A Phenomenological Study:
The Influence of Noncognitive Factors
on Academically Unprepared College Students
Conclusions and Recommendations
The purpose of the study was to discover through the exploration of lived experiences, the influence of noncognitive factors on college students’ academic preparedness. Chapter 4 data results focused on textual categories, structural themes, and creative synthesis. Chapter 5 entails a subjective discussion of the phenomenological research findings from the data analysis and results. Chapter 5 begins with a discussion on findings surrounding textual categories such as lived experiences before k-12, lived experiences during k-12, lived experiences during college, and noncognitive factors.
Textual Category Findings
Creswell (2007) reported textual descriptions are an explanation of what participants experienced in reference to the study’s phenomenon. As a precursor to the structural theme findings, the textual category findings suggested what participants experienced were negative social-cultural influences related to their home environment, which may have affected their behavioral choices. This was consistent with Sanagavarapu (2008), who implied an individuals’ self-regulation was a social cultural phenomenon primarily emanating from an individuals’ home environment. The finding was also consistent with Jolivet (2012), who reported the primary issue with developmental vulnerability was how the child perceived his or her relationship with each parent.
Textual Category 1
The first category, lived experiences before k-12, was mainly a focus on reading experiences before the participant entered elementary school. Early educational factors such as participants’ many reading experiences before they entered elementary school were an unexpected finding. A total of 69% (11 of 16) of participants were read to, primarily by their siblings or grandparents, which may suggest a lack of parental involvement. This significant finding was supported by Fewell and Deutscher (2004) who stated, “Positive changes in developmental functioning occurred only when the mothers increased their level of response during interactions with their children” (p. 133). However, the textual category finding in reference to academic preparedness was questionable because the level of response between participants and parents were not accessible.
Textual Category 2
The second category, lived experiences during k-12, entailed participants experiencing negative family issues such as a broken home, personal issues such as drinking alcohol, or making bad decisions. The significant statements made by participants supported negative aspects of their broken home, lack of family support, alcohol abuse, and possibly a deficient k-12 system. Of the at-risk factors noted in the Griffin (2008) report, the majority of participants identified having at least three negative aspects such as broken home, lack of transportation, and lack of employment for parents. Personal factors associated with this textual category such as lack of family support were suggestive of both cognitive and noncognitive underpreparedness. Participants’ lack of guidance suggested one possible reason for their unfortunate choices, which also contributed to their academic underpreparedness.
The only participant who was both cognitively and noncognitively prepared for college experienced relatively few family issues or personal issues. In addition, both of his parents lived within the household during k-12. However, the most influential finding was this participants’ involvement in family activities with both parents, activities with his siblings, and having to do chores. As well, this participant did not develop any personal issues such as alcoholism during adolescence or adulthood. The finding is supported by Boylan (2009) and Mathews (2010), who both acknowledged that personal factors may influence students’ academic preparedness.
The study’s finding was also consistent with Boylan’s (2009) finding that combining cognitive (i.e., analytical skills) with noncognitive factors (i.e., affective and personal factors) may provide a means for targeted interventions for academically underprepared college students. As well, the study’s findings supported by participants’ significant statements implied that learning communities may help to provide a supportive collaborative environment for developmental learning. Engstrom and Tinto (2008) supported the notion that learning communities may help provide students with a feeling of belonging, which may offset their negative home experiences.
Textual Category 3
The third category, lived experiences during college, was that participants benefited academically from affective factors such as motivation and perseverance. A significant finding was participants’ motivation and perseverance was beneficial to academic preparedness. Participants indicated that their determination to complete their college degree and college support services were vital. Boylan (2009) supported the notion that affective factors are just as important as cognitive skills for academic preparedness during college because noncognitive factors are an indication of how these students feel about themselves. The finding was supported by Duckworth et al.’s (2007) research findings that implied affective factors such as perseverance and temperament may be as important as cognitive skills for academic preparedness.
