglected; leading to a one-size fits all policy and pedagogical approach. This paper explores educational experiences of young people who had been at risk of dropping out in England, Denmark and Hungary, and compares some comprehensive measures developed to address ESL.

The research is based on comparative fieldwork in three urban areas. Empirical data were collected from observations; a total of 28 interviews with former students; and a total of 21 interviews with a range of stakeholders including policy makers, teachers, and career counsellors.

By listening to the voices of former students, the analysis focuses on the relevance and importance of different sources of support with special regard to positive relationships as motivators to sustain engagement in education. The paper presents how they described their career at school. Moreover, it presents their interpretations about the influences, which they considered important to their career in education and later in their adult life.

My original contribution to knowledge is that this qualitative study was able to give a more distinct image of dropouts in different policy contexts; moreover, their opinion about the potential for improvement was addressed.

Grade Retention And Test Anxiety: A Multilevel Analysis Towards The Effects Of Retention Composition On Non-Cognitive Outcomes

Timo Van Canegem, Mieke Van Houtte, Jannick Demanet

CuDOS, Ghent University, Belgium

Grade retention is defined as the practice of letting low-achieving students repeat their grade in order to grant students more time to master the subject matter. Most grade retention research focuses upon cognitive learning effects, while research into potential non-cognitive outcomes – including academic self-concept – remains largely inconclusive. According to the comparative reference group theory, the school context an individual resides in impacts the outcomes of social comparison. Therefore, we expect that a retainee makes an assessment of the prevalence of grade retention among his/her peer group and adjusts his/her interpretation of the event accordingly: the more people repeat a grade, the less a stigma it becomes, which should result in a higher academic self-concept. Our objective is to investigate if there is an association between grade retention and test anxiety – an indicator of academic self-concept – and if this association is influenced by the retention composition of a school. In order to fulfill this objective, a multilevel analysis was conducted upon data from the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA-2015). Preliminary results suggest that grade retention is associated with more test anxiety in the short term, but less anxiety in the long term. The effect of grade retention composition upon the relation between grade retention and test anxiety is not significant, which suggests that the comparative reference group theory is not applicable in understanding the relationship between grade retention and academic self-concept.

Diversity of School Dropouts. A Typological Approach

Kristjana Stella Blondal

University of Iceland

In the OECD countries, upper secondary education is regarded as the minimal level of necessary educational attainment. Still many young people drop out. Although the situation has been improving in the EU, in 2016, around 10.7% of 18-24 old —more than four million young people— left education with only lower secondary education or less. School dropout is of concern for nations, it has high costs both for individuals and society.

Students who leave school are a large and diverse group and leave for a variety of reasons. Dropping out is a complex process of interactions between the individual and his or her environment which often happens over a long period of time. Risk and protective factors involve characteristics of the individual and her or his social context in the family, the school, and the community.

Research on school dropout has been criticized for treating early school leavers as a homogeneous group, ignoring their psychosocial diversity. Our research addresses such criticism by identifying different subgroups of young people who leave school. The typology is based on significant factors that contribute to early school leaving.

3,470 upper secondary students participated at baseline and were followed over seven years.

Our findings confirm that students who drop out form a diverse group which leaves school for a variety of reasons. We identified four distinct subgroups with regard to engagement, emotional problems and previous academic achievement, i.e. alienated, low-spirited, low-achievers and sociable. Our study shed new light on the complexity of the dropout phenomenon and the importance of taking into account the specific needs of different groups, both in prevention and intervention efforts.

Students in Professional Programmes: Patterns of Higher Education Attendance

Elisabeth Hovdhaugen1, Håvard Helland2

1NIFU, Norway; 2SPS, OsloMet, Norway

Nursing and social work, which can be considered professional programmes in higher education, have a recruitment pattern which slightly differs from that of disciplinary programmes. These types of programmes have also experienced a massive growth in the last couple of decades, number of nursing students have increased by 50 percent while social work increased by 37 percent. The question raised in this paper is if these differences also are visible in relation to patterns of completion and dropout? By using Norwegian register data on students starting a higher education degree in the period 1990 to 2010 we investigate if the growth in professional programmes have had any implications for patterns of completion and dropout in nursing and social work, using event history analysis. We will try to identify mechanisms leading to dropout by several means, and study how dropout vary by socio-economic status (SES), gender, ethnic origin etc. The finding will be contrasted with earlier findings of patterns of completion and dropout in more disciplinary oriented programmes. Conceptionally, the analyses draw on the work of Tinto (1993) and Yorke and Longden (2004).