​The Influence of Beliefs: Impacting Student Retention

Figure 1. Influence-of-Beliefs Model

College-completion rates in the United States have been declining since the 1970s (Bowler, 2009). 

Declining college completion rates and accountability for student learning tell us we need to further understand the largely unspoken factors of the human experience as it relates to students persisting and retaining in their college degree programs.

The effects students’ beliefs have on both their self-confidence to succeed in college and their actual academic outcomes can have a direct impact on institution retention rates.

As illustrated in the influence-of-beliefs model (Figure 1, shown above), students’ beliefs are a conduit and direct influencer between self-confidence and results.  Repeated outcomes create a belief system about oneself.  The belief system created by re-occurring outcomes becomes how students’ shape their self-confidence, perceived ability to set and achieve goals, determine their level of engagement and view the overall quality of the academic experience.  

Students’ beliefs can affect behaviors related to academic progress and educational investment (Cox, 2009).  If a student assumes failure, but works hard to succeed and fails at passing a test or class nevertheless, it can produce a self-fulfilling prophecy and shatter the student’s confidence level (Cox, 2009).  The assumption of failure and acceptance of stagnated effort can damage the ego, causing the student to lose focus on potential success ultimately impacting students’ interest in persisting (Cox, 2009). 

The more experiences students have that lower their level of self-confidence the increased likelihood they are to lose belief in their abilities to be successful. Several studies have shown that once belief is compromised with negative thought patterns, the more likely students are to fall victim to maladaptive behaviors and modes of thinking that can have a negative impact on their motivation, engagement, drive to set goals and ultimately stay enrolled in classes (Ashbrook, 2012). 

Whether you believe it or not, what your students believe…matters.  

ReferencesAshbrook, J. (2012) Exploring the first-year transition to a college environment: a qualitative analysis. University of Phoenix.Bowler, M. (2009, August 19) Dropouts loom large for schools. U.S. News & World Report, 146(8), 36–39.Cox, R. (2009, July). Promoting success by addressing students’ fear of failure. Community College Review, 37(1), 52–80.

About Jodi

Dr. Ashbrook’s research and work has played a significant role in helping institutions improve student support, transition and engagement processes, to ultimately improve student retention and decrease the college dropout rate. In her role as Chief Product Officer for ESE, Ashbrook focuses in the areas of market analysis, enrollment management, operations and student retention. Her variety of experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors have enabled her to help many students and institutions reach their goals of changing the world through education.

To learn more about how Educators Serving Educators (ESE) can partner with your institution go to www.eseserves.org.