Students’ interactions with their peers: results from the KCLxBIT Pulse Survey

Maija Koponen, King’s College London & Lucy Makinson, Behavioural Insights Team |

During the KCLxBIT project we carried out a six-point pulse survey alongside our randomised control trials, with the aims of improving our understanding of the first year student experience, and gaining insights into potential key differences between WP and non-WP students. For the purposes of this survey, we used ACORN categories 4 & 5 as our WP indicators. More detailed information on the scale & content of the surveys can be found in our previous blog posts. The full six waves of the survey have now been analysed, including weighting individual responses to reflect the demographics of the whole first-year student population at King’s. [1]

Over the course of the surveys we wanted to explore how socially integrated students felt at King’s —did they feel as if they had built strong friendships, and did they feel part of the King’s student community? The importance of social integration and support at university appears in all major models of student attrition. [2]  We used a 7-item scale used to evaluate the “Peer-Group Interactions” component of the Student Integration Model, scores on which significantly distinguished university persisters from voluntary dropouts. [3] This scale sought students’ agreement with statements such as:

  • Since coming to this university, I have developed close personal relationships with other students;
  • Few of the students I know would be willing to listen to me and help me if I had a personal problem; and,
  • Most students at this university have values and attitudes different from my own.

Responses to this question can be seen in the graph below. We compared results between WP and non-WP students, and found significant differences in responses to two of these questions. The results indicated that WP students were significantly less likely to have developed close personal relationships with other students, and were more likely to agree that not many of their peers at King’s would listen and help them if they had a personal problem.

Figure 1: Percentage of students responding “agree” or “strongly agree” to the following statements, in Wave 2 (end of their first term).

studentrelationships

We asked this set of questions twice, in the second and sixth waves, and saw that over the course of the year there was no significant change in levels of positivity (although the direction is slightly positive). We also saw that WP students started out the year slightly, but significantly, less positive about their peer groups, and that this persisted through to their summer holidays. On each of the items within the scale, across both waves, we saw a smaller proportion of WP students responding positively, although this difference was not significant for any individual item.

In another wave of the survey, we asked students a one-off question about their friendship networks, both in and beyond King’s. The question prompted them to provide insights of the make-up of their group of closest friends. The clearest difference was in the ethnic composition of their friendship group, with WP students having significantly more close friends from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (even after we controlled for the ethnicity of the student). However, attitudes to social mixing did not differ significantly across the groups, with about 3 in 5 feeling there should be more social mixing at King’s, and less than 5 per cent thinking there should be less.

The full Pulse Survey results will be available on our blog in the coming week, as we publish our KCLxBIT project report. Join us this Wednesday, 31 January 2018, at King’s College London as we publish our project results. The event will include discussions around the future of evidence-led practice in full student lifecycle approaches. Sign up here:  https://kclxbit.eventbrite.co.uk

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[1] For example, female students were slightly over-represented in the panel survey relative to the first-year student population so we down-weighted their responses relative to male respondents.

[2] Such as the Student Integration Model, the Student Attrition Model, and the more empirically-based ETS Working Model of Student Persistence.

[3]  Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1980). Predicting freshman persistence and voluntary dropout decisions from a theoretical model. The Journal of Higher Education, 60-75.

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