You are on page 1of 19

Last changed 25 Feb 2008 ............... Length about 8,000 words (53,000 bytes).

(Major rst draft completed 7 May 2003.)

This is a WWW document maintained by Steve Draper, installed at You may copy it. How to refer to it.
Web site logical path: [] [~steve] [localed] [dropout] [this page]

Go over papers for method criticism
Pursue wider lit. e.g. via Lynn chapter.
*Find measures used by others

Tinto's model of student retention

By Stephen W. Draper, Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow.
These notes are a very personal view, not well researched, and possibly severely awed.
The rst topic is what determines whether students stay on or drop out at universities. Various terms may reasonably be used for this area. The negative-looking
ones are failure, dropout, attrition; the positive-looking ones are retention, persistence. Tinto offers a theory for understanding this. Elsewhere I also have some
notes on basic comparative dropout rates.
The follow-on topic is about the school-university transition. In it I argue that this is in fact a sub-part of the Tinto issue.
Some other pointers related to Tinto are on another page including surveys related to dropouts at this university, a review of the literature related to Tinto, and a
variety of diagrams expressing Tinto's theory.
Contents (click to jump to a section)
Tinto's model
Common failings in papers reporting studies of Tinto's model
Standard possible methodological failings in studies of dropout
New methods required
Beyond the original model: my extensions/interpretation
Summary of dimensions
The questions
Unresolved issues with this scheme

Liz Thomas: 5 spheres of integration

Tinto interventions
Classics / majors
Classic but not easily recognised as Tinto-relevant
Other HEI standards implied by Thomas
Designing new, ideal interventions
Where do these models t?
Senses of "social"
Why is this synthesis, and Tinto's part in it, important?
What practical use could these models be?
School-university transition
Prose argument about this
Transition: bullet point summary of my view
Summer schools
Yet more Tinto-related references

Tinto's model
The most commonly referred to model in the student retention/dropout literature is Tinto's. It was rst offered in a literature review (Tinto, 1975), and so began
with the support of being broadly consistent with a considerable range of other people's research, as well as having a theoretical derivation by analogy to
Durkheim's model of suicide. It probably gains most support though because it immediately appeals to people's commonsense with its central notion of
"integration". It is less clear whether there is much direct empirical support for it, and certainly it is hard to nd direct empirical tests of and challenges to it. The
literature claiming to support it seems to be about reporting weakly consistent evidence: not controlled experiments, nor comparing alterantive theories against
Tinto's with respect to data.

This is adapted by me from Tinto,V. (1975) "Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research" Review of Educational Research vol.45, pp.89-125.

Its central idea is that of "integration": it claims that whether a student persists or drops out is quite strongly predicted by their degree of academic integration,
and social integration. These evolve over time, as integration and commmitment interact, with dropouts depending on commitment at the time of the decision. A
rst pass might perhaps try to measure these by:
Academic integration
Grade / mark performance
Personal development -- or does this just mean a student's private judgement on the value of what they are learning (as opposed to ofcial marks /
teachers' judgements).
"Do you think you are doing well academically?" (Academic self-esteem)
Enjoying your subject(s).
Enjoying studying your subject(s): i.e. the study patterns required/requested are or are not enjoyable.
Identication with academic norms and values
Identication with one's role as a student

Social integration
How many friends you have. It probably doesn't matter whether you t with the dominant social crowd, only whether or not you have a group of
friends you t with.
Personal contact with academics. In fact, it may be that it is important to measure really small amounts of contact: how many staff know your name,
smile at you, ... ("How many staff have you had a personal interaction with, however small?" "How many personal interactions with staff have you
had this year?").
"Are you enjoying being at university?"

Tinto was keen for studies to measure / distinguish different reasons for departure: being thrown out for failing exams vs. voluntary leaving. In reality there is a
middle category where you can't tell if students are marked fail because they stopped attending (voluntary but didn't tell the university), or did badly and
although not told they must leave this removed their commitment and they then decided to leave.
Common failings in papers reporting studies of Tinto's model
Such papers seldom report the actual questionnaire items used to operationalise the theory. This means that they may not test the theory at all, but the reader
cannot know this. For instance Borglum & Kubala (2000) seem to have used a questionnaire designed for a quite different purpose, simply measuring student
satisfaction with the college, yet assumed that all items could be classied post hoc as measuring a Tinto-related variable.
More perniciously, by never discussing the design of questionnaire items, major theoretical issues are ignored. For instance does "social integration" mean
integration within that institution, or generally? Probably Tinto meant the former. Yet a student with no friends anywhere, and a student with plenty of friends
who however are not enrolled at the same college are likely to show different tendencies to dropout. Scrutiny and discussion of individual questionnaire items is
a good way to identify theoretical issues, and conversely eschewing such discussion furthermore makes it likely that no two studies are measuring the same
thing, yet are unable to determine this.
Standard possible methodological failings in studies of dropout
Need 100% samples especially of the dropouts: any less, and self-selection must be likely to distort it by losing those ashamed in some way (or leave only those
with the most distorted rationalisations).
Furthermore, face to face as opposed to paper instruments (i.e. interviews not postal questionnaires) may be very important for quality all round. Certainly
comparing face to face persisters with paper dropouts could be bad.
Even then, it will be like interviewing people about their divorces: everyone will have a story, but it is a story they can live with, scarcely a dispassionate
account. Rationalisation by each student, particularly dropouts, may mean that what they say about causes is not useful. They will be very likely to describe
cause as external factors (the classic Social Psychology attribution error?). So for this, should attend only to data on external factors, and get it equally for

