Suppose that the ABC University is considering implementing a new Freshman orientation program for the purpose of improving retention rates and that you are called upon to conduct a needs assessment for such a program. In no more than 5 pages, sketch a plan for how you would conduct such a needs assessment. Address the following points:
• What would be your operating definition of need? (Account for the fact that ABC University may already have some programs in place to orient freshman and improve retention, but you do not need to investigate the specifics of those programs.)
• What sources of information would you use for the assessment of need? What kinds of instruments would you use to gather data from those sources (e.g. surveys, focus groups, etc.).
• What steps would you take to ensure validity and reliability of your measures of need? Be sure to discuss validity and reliability separately and define both concepts.
• Discuss how the results of your proposed analysis could be used to improve decision-making: what kinds of recommendations could flow from this analysis?
The higher education institutes like the colleges and the universities are alarmingly focusing their objective to deliver quality education and equally important is the focus on the ways and methods to increase the retention rates of their students. A large number of institutes are taking initiatives to improve the retention rates through organizing programs and services. The universities are engaging to improve the retention rates by arranging and initiating orientation programs or student support services. ABC University is planning for a new freshman orientation program in order to improve the retention rates of the institution.
A systematic approach that advances through an array of phases is the “Needs Assessment”. The main focus of the Needs Assessment is on the net outcome that needs to be achieved rather than the process in which the outcomes are to be achieved. The needs assessors determine that they will scrutinize the students who are discontinue their studies. (Resources, 2015)
Formation Of A Needs Assessment Committee
A Needs Assessment Committee comprising of 10 people who includes the Dean of the University, the faculty members and the administrative staffs of the university is constituted. They have a record of dedication towards the welfare of the university and have the desire to improve the retention rate of the university. The committee has been sanctioned by the organizational administration and is responsible to report to them on a regular basis.
The Needs Assessment Committee and its members ask the Orientation Program Leaders if they have knowledge about the rate at which the new students would be enrolling in the university and the number of students who are on the verge of leaving the university. The needs assessment committee also search for data from the US Census Bureau on the rates of the students actually graduating and the rates of students who actually enroll and leave the university.
Some useful data and information are gathered where programs and initiatives have been taken to improve the rate of retention of the university.
Synthesize data and move on with targets:
The Needs Assessment needs to focus on a particular target group. The most common target groups in the field of education are the students, parents, professors, administrators and the community as a whole. ABC University includes the concerns of the university regarding the university attrition rate and ways and methods to improve the retention rates. The information that is required in this case is that the reason behind such attrition so that the focus of the strategy of the retention must be on these issues. The Needs Assessment Committee and its members identified five categories of issues that affect the attrition rates of the students: (COMPREHENSIVE NEEDS ASSESSMENT, 2015)
Personal- the personal reasons for attrition of the students include lack of security, unrealistic expectation regarding the university, certain loss and stress and the mismatch that can arise between the institution and the student.
Social- this include social isolation within the university, uninvolved in the activities of the universities and even little or no interaction with the faculty or the advisory members.
Academic- includes low academic performance, weak in studies, no involvement in assignments and courses, and lack of proper goals for career.
Life issues- this include financial insecurity, time problem related to university and job, difficulties arising from family, and problems related to health.
Institutional issues- in this category negative atmosphere in classrooms, and administrative offices, experience poor standard of teaching, lack of proper academic programs and prevalence of operational problems.
Thus, focus groups can be formed from these set of students.
The Needs Assessment Committee assigned four basic instruments or methods of collecting data from the sources: (Boden, 2011)
Qualitative Data Collection
The Needs Assessment Committee arranges the focus groups of students and gathers more information regarding the reason behind their retention.
Five focus groups have been identified and the programs are conducted. The focus group is initiated and leaded by a member of the committee who is believed to be neutral and has the experience of conducting focus group before. The data collection can be done in two ways. They are: (McCawly, 2015)
Some of the guided questions that can be asked to the focus group are:
- Do you want to continue to study in this university?
- Why don’t you want to continue in this university?
- What problems are you facing in this university?
- What changes do you want to see in the university?
- Suggest a way to deal with your problem.
- How can the educational, administrative and other aspects of the university be improved?
The response of the focus group is recorded in an audio recorder and one of the member takes notes while the survey and interview.
The findings from the focus group are combined with the findings from the survey and interviews so that the committee gets a complete knowledge about the problem of students leaving the university, what type of problems every student faces, what solutions can be implemented and strategies taken to solve their problems etc.
Quantitative data collection:
To identify the students who tend to leave the university, another survey (by SurveyMonkey) must be done as to collect numerical data regarding the number of students graduating, number of students present at the freshman orientation program, number of students actually enrolled in the university and number of students leaving the university.
Steps and solutions:
The reliability of the needs assessment is the measurement of the strategies whether they are consistent and accurate (Assessment.tki.org.nz, 2015)
By validity we mean that the extent to which the measure taken is actually operating the way it was designed. (Uni.edu, 2015)
The university should provide academic advising services, expanding tutoring and coaching services, healthcare programs, establish a group of freshman which will allow the students of similar interests to interact and use the automated, social media like Twitter and Facebook to contact with every student and allow them share their problems for solutions. The university can also put a check on the academic performance of the weak students. (Improving Student Retention and Graduation Rates, 2011)
The results obtained from the analysis are that students can get involved with the university activity more through the social media and will be able to seek help with the advisors, students can enhance their performance by the extended tutor services and will no longer will be weak in academics, students will remain fit within the campus of the university through the healthcare programs and all these will help to improve the retention rates.The recommendations that can be made is to develop counseling sessions for students having issues in their families or religions, also initiate incentives for students who are financially unstable and provide them with scholarships and formulate trainings for the faculty and administrators to manage the university with positive attitudes. (Wojciechowski, 2015)
Resources, U. (2015). Needs Assessment. [online] Ucanr.edu. Available at: https://ucanr.edu/sites/CEprogramevaluation/Needs_Assessment_Resources/ [Accessed 17 Mar. 2015].
Assessment.tki.org.nz, (2015). Reliability and validity / Concept / Concepts / Using evidence for learning / Home - Assessment. [online] Available at: https://assessment.tki.org.nz/Using-evidence-for-learning/Concepts/Concept/Reliability-and-validity [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].
Boden, G. (2011). Retention and Graduation Rates: Insights from an Extended Longitudinal View.Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, 13(2), pp.179-203.
Comprehensive Needs Assessment. (2015). 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: https://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/compneedsassessment.pdf [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].
Improving Student Retention and Graduation Rates. (2011). 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: https://www.mybrcc.edu/intranet/attachments/article/110/Improving%20Student%20Retention%20and%20Graduation%20Rates.pdf [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].
McCawly, P. (2015). Methods For Consucting Needs Assessment. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: https://www.cals.uidaho.edu/edcomm/pdf/BUL/BUL0870.pdf [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].
Uni.edu, (2015). Reliability and Validity. [online] Available at: https://www.uni.edu/chfasoa/reliabilityandvalidity.htm [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].
Wojciechowski, A. (2015). Case Study-Conducting a Needs Assessment. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: https://sites.psu.edu/wfed573/wp-content/uploads/sites/8138/2014/01/Academic-and-Career-Development-Preparation-for-College-Students_-Alexa-T.-Wojciechowski.pdf [Accessed 13 Mar. 2015].