Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Student perceptions of the higher education transfer process from two-year to four-year institutions: A qualitative study viewed through the lenses of student departure, social network, and complexity theories
by Kelly, Kevin, Ed.D., University of San Francisco, 2009, 211; 3370305
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study explored higher education transfer student perceptions of (a) the transfer process between two- and four-year institutions, (b) social network influences on their decisions to stay in higher education, (c) the role of technology in the process, and (d) organizational policies and practices that might influence the process. This study used student departure, social network, and complexity theories to describe the higher education transfer student experience from a holistic viewpoint.

The researcher conducted interviews with thirteen higher education transfer students from two- and four-year institutions located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Eight of the thirteen participants belonged to historically underrepresented ethnicity populations. The researcher asked the participants to describe and analyze their experiences and decisions during the transfer process, and influences that came from their background and from external environments. The participants perceived that they themselves had the greatest influence on their decisions to stay in higher education, but also perceived external influences.

The participants relied on different people in their personal networks to achieve various levels of academic and social integration, respectively. Participants perceived great value in using technology for transfer purposes, such as electronic portfolios and social network sites, but sometimes preferred human interaction. Diversity and encouragement emerged as important themes.

Social network and complexity theories enhanced and reconceptualized the concepts portrayed in Tinto's (1993) longitudinal model of student departure. Tinto's model comprised only part of a much larger fractal pattern of the overall transfer-related phase transition. New initial conditions existed every time the pattern repeated at a smaller scale over time (e.g., every year, every decision). Certain pre-entry attributes parents' educational experiences and the participants' prior schooling—were also phase transitions, not static historical constants. Participants sought or sought to be strange attractors—influences that could break them or others from repetitive, linear patterns.

Recommendations were made for higher education transfer students and administrators at higher education institutions. Recommendations for future research included calls for further investigation of higher education transfer students who dropped out, barriers for historically underrepresented ethnicity populations, and case studies of inter-institutional programs that use electronic portfolios for transfer purposes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bloch, Deborah P.
School: University of San Francisco
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Community college education, Higher education
Keywords: Complexity theory, Higher education, Social network, Social network theory, Student departure theory, Student perceptions, Transfer students
Publication Number: 3370305
ISBN: 978-1-109-30621-7
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