persisters. In fact the Brown and Harris method of collecting descriptions of external factors for all, and getting a panel of experts to rate their seriousness
"blindly", may be essential.
Similarly for "internal" and all "ask them" measures of attitude, Tinto integration etc.: we should ask all students before as well as after external events, and
before exam results, and before dropouts. I.e. do prospective studies.
1. Prospective studies, with measures (especially subjective/internal ones) taken before (as well as after) dropout events such as failing exams, and collecting
these measures for both persisters and dropouts.
2. For external events (always collected retrospectively), collect these for both persisters and dropouts.
3. Get a panel to assess the seriousness of external events; don't trust subjective assessment. (And hence, don't use dropouts' own opinion on why they
dropped out.)
4. Must get 100% or random samples especially of dropouts (not self-selected samples).
New methods required
The literature to date seems not to provide strong proof or even good tests of the theory. However to do so would require a large programme of research with
multiple methods, particularly to address the extensions to Tinto's model discussed below. The simplest approach is to generate large questionnaires, with items
relating to parts of the model, and use correlations. The trouble with this is that it implicitly treats all factors as independent and as adding linearly. Thus it fails
to test the structure of the model, and similarly cannot deal with quite simple aspects. For instance consider vitamins: eating more of one vitamin does not
compensate for having too little of another; and furthermore, if most subjects have enough of one vitamin, correlations will be low and tell you as much about
the population as they do about the importance of the factor. Techniques such as path analysis, and structural equation model testing try to addrss this to some
extent, but probably not sufciently. It seems extremely likely that learning is determined in some places by conjunctions like vitamins: a learner has to have all
of a set of factors, and will fail if any one is decient (e.g. must have both motivation and adequate study skills and adequate learning resources). In other places
it is probably determined by disjunctions: a learner may either learn from lectures or from textbooks, but may well need only one of these alternatives to work
well for them.
At the opposite end of a spectrum from statistical treatment of multiple factors at once, would be case studies: looking for cases where a particular feature of the
model is crucial, for instance personal staff contact as essential for adequate "social integration" which in turn is an important pre-requisite for whether nor not a
student seeks help when they need it. Slightly beyond case studies might be surveys measuring just this factor every 2 weeks (say), then when a jump is seen in
an individual's measure on this, following up with an interview to identify what critical incident caused this shift. Such an approach might both operationalise
and establish parts of the overall model, piece by piece.

Beyond the original model: my extensions/interpretation

Recently a different sociological approach claiming to be a rival has appeared (Braxton; 2002). A key phrase is "social capital" (see also in the Liz Thomas
section below). However, perhaps we could see this as a part of what is implied in Tinto's model, but with more emphasis on integration between the student and
social groups (and forces) outside the university.

