Verifying a Student Engagement, Success and Retention Maturity Model (SESR-MM): A reality check of the model using data derived from three universities

Nelson, Karen J., Clarke, John A., & Stoodley, Ian D. (2012) Verifying a Student Engagement, Success and Retention Maturity Model (SESR-MM): A reality check of the model using data derived from three universities. In 7th Educational Research Group of Adelaide Conference, 19-21 September 2012, University of Adelaide. (Unpublished)

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Australian higher education institutions (HEIs) have entered a new phase of regulation and accreditation which includes performance-based funding relating to the participation and retention of students from social and cultural groups previously underrepresented in higher education. However, in addressing these priorities, it is critical that HEIs do not further disadvantage students from certain groups by identifying them for attention because of their social or cultural backgrounds, circumstances which are largely beyond the control of students. In response, many HEIs are focusing effort on university-wide approaches to enhancing the student experience because such approaches will enhance the engagement, success and retention of all students, and in doing so, particularly benefit those students who come from underrepresented groups.

Measuring and benchmarking student experiences and engagement that arise from these efforts is well supported by extensive collections of student experience survey data. However no comparable instrument exists that measures the capability of institutions to influence and/or enhance student experiences where capability is an indication of how well an organisational process does what it is designed to do (Rosemann & de Bruin, 2005).

We have proposed that the concept of a maturity model (Marshall, 2010; Paulk, 1999) may be useful as a way of assessing the capability of HEIs to provide and implement student engagement, success and retention activities and we are currently articulating a Student Engagement, Success and Retention Maturity Model (SESR-MM), (Clarke, Nelson & Stoodley, 2012; Nelson, Clarke & Stoodley, 2012). Our research aims to address the current gap by facilitating the development of an SESR-MM instrument that aims (i) to enable institutions to assess the capability of their current student engagement and retention programs and strategies to influence and respond to student experiences within the institution; and (ii) to provide institutions with the opportunity to understand various practices across the sector with a view to further improving programs and practices relevant to their context.

Our research extends the generational approach which has been useful in considering the evolutionary nature of the first year experience (FYE) (Wilson, 2009). Three generations have been identified and explored: First generation approaches that focus on co-curricular strategies (e.g. orientation and peer programs); Second generation approaches that focus on curriculum (e.g. pedagogy, curriculum design, and learning and teaching practice); and third generation approaches—also referred to as transition pedagogy—that focus on the production of an institution-wide integrated holistic intentional blend of curricular and co-curricular activities (Kift, Nelson & Clarke, 2010).

Our research also moves beyond assessments of students’ experiences to focus on assessing institutional processes and their capability to influence student engagement. In essence, we propose to develop and use the maturity model concept to produce an instrument that will indicate the capability of HEIs to manage and improve student engagement, success and retention programs and strategies.

The issues explored in this workshop are (i) whether the maturity model concept can be usefully applied to provide a measure of institutional capability for SESR; (ii) whether the SESR-MM can be used to assess the maturity of a particular set of institutional practices; and (iii) whether a collective assessment of an institution’s SESR capabilities can provide an indication of the maturity of the institution’s SESR activities.

The workshop will be approached in three stages. Firstly, participants will be introduced to the key characteristics of maturity models, followed by a discussion of the SESR-MM and the processes involved in its development. Secondly, participants will be provided with resources to facilitate the development of a maturity model and an assessment instrument for a range of institutional processes and related practices. In the final stage of the workshop, participants will “assess” the capability of these practices to provide a collective assessment of the maturity of these processes.

References Australian Council for Educational Research. (n.d.). Australasian Survey of Student Engagement. Retrieved from Clarke, J., Nelson, K., & Stoodley, I. (2012, July). The Maturity Model concept as framework for assessing the capability of higher education institutions to address student engagement, success and retention: New horizon or false dawn? A Nuts & Bolts presentation at the 15th International Conference on the First Year in Higher Education, “New Horizons,” Brisbane, Australia. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (n.d.). The University Experience Survey. Advancing quality in higher education information sheet. Retrieved from Kift, S., Nelson, K., & Clarke, J. (2010) Transition pedagogy - a third generation approach to FYE: A case study of policy and practice for the higher education sector. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 1(1), pp. 1-20. Marshall, S. (2010). A quality framework for continuous improvement of e-Learning: The e-Learning Maturity Model. Journal of Distance Education, 24(1), 143-166. Nelson, K., Clarke, J., & Stoodley, I. (2012). An exploration of the Maturity Model concept as a vehicle for higher education institutions to assess their capability to address student engagement. A work in progress. Submitted for publication. Paulk, M. (1999). Using the Software CMM with good judgment, ASQ Software Quality Professional, 1(3), 19-29. Wilson, K. (2009, June–July). The impact of institutional, programmatic and personal interventions on an effective and sustainable first-year student experience. Keynote address presented at the 12th Pacific Rim First Year in Higher Education Conference, “Preparing for Tomorrow Today: The First Year as Foundation,” Townsville, Australia. Retrieved from

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ID Code: 53846
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: student engagement, maturity models, HERN
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > EDUCATION SYSTEMS (130100) > Higher Education (130103)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Chancellery
Deposited On: 28 Sep 2012 04:40
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2012 04:40

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