Textual Category 4
The fourth textual category, noncognitive factors, referred to participants’ desire to learn life skills. The significant finding was that most participants implied that inspiring teachers made education fun and that creative and practical skills were just as important as cognitive skills. However, the analysis of participants’ significant statements suggested that creative and practical skills (i.e., life skills) were not an integral part of their educational experience. Another finding was that participants wanted more hands on fun classroom experiences integrated as life skills training. Mathews’ (2010) finding that students desire fun assignments with recognition of their hard work is consistent with this finding.
Structural Theme Findings
Using the previously mentioned textual categories was partially helpful in discovering structural themes. Giorgi (1985) described structural themes as building the structure of participants’ experience within the phenomenon. In this study, the structure of the phenomenon was built by using the research sub-questions as a guide and iterative readings of every invariant constitute within textual categories.
Structural Theme 1
The findings for structural themes positive experiences, informing of available services, and guidance for career planning were confounding themes but suggestive of a lack of institutional cohesiveness at Northern New Mexico College (NNMC). Findings from these structural themes were suggestive that although participants indicated mainly positive experiences at NNMC, they were not informed of available services or guidance for career planning at the admissions counter. The recommendation is to connect every curriculum with student support services, which may result in better communication at the admissions counter. Levin et al. (2010) recommended that colleges connect every curriculum offered to students with student support services. This aspect of institutional cohesiveness is consistent with this study’s finding.
Structural Theme 2
The findings for the structural themes parental involvement and teacher involvement were suggestive of negative influence on college students’ academic preparedness. One way to counteract this at the college level may involve providing part-time faculty with full benefits, which would acknowledge that they contribute toward participants’ academic preparedness. This recommendation is consistent with Levin et al.’s (2010) suggestion that providing full benefits to part-time faculty may increase cooperation between program personnel. Providing internships for k-12 students and invitations to parents of k-12 students to attend program events would help develop linkages and relationships with external parties for improving students’ academic preparedness.
Structural Theme 3
The findings for the structural themes behavioral choices, commonalities, and implicit complex structures illustrated how personal factors may hinder participants’ academic preparedness. By including personal factors with cognitive factors during the academic assessment of new students, academic advisors can appropriately target student interventions, which is consistent with Boylan (2009). As suggested by Griffin (2008), underprepared students may need an encouraging academic environment to prepare them academically and to promote their self worth. The federally funded link courses at NNMC addressed concerns in the Griffin study but expanding this as a campus wide model using an instructional specialist with a committee of students as constituents may also provide consistency. Providing curriculum consistency is consistent with Levin et al.’s (2010) finding that instructional specialist improved communication between programs with a committee of constituents (i.e., students).
Structural Theme 4
The findings for structural themes confidence/self esteem, perseverance/determination, and convergent perspective showed how noncognitive factors may become a positive influence on students’ ability to continue their degree aspirations. This is consistent with Cunha and Heckman (2008) suggestion that noncognitive factors are more malleable at later ages than cognitive factors, which according to Bailey (2009) may account for minimal degree attainment results using only cognitive training within developmental education. For these participants, noncognitive skills were as important as cognitive skills for obtaining a better return on investment (ROI) within developmental education. This is also consistent with the Cunha and Heckman (2008) model in which adolescence and adulthood become critical developmental periods for obtaining better ROI using noncognitive factors for developmental education.
Structural Theme 5
The findings for the structural themes academic activities, broken bridge, divergent perspective, and self-control were suggestive of ways noncognitive skill factors such as creative and practical skills have a positive influence on the academic preparedness of underprepared college students. Participants may need to learn life skills such as creative skills and practical skills integrated with cognitive skills to successfully accomplish their dreams and develop self-control. This finding is consistent with Sternberg’s (2008) contention that a set of integrated skills are necessary for individuals to become successful in obtaining their goals. Thematic findings suggested there is a disconnection between cognitive skills and noncognitive skills and the need for public educational leadership to acknowledge the equal importance of noncognitive skills, which is consistent with both Heckman (2008) and Weel (2008). These findings and previously mentioned findings provided insight into participants’ cognitive and noncognitive academic preparedness.
