A look at engagement strategies that promote persistence and retention of entering students at the Community College of Qatar
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According to Tinto (2000a), institutions have fewer retention and persistence problems when their students are not only academically prepared, but are also engaged on campus as well as satisfied with the resources and support provided by the college. A student that has a positive first semester experience is more likely to achieve academic success and re-enroll the following term. The purpose of this study was to explore the differences in experiences, perceptions, expectations, and engagement levels of entering male versus female students and returning male versus returning female students at the gender-segregated Community College of Qatar during the first three to six weeks at the college. The study also attempted to determine if any student support services such as advising, tutoring, counseling, new student orientation program, and participation in student activities were useful and had any influence in promoting student engagement. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. For entering male and female students survey responses were classified using questions from five Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE) benchmarks: (1) Engaged Learning (2) Early Connections (3) Clear Academic Plan and Pathway (4) Academic and Social Support Network and (5) Effective Track to College Readiness. While questions from four Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) benchmarks: (1) Active and Collaborative Learning (2) Student Effort (3) Support for Learners (4) Student-Faculty Interaction were used for returning male and female students. One-Sample t-tests were run to determine if significant differences in engagement levels existed between the four independent groups for each of the benchmark categories. Cohen’s d calculations were used to measure the effect size and the standardized differences between the means of the variables. For the purpose of this study, Cohen’s d effect size of 0.35 or higher was used as the criteria for interpreting statistically significance. The results of this study revealed entering and returning female students reported statistically higher engagement levels than entering and returning male students in most of the variables indicating that they are more likely to utilize student support services at higher frequencies and have a more positive first semester experience than their counterparts.
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