Another notion is Bordieu's "habitus", which Thomas (2002b) explicates as "the norms and practices of particular social classes or groups". For me, the issue
this indicates can be construed as to do with how the role of student has aspects to do with tting the academic institution, with fellow students, and with
external social groups and their views of the place and value of students.
What follows is my proposed extension of Tinto or synthesis of Tinto's original model with additional concepts. A further development of the concept(s) might
expand the notion of "integration" in the following way. Firstly, consider it as a measure of tting the role of student. Does the student feel that they t happily
into the role of student? Fit has two aspects: internally, do they feel it ts them from a personal perspective, and externally, do they feel happy in how others
view them in this role. Fitting is about any causes of friction or dissonance, even those too slight to be consciously noticed and spoken about. We can see the
role as having two major aspects, academic and social. The academic is about learning, and the activities necessary for that. The social is about t with the
groups the student cares about, both inside and outside the university. A person who identies totally with being a student will care only about their place with
other students, ignoring the values of any outside groups; someone who comes from a family that expects a university qualication will probably make friends
in the university but also expect family and employers to regard being a university student as an expected and worthwhile stage in life; but someone from a
family or group unused to university may have trouble with the mismatch between being a student and markers of respect such as a job, current income, an
expensive car, children of one's own, etc.
Another dimension is to distinguish goals, methods, and effectiveness or achievement. Clearly a person may love an objective but dislike some method
necessary to achieving it: may like writing essays but be bored by the preparatory reading (or vice versa), just as someone may love tropical holidays but be
afraid of ying to get there. Treating the achievement as distinct from the goal is in a way redundant, but provides an opportunity to examine the gaps there can
be -- for instance due to the problems of assessment -- between the measures used and the aims they are supposed to assess, and also between a student's aims
and their actual achievement. A person can sometimes feel they love a subject and yet be hopeless at learning it. Another reason (for looking at both goals and
achievement) is that a person may not have thought much about a goal, yet on failing to achieve it they feel a problem e.g. not getting on with staff or fellow
students may not have been an aim one way or the other, but can subsequently be felt as a problem anyway.
The third distinction, between internal / external aspects of t, comes from the standard distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for learning:
whether you do it for personal reasons (interest, enjoyment, curiosity, "for its own sake"), or for extrinsic reasons (means to another end, to get the qualication,
to be admired, ...). But in principle this can be applied not just to the motivation (the goal), but to activities/methods and results. For each activity may have
some positive or negative inherent value for an individual apart from the goal, and this may be for intrinsic or extrinsic reasons. For instance asking questions in
class might draw dislike from other students (extrinsic negative value), but be useful for the individual in checking whether they have understood (a standard
personal learning technique with positive intrinsic value). In general, for methods and intrinsic/extrinsic, we should ask a) are there any things others (staff or
students) require of you but you hate (or love); e.g. tutorials make you nervous, computer use is compulsory, hours in the lab are tedious. b) are there any things
(learning methods) that you require or nd important for your learning, but which others obstruct; e.g. you need to ask questions (but there's not time); you want
time to think, but the lecture always rushes on; you want to discuss an idea, but everyone has to leave and there is no place or time to do it.
Summary of dimensions
Putting these together, we have [A] three elds for integration: academic, and social inside and outside the university. Fit (or conict or dissonance) [B] might be
divided into arising from goals (or wishes, or desires), from methods (or skills or capabilities or habits), and from effectiveness (or measurable achievement).
And [C] there are always two aspects of t: with the individual's own internal self, and with external demands on them. Multiplying these together would give
us the set of questions and issues below: {Academic, social within university, social outwith the university} X {Goal, method, effectiveness} X {Intrinsic,

extrinsic}. (I shall interpret the combination of methods with intrinsic/extrinsic as follows. Method-intrinsic: deals with the student's own existing methods and
asks the question: are they allowed/used or obstructed /not useful. Method-extrinsic: deals with the methods / activities externally required by the course, and
asks the question: does the student like or hate them, are they good or useless at them?)
For each resulting element I indicate one or more draft phrasings for a corresponding questionnaire item. These items may be in an open-ended form (asking the
participant to tell us if there's anything that might be an issue in this category), or sometimes specic where experience suggests examples of specic things that
have been a problem for some students. Additionally, for some I indicate a remedial intervention (abbreviated below to "x") that might be tried if the aspect
seemed a particular problem in a given context. Words in [square brackets] are pointers to other theoretical concepts.
The questions
Here is how the dimensions play out into parts, each with a draft questionnaire item.
Academic integration
(We should ask all of these repeatedly for each course a student is doing. Feeling unhappy with just one of the three courses a rst year student takes is
often sufcient for some to drop out, just as anyone of principle will resign from a job that violates a single one of their ethical principles.)
"How are you getting on with your studies? What is the worst thing about it?"
Goals. "What are your reasons for studying?"
Fit with intrinsic goals
"Do you enjoy what you are studying?"; "Is the subject interesting?"
Fit with extrinsic goals
"Is what you are studying useful?"
"Is what you are studying leading to the job or career you want?"
"Is getting a (good) degree (grade) important to you?"
"Is studying the subject like you expected it to be? What are the differences?"
"What difculties do you have in learning on this course?"
Fix: Put them off before they come and sign up to a course they don't like.
Fit with intrinsic/existing skills and aptitudes.
"Does the course exercise things you like to do? e.g. problem solving, showing skill in essay writing, ..."
"Are there any things (learning methods) that you require or nd important for your learning, but which they obstruct; e.g. You need to ask
questions (but there's not time); you want time to think but the lecture always rushes on; you want to discuss an idea, but everyone has to
leave and there is no place or time to do it."
Fit with extrinsic/demanded skills and aptitudes.
"Does the course demand kinds of study and work you like or dislike or have trouble with? e.g. maths, long lab hours, ....writing, ...?".
E.g. tutorials make you nervous, computer use is compulsory, hours in the lab are tedious. Writing long essays whose structure you have to
invent (rather than many small exercises).
"Are you able to participate in seminars, or are you too shy?"