Creative Synthesis Findings
The data results indicated that most participants in this study were both noncognitively underprepared as well as cognitively underprepared. Within the creative synthesis findings, four cognitive/noncognitive distinctions were useful toward understanding participants’ academic preparedness and underpreparedness by using cognitive and noncognitive distinctions to better understand the implicit complex structure inherent within the phenomenon. These cognitive and noncognitive distinctions may enhance the positive aspects of academic underprepared students within learning communities as well as providing them with a sense of belonging. Engstrom and Tinto (2008) suggested a sense of belonging can result from educational institutions integrating developmental education into the mainstream to avoid marginalizing these students by separating them from the mainstream. Further, Hand and Payne (2008) suggested providing emotional support through a network of relationships may play an important role in academic persistence; the latter can be enhanced through outreach programs that address the four cognitive/noncognitive distinctions.
Cognitively prepared/noncognitively prepared
John revealed by his behavior during the interview and his interview responses that he may possess good cognitive and noncognitive skills. John noted that he often helped other students as an informal unpaid mentor. Innovations linking below college level courses and college level courses should address the presence of this type of student, not to separate the student, but to allow this student to work as a paid informal student mentor. This finding was supported by Ramirez (2009), who considered mentoring as synonymous with nurturing and tutoring and vital for programs and institutional practices. As part of institutional practice, outreach activities may offer faculty training to understand the dynamics of different types of academic underpreparedness as well as provide stipends for students acting as informal mentors.
Cognitively prepared/noncognitively underprepared
Participants Frank and Tanya were in the cognitively prepared and noncognitively underprepared category, and they may become good basic skill mentors. However, they may need additional training with self-regulation to assist them toward their goals. This finding was consistent with Vukman and Licardo (2010), who advocated using self-regulation to find alternatives when encountering obstacles to one’s goals. Berger (2011) implied interventions focused on self-regulation such as setting goals, monitoring self progress, and note taking were a form of self-regulated learning in which learners become aware of their limitations and strengths and become proactive in their learning. Innovative institutional outreach may provide Frank and Tanya with an improved ability to make behavioral choices, set goals, and monitor self progress.
Cognitively underprepared/noncognitively prepared
The four participants (i.e., Jane, Henry, Lydia, and Phil) in this cognitively underprepared and noncognitively prepared category may need cognitive improvement. However, focusing merely on cognitive improvement was found to be ineffective within the literature review. Heckman (2008) revealed cognitive improvement alone was largely ineffective for adults because of low cognitive brain malleability during late adolescence and adulthood, which may indicate a need for outreach training in metacognitive skills. Metacognitive skills are a way for students with low cognitive intelligence quotient (IQ) to compensate and become academically prepared (Dunlosky & Metcalfe, 2009). Innovative institutional outreach may provide these four students with stipends as an informal noncognitive skills mentor.
Cognitively underprepared/noncognitively underprepared
Most of the participants were in the cognitive underprepared and noncognitive underprepared category. Seven or 78% of the nine participants in this category reported family issues such as a broken home and alcoholism. The participants’ statements and the literature review suggested personal issues contributed to inconsistent actions and lack of goal setting during the k-12 experience. Morisano and Shore (2010) implied self-regulation may provide the basis for persistent action and further implicated personal goal setting as a direct engagement to address academic underpreparedness. Developmental outreach programs may need to focus on students’ self-regulation skills, metacognitive skills, and cognitive skills, as these skills provide a foundation for academic preparedness.
However, the cognitive underprepared/noncognitive underprepared category may represent the most challenging level of academic underpreparedness and developmental outreach programs may need to find other solutions as well. Students who are classified within this category may require Blair and Diamond’s (2008) alternative perspective, which views self-regulation as a balance between cognitive control and emotional arousal, suggesting students’ awareness of optimal balance may improve their academic preparedness. Developmental outreach programs should consider the self-regulated learning strategies recommended by Vukman and Licardo which include planning, monitoring, regulation, reflection, and linking to academic achievement outcomes.
