Vincent Tinto is currently a Distinguished University Professor at the Syracuse University a position he has held since June 1998. Prior to that, he was a Professor of Education from June 1985 to June 1998 and an Associate Professor of Education since September 1975 to June 1985 at the same university. In the period September 1971 to June 1975 he was an Assistant Professor of Education in The Columbia University New York. He is also currently the chair of the Higher Education Program a position he has held since 1999. His academic background is also very impressive.
He did his undergraduate studies in Fordham, The Jesuit University of New York in 1963 where he graduated with a bachelor of science in Physics and Philosophy. He went on to Rensselear Polytechnic Institute to pursue his masters’ degree in Physics and Mathematics in 1965. He holds a Ph. D. in Education and Sociology which he got from the University of Chicago in 1971. It is noted that while he was pursuing his doctorate he dropped out of school to join the Peace Corps and this may be one of the reasons why his researches major on student attrition and the ways to retain them in school.
In this paper, the discussion will revolve around the arguments that he presents in the course of his numerous researches and in his body of works. The professor is of the view that to retain students in school all that the schools have to do is provide quality education. He tries to explain the reasons why students dropout of school especially after the first year of college (Tinto V. 1975). He also tries to provide the solutions that may work in retaining the students in the school especially through the provision of better and quality education to the students.
This is done with the assumption that students want to be in school but other factors end up pushing them away. Looking at the way he approaches the issue, one notices that he lays most of the blame on the faculty. In his opinion, students would rather be in school but the faculty and education systems fail to meet the expectation of the students and hence their inability to continue being in school. They end up not trusting an education system that does not seem to meet the standards they expect an institution of higher learning ought to possess.
The reception they get at the school also determines a lot if they will make it to the end of their course or they will drop out midway. According to Professor Tinto, there are three main factors that determine whether or not a student will complete their college education and these are “academic preparation, commitment and involvement” (Seidman A. & Tinto V. 2005). Although there are other factors, these are the ones identified as being most common among most of the cases.
It has become of paramount importance for the schools to be able to retain their students because the graduation rate has become one of the factors determining the rating of a college. In order for a school to upgrade its position or maintain the one it is currently holding if it is a good position, a way has to be found to retain the students who are at risk of withdrawing from school. Professor Tinto among others have been conducting researches to determine what makes student leave school while others faced with similar problems persist. He conducts interviews using high-risk students who have succeeded in college as his subjects.
He focuses mainly on those who are in the two and the four year courses and are under prepared and underrepresented in terms of college education. He tries to find out from them which factors enabled them to persist when others failed. As stated before, commitment, preparation and involvement are the key factors determining whether one will remain in school or one will quit midway. In an article he wrote with Cathy Engstrom ‘Access Without Support is not Opportunity’ (http://www. changemag. org), they give the example of Donald who dropped out of college after transferring to a different school.
He is an example of students who drop out due to being disappointed by the college. He starts off college in a school where the teachers are concerned with the students’ welfare and the environment is challenging. However, due to familial problems Donald is forced to move to another college which he feels lacks in quality when compared to the previous school. Professor Tinto notes that, although in Donald’s he later went back to school, not all dropouts go back to finish their education. It has been recorded that majority of high-risk students especially those who are low-income do not complete their college education.
In the case of the four year degree courses, only about 26 percent of low-income students finish in a period of six years when compared to the 56 percent of high-income students who achieve the same (http://www. changemag. org). The reason given for this is that they are academically under prepared especially because they do not have access to academic resources in a manner similar to that of the high-income students. This leads to feelings of inadequacy and helplessness among the low-income students often resulting in their dropping out of school.
They tend to view the time spent in school as a waste of their time which could be used to generate income by working. This decision is made because they cannot foresee ever getting the same grades as the high-income students since they are not on the same level. This means that their lack of preparation leads to their lack of commitment to the education that they are receiving. Lack of commitment then obviously leads to very high rates of dropping out of college. To deal with this problem, the faculty has to get involved since as professor Tinto sees it they are the main perpetrators of the problem.
In Donald’s case, although he had not been well prepared for college, in his first school the teachers were concerned with his welfare and hence he was able to feel welcome in that school and able to concentrate on his studies. This corresponds to the idea that student-faculty out of class contact is very important to a students’ academic growth (Tinto V. 1993). When a student feels free to approach a teacher out of class, even if he or she was not well prepared when enrolling in the college, there is a high possibility that the student will succeed.
The reason given for this is that the student will be able to ask for assistance and guidance from the teachers. This assistance may be academic or personal for example in choosing a career one may be able to get the best guidance from the teachers who know which are the student’s strong and weak points. A student may also be suffering from personal problems that affect his or her academic performance and by opening up to a teacher may be able to get the extra help required for excellence in the academic field.
