A scoping literature review of the relationship between positive psychology interventions and student retention
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The purpose of this research was firstly, to uncover by means of a scoping review, those positive psychology interventions (PPIs) aimed at both the individual and the institution which have shown positive results in retaining students; secondly, to collate the successful PPIs into a digestible format, and thirdly; to make recommendations for application in the university environment. From the vast field of student retention it was presumed that there must be successes which, if found, should be made available and even compulsory before acceptance of any student into university, ensuring them at least a fighting chance of success. Hence the research question arose and the decision was made to scope the literature in a search for individual or collaborative programmes which have shown success in student retention and to collate those for ease of access. Over the many years of student retention research, numerous theories and solutions have been proposed with scant application and minimal impact in relation to the problem. Yet despite all the theories, dropout rates continue to rise alarmingly, and with the global drive to widening participation they are likely to keep climbing. The emerging field of positive psychology is claiming some success in both individual and collaborative interventions. Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009, p. 468) define positive psychology interventions as empirically validated, purposeful activities constructed to increase the frequency and quality of positive emotions and experiences, in order to facilitate the use of actions and thoughts that lead to flourishing, whilst bearing in mind Parks and Biswas-Diener’s (2013) argument that there is no definitive classification of what constitutes a PPI and that a positive result can suffice, were the guiding principles applied in the choice of research used. This scoping review was conducted in line with Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) recommendations and the data was gathered by means of a data base search of the keywords. The findings were separated into two groups: those PPIs affecting individual aspects of the student (such as developing optimism), and those collaborative PPIs introduced by the institutions (such as compulsory mentorship programmes) showing a positive outcome in the field of student retention. A collation of the results was compiled in a narrative format, conclusions drawn, limitations noted, and recommendations made. The main finding was that there is much by way of both individual and collaborative constructs and programmes which, when applied, have shown measurable success in retaining students. It was established that student success often requires a multi-pronged approach, involving students, staff, tutors, and the institution. More importantly, some of the PPIs’ effect was sustained over the duration of time, confirming a deeper change, perhaps sustained as way of being, rather than just being influenced by the novelty of an interaction, ensuring continuation to graduation. Questions were raised as to why this information is not being shared, applied, and implemented as policy in all institutions. In addition, it was considered whether it was costs, secrecy, embarrassment, commercial advantage, or something else which was preventing the sharing of valuable retention information amongst the institutions.
- Health Sciences