Vulman and Licardo (2010) argued self-regulation of metacognitive skills was an important indicator of academic preparedness. The formation of these noncognitive auxiliary skills may become the solution for improving developmental education, as these skills are malleable during adulthood and late adolescents. This is consistent with Heckman (2008), Cunha and Heckman (2008; 2009) and Vygotsky (1978), who advocated auxiliary skills were the formation of abilities such as controlling behavioral impulses and the ability to plan. Figure 2 provides a subjective illustration of noncognitive influences on participants’ self-regulation (i.e., control of thoughts, attention, and actions) and their metacognitive skill (i.e., an ability to plan for the future).
Central Research Question Findings
For this portion of the study, answering the central research question provided an understanding of the ways noncognitive factors in four noncognitive areas affected participants’ academic preparedness. The central research question was: in what ways do noncognitive factors influence the preparedness of academically underprepared students at Northern New Mexico College? Each noncognitive area from the Figure 1 model in chapter 1 was essential for understanding the relationship between the central research question and the four noncognitive factors: personal factors, early educational factors, affective factors, and noncognitive skill factors. Five research sub-questions were useful toward discovering the influence of these four noncognitive areas.
R1: Research sub-question 1
The question of how do academically underprepared college students perceive their college lived experience was essential to start the process of understanding the phenomenon of academic underpreparedness. This initial question allowed the participants to become comfortable talking freely about their thoughts concerning their experiences at NNMC. However, under probing, many participants perceived negative experiences with the admissions staff when they enrolled. These negative experiences revealed that admissions personnel at NNMC were in many instances rude to enrolling students and made them feel awkward for merely asking questions, which may be a symptom resulting from a lack of institutional cohesiveness. However, most participants perceived their college experience as positive primarily as a result of student support services that included link courses, also known as the bridge program.
R1: Research sub-question 2
The second research sub-question: how do academically underprepared college students perceive their lived experience related to early educational factors before and during k-12, had a primary focus on early educational factors before college. Most participants perceived their early educational experiences as a mixed perception of receiving attention from some family members but not necessarily from their parents. Participant’s perception of school during this early education period before college was of having some helpful and inspiring teachers but these experiences were sporadic. Most academically underprepared college students perceive early educational factors before and during k-12 as a negative experience in which broken homes, family issues, and poor decision-making were common. The majority of negative experiences were the result of personal factors explored in the third research sub-question.
R1: Research sub-question 3
For the third research sub-question concerning how do academically underprepared students in college describe lived experience related to personal factors that may help or hinder their educational experiences, participants described many commonalities of negative family issues and personal issues. Nine (i.e., 56%) participants did not enjoy their school experience or their home life experience and many of these participants developed negative behaviors such as alcohol usage and skipping school. The remaining seven (i.e., 44%) participants perceived some aspects of school or home life as an enjoyable experience but many of these participants still developed negative personal issues such as drinking alcohol or marrying an alcoholic spouse. In this study, most participants described personal factors as hindering rather than helping their educational aspirations. Conversely, the same participants provided a different perspective with regard to the fourth research sub-question.
R1: Research sub-question 4
The fourth research sub-question was in what ways do academically underprepared college students describe lived experience related to affective factors such as overcoming the challenges they face in obtaining a college degree? With the help of financial aid and link courses, participants described their motivation and determination to obtain a college degree as an attitude of not to be denied, no matter what occurred in their life. Participants described that they wanted to feel a sense of self esteem through personal accomplishment and to feel good about themselves. To answer the question academically underprepared college students described the confidence that a new found maturity of self-control and financial aid provides when obtaining a college degree.
R1: Research sub-question 5
The fifth research sub-question concerning what influences do creativity and practical skills have on participants’ lived experience related to their academic preparedness, was suggestive of more positive influences than lecture alone. Most of the participants recognized the important influence of creativity and practical skills combined with cognitive skills. Creative and practical skills influence life skills and make education fun; the academic preparedness of underprepared college students may become enhanced by these skills. However, one participant described skills such as creativity and practical skills as not important because they were not part of the educational system and therefore not needed to complete a college degree. Answering the five research sub-questions was a method for addressing the central research question and satisfying the purpose of the study.