"Can you take effective notes in lectures, or don't you have the skill?"
Fix: Introductory courses, summer schools, before entry, study skills support / teaching.
[Snyder's Hidden curriculum]
"Are you learning as much as you want?"
Achieving intrinsic goals
"Do you feel you understand the material by your own standards?"
Achieving extrinsic goals
"Are you getting good enough marks?"
Social integration within the university
"Do you feel comfortable being a student at this university?"
"Do you want to get to know a) staff or b) students and if so why?"
Fit with intrinsic goals
"Do you like being part of the university, or do you think it's a worthless institution (apart from giving you a qualication)?"
"Do you want to get to know other students, or aren't they worth knowing?"
Fit with extrinsic goals
"Do you think that getting to know staff and students is useful to you?"
"What are the good and bad things about the ways for getting to know staff and students you nd here?"
Fit with intrinsic/existing skills and aptitudes.
"Does student life go with your preferred kinds of socialising (e.g. clubbing, hill walking, dinner parties, ....)."
"Does the kind of chat you like to have go down well with students and staff?"
Fix: "Peer assisted learning" i.e. mentoring by students a year or two ahead.
Fit with extrinsic/demanded skills and aptitudes.
"Do you know how to make friends with other students?"
"Do you know how to talk to other students?"
"Do you enjoy the social activities other students propose?"
"Is the kind of chat you nd yourself having with other students or staff enoyable or not?"
"Do you feel comfortable around campus, the department, in lectures, etc.?"
Achieving intrinsic goals
"Have you made as many friends as you want?"
"Are you able to get the kind of conversations you would like?"
"How many staff have you had a personal interaction (however brief) with?" ["Empathy" in Bridget Cooper's sense]
"How many other students do you know?"
Fix: Field trips, reading parties, tutorials, advisors, ofce hours meetings with staff
Achieving extrinsic goals
"Do you feel able to ask staff questions when you need to or want to?"

"Do you feel you t in with other students in the class? in the university?"
"Do you have a problem collaborating in group work as required?"
Social integration outside the university
"Does having been to this University t with the kind of person you want to be?"
"Do you feel comfortable being a student in the UK today?"
"Do you want to get on with people outside Uni, and for what reasons?"
Fit with intrinsic goals
"When you're with people outside the university, do you feel proud or embarrassed that you are a student?"
"Does being a student make you feel better or worse about yourself than if you were doing something else?"
Fit with extrinsic goals
"Will going to university and being a student be good or bad for you in getting on with people outside the university e.g. family, friends,
"What are the good and bad things about presenting yourself to outsiders as someone from this university?"
Fit with intrinsic/existing skills and aptitudes.
"My family constantly nag me to come home in the vacations whereas I nd it important to stay near the University to catch up on work"
Fit with extrinsic/demanded skills and aptitudes.
"I want to get a degree, but my family want me to earn money for them."
"Do you feel comfortable telling others you go to this University?"
Achieving intrinsic goals
"Does, or will, going to University make you t better into your life outside the Uni.? More the sort of person you see yourself as being?"
Achieving extrinsic goals
"Do you expect to get the recognition from others outside the University that you want?"
"Is being at this university impressive to others?"

Unresolved issues with this scheme

Goal - strategy - but also opportunities.
Does "integrated" mean:
Identied with the role
Identied with our (expert, teacher's) view of the role i.e. not with their misguided view of a student's role. At least for academic-integration this seems
important, as a considerable cause of dropouts can be misunderstanding the role of a student. If so, then don't ask students what THEY feel about

integration, but ask them for indicators about whether they are integrated in OUR view.
Does social integration mean:
Social identity theory
What a student needs to get collaboration with peers over learning e.g. to borrow lecture notes.
There aren't just 3 points on the dimension of {Goal, method, effectiveness}. Instead there are at least 5 points, maybe an arbitrary number. If so then should
multiply out the schema above by 5 not 3 points. The basic idea is that some goals correspond to large external motivations, others are simply means to an end
serving larger goals. And similarly, a large method like a lecture requires component skills from the student to benet from it much. My suggestion for an
expanded dimension might be:
1. Goal
2. Subgoal e.g. learning statistics as a subgoal of learning another topic. Learning to touch type as a subgoal of the whole course. Learning mind mapping as
a study technique for the whole course.
3. Large scale M-acts e.g. seminars, tutorials, lectures
4. Small scale M-acts e.g. bringing a personal agenda to each tutorial; reviewing notes after every lecture; ...
5. Effectiveness
Similarly, perhaps should split the goal and method points above and multiply all by {(don't know), Know, can do, t/like}. As well as asking questions that
presuppose they KNOW what is needed for methods (say), we should test this assumption by questions about whether they know what is needed. That is, do
they HAVE:
The ability to judge success and their own understanding (under "effectiveness").
Do they have the right subgoals e.g. realise they should learn new note-taking skills etc.
Do they even know the methods needed e.g. the time spent, when to spend it, how to get benet from tutorials, seminars, other students, ...
I.e. it is not only t between the students' methods and the required methods, but also the issue of knowledge of what method is needed, and then possession of
that method.

