The goal of the student research study was straightforward: Bring the minority male student experience to life in a way that makes their voice central to the conversation about transforming the education system to improve their college experience and completion rates. Using a qualitative research approach enables stakeholders to see the experience through the lens of the student, to better appreciate the dynamics of the educational system through the student's eyes and to more readily identify opportunities for intervention and innovation.
The challenges of persistence
To look at the day-to-day challenges of persistence, a roughly even mix of 1st year to 5th year matriculated students made up the majority of study participants. To span the full cycle of post-secondary education, the remaining students population was split between High School seniors (to focus on special issues they face as they prepare for post-secondary education) and students who have left college as a graduate, stopout or dropout (to look at the issues that prevented or propelled them to completion).
Consequently, this is not a study that defines the behaviors of students who have elected not to go to college. Rather, it's a reflection of the factors that have the most significant impact on student success when they are already engaged (or intend to engage) with higher education.
To capture the student's voice, we conducted an interlocking set of research activities including individual, group and peer-to-peer interviews (in person and remote), on-site observation and self-documentation exercises.
A semi-structured interview protocol used themes discovered during the first round of Student Experience Lab work including: previous academic experiences and cultural and/or community frameworks, the dynamic between personal aspirations and planning a college career, navigating the system, relationships with faculty, staff and peers, and experiences outside of academics.
All interviews were audio or video recorded. Notes and/or transcriptions were analyzed for themes. Students submitted self-documented photos and captions via text message. These images were also clustered and analyzed for themes.