Purpose and Significance to Leadership
The purpose of the study was to discover, through the exploration of lived experiences, the influence of noncognitive factors on college students’ academic preparedness. The results of this study may provide educational leaders with a better understanding of academic preparedness for underprepared college students. In the past, cognitive skill testing was at the heart of an attempt to provide educational opportunities in the United States for every individual (Jackson, 2007). However, Lindqvist and Vestman (2011) noted that diverse gender and ethnic populations of students may benefit more by focusing on their noncognitive skills rather than on their cognitive skills. Exploring the ways noncognitive factors may shape cognitive skills is significant to community college leadership for developing support systems to better assist students’ academic preparedness.
Jurgens (2010) reported nearly 50% of the graduates from 4-year institutions are students beginning their educational aspirations through community colleges. To improve the promise of community colleges and of developmental programs associated with these colleges, educational leadership must consider the importance of noncognitive factors in relation to self-regulation, metacognition, and cognitive skills. Educational leadership may need to refocus efforts so that community colleges use current knowledge of noncognitive factors for interventions, curriculum consistency, and academic preparedness standards.
The research findings were only generalizable to other colleges that have similar diverse ethnic populations of academically underprepared college students. Subjective bias may affect the research findings. To mitigate possible bias, the researcher disclosed potential bias with the phenomenon of academic underpreparedness and used participants’ significant statements to verify subjective results and findings. In addition, the small sample size of 16 underprepared college participants was a limitation.
While metacognition studies concerning executive functions such as self-regulation and metacognitive functioning corroborates the importance of recognizing a disregulated emotional system (Crooks & Kirkland, 2010), these research studies do not elaborate on external forces influencing the disregulated emotional system. Sitzmann and Ely (2011) noted self-regulation as the most essential adult asset for enabling effective functioning in personal lives, workforce, and higher education. However, researchers primarily focused on individuals with disabilities in the investigation of this aspect of executive control and neglected the general adult population (Garner, 2009). Although the current study was not generalizable to the larger population, the study was an important step toward establishing ways that noncognitive factors may influence students’ disregulated emotional system, thereby influencing their academic preparedness.
In this study, one major research implication was the influence of noncognitive factors seen from Vygotsky’s developmental law in which social-cultural experiences through intertwining constructs of self-regulation and metacognition have an implicit influence on college students’ academic preparedness. The current research focusing on four noncognitive areas suggested these factors may influence students’ self-regulation and metacognition, thereby influencing their academic preparedness. Educators may use noncognitive skills training to produce a better ROI than solely investing in building cognitive skills for adolescent and adult college students (Cunha & Heckman, 2009).
Another major research implication was that studies of noncognitive factor may become a focus for improving education. The current political trend toward measuring only students’ cognitive skills suggests an incomplete understanding of the importance of noncognitive factors, especially concerning academic underprepared college students. Sternberg (2008), a noted educational psychologist, argued the change of focusing on noncognitive factors can occur without lowering academic preparedness standards.
Recommendations to Educational Leaders
Based on textual categories, structural themes, and creative synthesis, the first recommendation is to make learning enjoyable with less focus on lecturing while demonstrating practical, creative, and cognitive skills to develop life skills. Mathews (2010) reported students exhibited apathetic behaviors when a lack of hands-on activities and a lack of personal support were evident in the classroom. The current exploratory study revealed these noncognitive factors may have an integral and implicit complex structure of influence on academic preparedness.
The second recommendation entails providing self-regulation knowledge support for every student, as this may improve students’ metacognitive planning skills and thereby improve their academic preparedness. According to Vukman and Licardo (2009), self-regulation of metacognitive skills is an important indicator of academic preparedness. Dunlosky and Metcalfe (2009) suggested students with a low IQ may compensate and become academically prepared through their metacognitive skills. Leadership in education may increase retention rates as well as improve the learning potential of every student by making him or her aware of his or her self-regulation and metacognitive abilities and training them to improve on these abilities.