Liz Thomas: 5 spheres of integration

Thomas (2002a) suggests 5, not 2 or 3, types of integration / spheres.
Social: peer interaction and mutual support
Economic. Hence university support services for bursaries, scholarships etc.
"Support" meaning counselling services.
Democratic: students's union, student representatives on various institutional bodies.

What do I think of this? well it is true that all of these have typical university structures associated with them, so if I want to explain the LTP perhaps I do need
to expand to cover them? On the other hand, they are probably important to dropouts, but maybe not otherwise to learning.
She is interested in a) dropouts b) "widening access" i.e. getting and retaining a wider set of types of student. And argues with evidence that maximising these
means attending more to all 5 spheres.
She uses, and partly explains, the notion of social capital. (Her paper gives some explanation of the concept and a number of references such as Shuller &
Bamford (2000).) But perhaps it actually isn't necessary except broadly to think of this broader set of spheres, and the general idea (already in Tinto) that
weakness for a student in one can be compensated by strengths in others. But in fact maybe her data (Thomas; 2002b) really partly goes against this: i.e. she
found that money wasn't an important reason for presistence or dropout, and so isn't the same kind of predictor as, say, social integration.
Social capital (seems to) mean: prior acquisition of contacts substitutes to some extent for present knowledge. This is both learning but also actually connection
to people/resources i.e. not just internal learning but connection. Actually consistent with Unix expertise: you can substitute knowing how to learn for already
having learned; and consistent with socially distributed knowledge. I don't know if the metaphor of capital helps; but it is in another way a smple extension of
the idea of pre-requisites from facts and skills in the chosen topic to other things.
So what do I take from it?
a) To predict dropouts, we may need all 5 spheres.
b) And they are all denitely about integration (e.g. economic: learning to live on that amount, and this is eased by living with others using the same
c) "Capital" does signal the advantage of pre-adaptation or prior preparation, and how it can be traded on to solve new problems rather than be the pre-solution.
d) And how it is not just about individual knowledge so much as working contacts: having access to the socially distributed resources important to being a
I'm dubious because:
a) The support and democratic spheres don't seem to affect all or even most students; but the others do. The capital metaphor may help in understanding the
preconditions for these spheres too to work well; but I don't believe they are so important?
b) The economic sphere affects all students; yet her research apparently suggests it isn't as important in determining dropouts. So Tinto was right after all? focus
on academic and social spheres.
There are really 3 possible views of this:
Thomas is right, there are 5 spheres needed to explain retention, and all are equally important, with strong integration in some allowing weaknesses in
others not to cause dropout.
Tinto is right, 2 spheres are key, the other 3 only affect some students.
Tinto points to the key 2 spheres; 2 others are in fact really subdivisions of his. "Support" sphere is really an occasional substitute for friends i.e. a
subsphere of "social". "Democratic" again is just a form a few students use for peer and staff interaction. Campaigning is an alternative to going for a beer
with friends, and in fact likely to lead to deeper interaction than most bars do. As for money, while it applies to all students, it also applies to all nonstudents too, and so is no more a specic predictor of dropouts than avoiding car accidents, keeping your liver healthy etc.

Tinto interventions
This section is to collect and list educational interventions that can be explained by Tinto-like theories (but often not by other theories). They may also be
designed to increase poor scores on some Tinto-related variable e.g. "integration".
This is a crucial section because:
Main point for me of exploring Tinto is to explain these mathemagenic activities that are often put on at some cost by HEIs but don't t in the Laurillard
Can I think of any new interventions?

Classics / majors
Summer schools: to widen participation by increasing integration for targeted groups in advance.
The whole business of school qualications as preparation for HE. Commonsense says that this is about knowledge pre-requisites: knowing facts and skills that
will be necessary and presupposed at university. However it may really be a case of "pre-integration": of giving students previous experience of what the subject
mattter, and its associated study patterns, feels like so that they can make an informed choice about what university course they may like and be competent at. A
relevant study would be to measure prior conceptions of both subject matter, higher education, jobs, ... etc. as tacitly creating a pre-integration level.
Field trips
Reading parties
Cheese and wine welcome parties
So called peer assisted learning (PAL) or supplemental instruction: student-student mentoring.