A teacher may also be able to assist a student with required material for the class or direct the studentt where to get the material if they do not have it or are unable to afford (Tinto V. 1975). From his research, Professor Tinto has found out that most of the students who succeed in college yet were in danger of dropping out attributed their achievement to contact with a faculty or staff member although this was rare (Tinto V. 1975). This contact with someone affiliated to the school helped the students get into the rhythm of college life and gave them someone to approach whenever they had problems in the school.
They also got a point of reference when setting their goals of what they would like to achieve since they now had real life models to emulate and learn from. The student-faculty out of class relationship is very important as it leads to various positive gains by the student thus ensuring their retention in school. The student involved in this sort of interaction feels more satisfied with the faculty and the college as he or she feels welcome in the school. They develop both personally and intellectually while gaining the ability to think critically by being constantly in the presence of someone with experience in the field.
The perception that the student has of the quality of the college improves consequently leading to their improved performance and in class while raising their educational aspirations. The overall result of all this is the persistence of the student to graduate since they have dreams to achieve (Tinto V. 1975). All the above is possible because the student has become committed to the education that he or she is receiving which is one of the key factors that the professor talks about.
The student feels that there is a responsibility to attain the best grade possible because there are people helping him or her and it would be wrong to let them down. Furthermore, they have their appetites for education and also betterment of their futures through the same whetted and they also feel proud of having done the best that they could. There is also a sense of not wanting to be the one who let the entire school down through bad performance and dropping out. The third key factor that the professor talks about is the importance of the involvement of the student in the school society/community.
He has come up with the idea of Learning Communities which involves the participation of both the faculty and the students. These communities work in creating a sense of community in the school that helps the students feel that they belong in a society that welcomes them. These communities are not for students only but faculty members can also form their own communities that aid them in providing the best possible education to the students while making learning easier and more enjoyable for both parties (Tinto V. & Engstrom C. 2002).
Learning Communities are described as teams that meet on a regular basis a number of times in a week. These teams have an agenda to improve their work for the collective betterment of the school. The members also want to improve themselves daily by engaging in discussions within the group that aid in the attainment of the schools goals and also their individual goals. This is done independent from the classroom experience which also takes place. However the classroom influences the teams because members of the same group have top have similar interests which are determined by what is done in class.
In the case of students, those pursuing similar courses tend to be members of the same group because they can discuss the same things in the group and also have the same goals. The students will meet several times a week at a time convenient for all the group members’ other than class time. Their discussions will revolve around the class work and the problems each encounters when attempting the same. In case there is a major problem common to all the members they have the opportunity to get in touch with a teacher and discuss the problem and get the necessary assistance (Seidman A. & Tinto V. 2005).
When it comes to the faculty members, they may decide to meet weekly or twice a month to discuss ways in which they can improve service delivery to aid the students in their education. They also offer their criticism concerning the students and try and work out which ways would be best to improve the students’ performance. They also share the common problems that they encounter when performing their duties and discuss the ways in which they can make their work easier and the best ways they can deal with the problems. It is important for both students and faculty members to be involved for the Learning Communities to work.
The students have to be able to count on the teachers support when addressing their issues and know that the teacher will respond to their queries. The teachers have to be available for consultations with the students. The students must be able to find time outside class when they can meet and address their problems and discuss class work. This is when this theory meets a hurdle in its implementation because time is a rare factor in college. It is almost impossible to find the people all having some free time at the same time and if the students manage it the teachers may not be available at that particular time.
In conclusion, one has to give Professor Tinto credit for the work that he has done in trying to come up with ways to deal with the problems that students encounter in their college life. He has dedicated a lot of his time to researching on how to make learning easier and pleasurable to students so as to avoid their dropping out of school. He focuses on the failure of the faculty to provide a good learning environment thus causing the students to feel that the education they are getting is not worthwhile. He shows the different ways that this can be remedied to ensure that students remain in school and get good education.
From his interviews, he arrives at the conclusion that for a better learning environment to be attained the students and the faculty has to change their attitude towards learning by making the learning institutions more welcoming to students. This is done by improving the out of class faculty-student relationships which aids the students get attuned to college life. It can also be done by forming learning communities which help both the students and teachers improve the education in the school and consequently the overall grade of the school.
However, as much as his arguments as very valid and his solutions reasonable there are problems that are encountered in executing them. The students and faculty members claim not to have the time to be involved in the learning communities and in the student-faculty out of class meetings. However if they were to be implemented, they would be able to work beautifully. It is however important to note that not all students will be retained since some dropout of school for other reasons different from the ones discussed by the professor but the ones discussed can be greatly reduces if the measures were to be implemented.
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