The third recommendation entails providing college support services for every student, whether they seem to need it or not as a way to greet every student with a supportive and cohesive education atmosphere. Some students who did not know anyone at NNMC or did not identify as having a learning disability had a difficult time finding support at the beginning of his or her college education. In brief, NNMC offers many helpful college support services but apparently this information is not shared with the whole student population at the admissions counter during enrollment. Rather than community colleges applying for grants to provide college support services, community colleges may need to receive this funding without applying, as a regular part of providing educational college support services for the entire student population. Bailey (2009) noted both academically prepared and academically unprepared students have difficulty with their classes and recommended eliminating the misguided developmental distinction by providing assistance for every student.
Additionally, Morisano and Shore (2010) argued basing education on cognitive IQ scores may exclude gifted underachieving students. According to Morisano and Shore, gifted underachievers rely on nonacademic abilities such as creativity and intrinsic motivation. Noncognitive factors, when included with cognitive factors, may not only help gifted underachievers and academically underprepared college students but may also inform an out-of-date U.S. public educational policy.
Future Research Directions
Future research directions may include researchers developing studies on noncognitive theory to update an out-of-date cognitive g-factor theory that continues as the current foundation for U.S. public education policy. Weel (2008) noted that cognitive skills based on IQ have one underlying aspect known as g-factor. Additional qualitative studies may provide another viewpoint to connect the many processes of noncognitive factors in one theoretical model. A quantitative study of the ways noncognitive areas jointly influence academic preparedness may also be needed.
Just as the Binet questionnaire became the foundation for IQ testing, noncognitive questionnaires can become the foundation for new cognitive/noncognitive life skills tests that consider both noncognitive and cognitive factors. The possibility of using noncognitive factors combined with cognitive factors as the foundation for U.S. public education policy may require future research to deal with the ever-growing population of underprepared adolescents and adults entering college. Huffman (2009) noted a potential loss in the trillions of dollars when comparing the U.S. educational system to educational systems in top-performing countries such as Finland and Singapore. Bailey (2009) noted “developmental education as it is now practiced is not very effective in overcoming academic weaknesses” (p. 12).
The premise that many noncognitive areas may influence students’ self-regulation and therefore their metacognitive skills may require further study. Cunha and Heckman (2009) noted noncognitive factors are more malleable in late adolescence and adulthood than cognitive factors, which are more malleable in childhood. Research into how noncognitive factors effect self-regulation and metacognitive skills among the developmental periods of late adolescence and adults could benefit from future research, as self-regulation and metacognition may help academic underprepared college students compensate for low IQ.
In summary, textual category 1, lived experiences before k-12, finding suggested a lack of parental involvement, but in reference to academic preparedness was questionable because the level of response between participants and parents were not accessible. Textual category 2, lived experiences during k-12, finding was a focus on personal factors such as lack of family support to suggest one possible reason for participants’ unfortunate choices, which also contributed to their academic underpreparedness. Textual category 3, lived experiences during college, finding was that participants’ motivation and perseverance was beneficial to their academic preparedness. Textual category 4, noncognitive factors, finding was that most participants suggested inspiring teachers made education fun and that creative and practical skills were just as important as cognitive skills but were not an integral part of their educational experience.
Structural themes 1, positive experiences, informing of available services, and guidance for career planning, finding was suggestive of a lack of institutional cohesiveness between instructional programs, student support services, and admissions counter personnel. Structural themes 2, parental involvement and teacher involvement, finding was suggestive of a lack of linkages and relationships between teachers and parents for improving students’ academic preparedness. Structural themes 3, behavioral choices, commonalities, and implicit complex structures, finding was suggestive of the ways that personal factors may hinder participants’ academic preparedness with recommendations to ensure promoting their self-confidence as well as providing curriculum consistency. Structural themes 4, confidence/self esteem, perseverance/determination, and convergent perspective, finding was suggestive that noncognitive skill formation was just as important as cognitive skill formation in obtaining a better ROI within developmental education. Structural themes 5, academic activities, broken bridge, divergent perspective, and self-control, finding was suggestive of the ways noncognitive skill factors such as creative and practical skills have a positive influence on the academic preparedness of underprepared college students.