Classic but not easily recognised as Tinto-relevant

Personal staff-student contact; "Empathy".
Tutor assignments and contacts.
Advisor assignments and contacts.
Feedback: summative assessment information to tell students that they "are" a Geographer or whatever. Rank in the class?
Summer scholarship / working in a staff member's lab.

Groupwork (i.e. organised and made compulsory by the course).

Study groups (i.e. student-only peer groups).
Amount of discussing in L-acts (class, seminars, ...) BOTH personal contributions AND seeing what others think.

Other HEI standards implied by Thomas

There are other units and services, widely funded by universities, to do with student support, and presumably likely to reduce dropouts. Implied by Thomas'
expanded list of spheres of integration.
Finance: bursaries, scholarships, hardship funds, etc.
Support services e.g. counselling, health
Students' unions. Student representation on committees etc.

Designing new, ideal interventions

What do they need to be or include?
Staff "empathy" i.e. a bit of the personal tutor idea.
Get students working together (social integration)
But also, working together on subject content. This is good for study skills, good for personal work-useful skills. And gets some content discussion going
which we suspect seldom happens in HE. And good for learning. And good for academic integration.
More feedback on learning. Actually formative, though at an acad-integration level; though may seem to be summative in technical form. That is: it
should tell them how well they are really doing (rather than correct detailed task performance), and so allow them to self-regulate their effort rather than
help to correct some specic task or skill such as essay writing. This could be related to Snyder i.e. self-assessment, and also with rank in class, on several
different types of measure (shallow MCQ, deep essay, feeling of understanding). Note that in PBL (problem-based learning) students often complain that
the staff don't tell them how they are doing yet they enjoy it. This could be that working ingroups gives them good and frequent feedback on how well
they understand the material as compared to fellow students, and as judged by how well they can contribute to their group, even though it doesn't directly
tell them how well they will do in exams.

Where do these models t?

How do such theories t with anything?

Senses of "social"

I really want to integrate Tinto and the Laurillard model of the learning and teaching process (LTP). It does address the "social" aspects so missing from the
Laurillard model, and in so doing explain some frequent activities put on that don't t the Laurillard model e.g. summer schools, reading parties etc.
Senses of "social":
Piaget / individual learning (with social interaction as an external stimulus to internal development).
Vygotsky: and a generalised sense that learning content comes from "society" / peers, and is specically supported as a process e.g. by scaffolding.
Distributed Cognition and theories of the mechanisms by which a small set of people interact.
Situativity and idealised micro-communities.
Tinto and specic kinds of integration.
Weber and explanation by gross macro-society variables.
We could ask, and perhaps even nd empirical answers to, which of these levels most determines a student's success (i.e. is it external forces like money and
social class, individual taste for learning, or what). However one of the ways in which Tinto's approach may be better than some other ways of talking about this
area is that it doesn't align with the simplistic question of whether the student or the university should be "blamed", despite what Ozga & Sukhnandan (1998)
suggest. The metaphor of integration is about t; it is not about one party adapting to the other, but about whether they go together well. Even more than that,
like other human relationships (but unlike whether a square peg ts a round hole), integration is clearly the current outcome of a relationship of sequential
interchanges which progressively modify that relationship: hopefully for the better. As a student has more successful interactions with a tutor, for example, they
are likely not just to be learning a few extra facts but to feel more integrated with positive knock-on effects for instance in how willing they are to ask for further
help in future, and to ask for it in a way that gets results from that individual tutor.

Why is this synthesis, and Tinto's part in it, important?

Tinto is important for a more complete theory of the LTP (Learning & Teaching Process).
It should explain activities previously omitted from LTP models.
I've been slow to recognise it myself because technology hasn't often been likely to address it/replace it; though the stuff on email communities in fact
should relate to it.
It might be able to suggest new teaching xes/modications.
It suggests new output measures, besides learning gains and learner feelings: lower dropouts.
It will require a major new development of evaluation instruments.

So in the end we should be able to:

Explain the activities we see.
Understand a wider range of complaints.
Detect the complaints; diagnose them; suggest remedies.
Propose new interventions, or rather a new and wider range of interventions;

Including perhaps new technological interventions?

What practical use could these models be?

These models are basically sociological ones. Do they have any potential for actually improving things in practice? It won't be easy, because there are so many
ways in which a student's "integration" might be low: or to put it another way, students drop out for diverse reasons, and having a general "explanation" doesn't
tell you how to do something effective for each student. However in principle we could imagine rst developing a detailed diagnostic instrument e.g. using the
questions above, and using that to determine what the particularly bad issues are in each situation (each department of each institution); and then select a
remediating intervention specic to that diagnosis (e.g. the possible remedies also listed above in the framework). We're a long way from demonstrating this,
Tinto (1982) has a striking fact illustrated in a graph: that for the last 100 years the dropout rate for universities in the USA has been constant at 45%, despite big
changes in the participation rate and amount of public funding. (Dropout rate was here dened as the ratio of undergraduate degrees awarded to the rst-time
enrollment four years before.) The second world war causes the only big wobble in the at graph, and yet averaged across 10 years even there the rate is nearconstant (because positive and negative blips cancelled out). In the UK and again in Europe, rates are very different, but perhaps largely constant in each.
(Thomas 2002b gives the UK rate as 13% in 1982/3 and 17% in 1997/8 after great expansion, attributing these gures to a House of Commons Select
Committee report.) Tinto discusses how that implies that such research is probably limited to dealing with social and/or local inequalities, rather than to overall
change in dropout rates.

School-university transition
This section is about the transition from school to university, with particular reference to computing science. There seems to be a problem.
A related point of view is expressed by Tony Jenkins here.

Prose argument about this

What should the relationship be between what is taught at school and at university? The naive, but apparently commonsense, relationship is: whatever schools
teach, universities don't need to teach but should assume as pre-requisites. Once established in schools, then universities should a) require it for entry, and b)
stop re-teaching it. This content is to be thought of as facts, or perhaps skills that are directly tested.
I wanted to suggest that part of the issue may be that that commonsense model of school-university pre-requisites is actually wrong for most subjects, and
perhaps particularly wrong for computing science. Pre-requisites may be facts, may be specic skills (e.g. integral calculus, debugging a program regardless of
language), or they may be still more general: an orientation to a way of learning that suits a particular subject. Facts are almost entirely useless as a prerequisites in computer science, not only individually but also in the big "lumps" of programming languages and specic packages such as Excel. Syllabuses [?
spelling] written in these terms will fail as worthwhile pre-requisite qualications (even though assessment within and outwith university is usually reliant on
knowledge of such facts). Actually, I argued, this is also true to a greater degree than is usually acknowledged in other subjects such as English and Physics. For

instance (if you'll accept a decaying memory of how it was a long time ago in England for physics as any kind of evidence), specic A-level material in physics
was hardly ever re-used, but the maths I'd had to do was almost all vital from early on, but most important probably was that learning school physics was indeed
a good guide to whether I'd enjoy university physics AND to the kinds of skill and activity involved in learning university physics. Thus the real function of
requiring school physics in order to do university physics may really, contrary to the commonsense model, not be the explicit curriculum of Newton's law etc.
(i.e. of facts) but of getting experience of what learning physics feels like, and so allowing the learner to make an informed choice of university subject. Insisting
on it may possibly exclude some who would actually have turned out to be able to cope, but because the requirement has existed for a long time, it
disadvantages few.
The main complaint from staff, but more importantly from students, in computing science is that school computing does not prepare them for university
computing. They do NOT in fact say they "already have a substantial understanding of the subject matter" (as Kenneth suggests) and that it is all too easy. That
is what the commonsense model predicts, but it doesn't seem to be what is actually the case. That is why universities feel justied in ignoring school computing
science. On the other hand, the failure rates mean universities wouldn't mind at all at all if schools found a way to do useful preparation: but the most useful
preparation (I suggest) would be in expectations, to pre-select students who would turn out to enjoy (and cope with) university computing science. So from this
viewpoint, the challenge is to redesign school computing to do a job comparable to that done implicitly by school physics (say), rather than the apparently
commonsense requirement of learning some facts and skills. In other subjects these overlap enough not to have to recognise the difference, but in computing
science we may just not be able to get away with the commonsense but wrong idea of the relationship between school and university learning.

Transition: bullet point summary of my view

This is a summary of my whole theory of school-HE connection.
There is no reason to think one subject (e.g. computing science) is going to be just like any other in the matter of what is important for teaching, and hence what
is important for school fore-runners to university forms of the subject.
Historically, subjects probably migrate from research down to schools. Part of this is learning how to teach it better.
Should school and HE forms of a subject be coordinated in any way?
It doesn't matter: in HE you learn far more quantity AND in a different, deeper way, so any overlap is of little matter. This shows up in how seldom it
makes sense to offer exemptions from HE courses on the basis of school qualications.
HE thus doesn't care about subject content as pre-requisites; though they often care about pre-requisites in adjacent areas e.g. maths for physics.
School doesn't care as most pupils studying subject S at school will not study it in HE. Their business is to make it interesting and useful for the pupils,
not for HE.
The real importance for HE of prior qualications may be, I hypothesise, giving learners an accurate feel for what the subject is like in content, what it is
like in required study activities, and whether they would enjoy studying it. Studies and theories of HE dropouts usually show that "match" of student and subject
is an important predictor of persistence vs. dropouts.