The textual categories and structural themes were vital toward discovering cognitive/noncognitive distinctions. The cognitively underprepared/noncognitively underprepared distinction included the majority of participants. This distinction finding suggested developmental programs may need to include more of students’ noncognitive skills such as creative skills, practical skills, and knowledge of their self-regulation skills as well as their metacognitive skills than focusing on cognitive skills alone.
Textual categories and structural themes were also vital toward answering the five research sub-questions. The first research sub-question was how do academically underprepared college students perceive their college lived experience? Positive experiences were the initial perception of most participants’ college experience. However, under probing, participants remembered that the admission personnel did not inform them of available services or about guidance for career planning. Instead, the participants lived experience about this information came later through their conversations with friends and teachers.
The second research sub-question was: how do academically underprepared college students perceive their lived experience related to early educational factors before and during k-12? In essence, many of the participants’ perceived early educational factors before k-12 as chaotic with much strife between their parents. However, the majority of them were read to but not by their parents but by their siblings or grandparents. Academically underprepared college students perceived early educational factors during k-12 as equally chaotic with sporadic positive lived experiences.
The third research sub-question was: how do academically underprepared students in college describe lived experience related to personal factors that may help or hinder their educational experiences? For this question, personal factors were integrated with interpretive phenomenological analysis, which provided a vast source of participants’ commonalities through their direct quotes focusing on family issues and personal issues. For the most, participants described the noncognitive area of personal factors in their lived experience as hindering their educational experiences.
The fourth research sub-question was: in what ways do academically underprepared college students describe lived experience related to affective factors such as overcoming the challenges they face in obtaining a college degree? Participants described their challenges within a combination of affective factors such as perseverance and motivation combined with student support services to enhance participants’ academic preparedness. They also described their current lived experience in college with an increased confidence in their chances of obtaining a college degree.
The fifth research sub-question was: what influences do creativity and practical skills have on participants’ lived experience related to their academic preparedness? Fun was a terminology found throughout participants’ description in association with creativity and practical skills. In this study, underprepared college students suggested creativity and practical skills have a positive effect on their lived experiences and academic preparedness.
In mention to the four noncognitive areas found in the Figure 1 model, the study findings show that early educational factors were not consequential because the amount of interactions between parents and participants were not accessible. In reference to personal factors, this area was a commonality in participants’ cognitive and noncognitive lived experiences and had a negative effect on most participants’ academic preparedness. Affective factors were helpful toward participants’ academic preparedness when converging with college support services. Noncognitive skill factors were vital for academic preparedness; however because they are not part of educational measures, this noncognitive area was a divergent factor.
The four areas of noncognitive factors found in Figure 1 were vital toward discovering cognitive/noncognitive distinctions, which provides researchers and educational leadership with information on ways to reform educational practice. Levin et al. (2010) argued reforming educational practice in community colleges may require a new way of organizing the educational experiences of students, faculty, administrators, and staff. The findings from the current study support Boylan (2009), who argued developmental education may need to expand cognitive assessments to include affective and personal factors. The current study also supports Sternberg (2008), who argued for a broader spectrum of abilities such as creative and practical skills, as part of students’ educational life skills training.
The research results indicate noncognitive factors influence college students’ academic preparedness in a variety of complex ways. Research limitations as well as research implications, research recommendations, and suggestions for future research were also discussed. This study added to the body of knowledge and understanding of the influence of noncognitive factors on academic preparedness.
The only other study found using different areas of noncognitive factors is Boylan’s (2009) study, which advocated affective factors and personal factors become part of cognitive assessment during admissions. This study expanded on that study and four other studies by exploring four areas of noncognitive factors and discovered some of the ways that participants’ self-regulation and metacognition were potentially influenced. Heath (2008) implied using the imagination can be an indispensable method for understanding the experiences of other individuals. This exploratory study focused on the influences of noncognitive factors on college students’ academic preparedness from the academically underprepared college student’s perspective.
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UMI Number: 3536193
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