This probably is what is good about trying to introduce the "scientic method" in primary schools. This is probably the real way in which school qualications
are useful entry requirements for many subjects (rather than specic content known).
This is what may be really bad about current mismatch of some school computing studies and HE computing science.
Covering the "same" topics: may only be damaging in that some learners believe they know it when they don't to the new standard required.
Transition is arguably, as far as theory as opposed to implementation detail goes, a) pre-integration (i.e. a subarea of Tinto). b) How to interest learners in a
subject with simpler, smaller, versions of it.

Summer schools
Summer schools are part of transition: pre-integration interventions, done by HE rather than by school.
Lynn Walker's 1996 thesis says they worked here at University of Glasgow except for science in raising "participation" from deprived areas to that of the
Is summer school meant to be better than rst year teaching (smaller groups, and take advantage of this by more interaction and better learning activities) OR
should it be realistic and so prepare them.
Functions of summer schools may be all of these:
1. Academic, institutional, bureaucratic integration
2. Study skill preparation
3. Subject: get you interested in it
4. Subject: get an accurate feel for what it's like studying it.
5. Social integration at least with that group, with those staff.

Braxton,J.M. (ed.) (2000/02) Reworking the student departure puzzle (Vanderbilt University Press)
Tinto,V. (1975) "Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research" Review of Educational Research vol.45, pp.89-125.
See also:
Tinto,V. (1982) "Limits of theory and practice in student attrition" Journal of Higher Education vol.53 no.6 pp.687-700
Tinto,V. (1988) "Stages of Student Departure: Reection on the Longitudinal Character of Student Leaving" Journal of Higher Education vol.59 no.4 pp.438455

Ozga,J & Sukhnandan,L. (1998) "Undergraduate non-completion: Developing an explanatory model" Higher Education Quarterly vol.52 no.3 pp.316-333
Tinto,V. (1987) Leaving College (Chicago,University of Chicago Press).
But for criticism see Brunsden,V. & Davies,M. (2000) "Why do HE Students Drop Out? A test of Tinto's model" Journal of Further and Higher Education
vol.24 no.3 pp.301-310
Bill Patrick (2001) "Students Matter: Student Retention: who stays and who leaves" The University Newsletter This report is based on a survey of all rst year students at the University of Glasgow, and is an example
of the implicit inuence of Tinto.
Claire Carney & Sharon McNeish (2001) "Students Matter: Study links part-time work to student ill-health" The University Newsletter
See also Rosanna Breen's PhD at Oxford Brookes.
Breen,R. & Lindsay,R. (1999) "Academic research and student motivation" Studies in Higher Education vol.24 pp.75-93
Tony Jenkins (2002) "On the difculty of learning to program" LTSN conference
Schuller,T. & Bamford,C. (2000) "A social capital approach to the analysis of continuing education: evidence from the UK Learning Society research
programme" Oxford Review of Education vol.26 no.1 pp.5-19
Thomas,E.A.M. (2002a) "Building social capital to improve student success" BERA conference
Thomas,E.A.M. (2002b) "Student retention in Higher Education: The role of institutional habitus" Journal of Educational Policy vol.17 no.4 pp.423-432
Lynn Walker (1996) An evaluation of the pre-university summer school at the University of Glasgow, 1986-1993, and its effects on student performance PhD
thesis [Faculty of Arts, Department of Education], University of Glasgow. [Level 12 Spec Coll Thesis 10493]
Yet more Tinto-related references
Braxton,J.M., Milem,J.F. & Sullivan,A.S. (2000) "The inuence of active learning on the college student departure process: toward a revision of Tinto's theory"
Journal of Higher Education vol.75 no.5 pp.569-590
[Shows stat.sig. positive effect of "active learning" e.g. class discussions on student retention.]
Thomas,S.L. (2000) "Ties that bind: A social network approach to understanding student integration and persistence" Journal of Higher Education vol.75 no.5
Bray,N.J., Braxton,J.M. & Sullivan,A.S. (1999) "The inuence of stress-related coping strategies on college student departure decisions" Journal of College
Student Development vol.40 no.6 pp.645-657

Elkins,S.A, Braxton,J.M., & James,G.W. (2000) "Tinto's separation stage and its inuence on rst-Semester college student persistence" Research in Higher
Education vol.41 no.2 pp.251-268
Borglum,K. & Kubala,T. (2000) "Academic and social integration of community college students: a case study" Community College Journal of Research and
Practice vol.24 pp.567-576
Web site logical path: [] [~steve] [localed] [this page]
[Top of this page]