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Challenge and Support for the 21st Century: A Mixed-Methods Study of College Student Success

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This study used Sanford's (1966) theory of challenge and support to explore the stories of successful college students in transition. Using a mixed-methods design, 709 first-year and senior students and 8 upper-division nontraditional students were interviewed about their college experiences. Quantitative results indicated that supportive campus environments and academic challenge were predictive of learning and that enriching educational experiences were related to graduation. Qualitative data generated four themes, suggesting how supportive campus environments and academic challenge contributed to learning while enriching educational experiences supported graduation outcomes. Taken together, the results suggest that college environments facilitative of academic success are those conducive to increasing opportunities to find support and engage challenge.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is a semiannual refereed journal providing current research on the first college year and other significant student transitions. The primary purpose of the Journal is to disseminate empirical research findings on student transition issues that inform practice in all sectors of postsecondary education, such as explorations into the academic, personal, and social experiences (including outcomes related to success, learning, and development) of students at a range of transition points throughout the college years; transition issues unique to specific populations (e.g., non-traditional, traditional, historically underrepresented students, transfer students, commuters, part-time students); and explorations of faculty development, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations connected to college transitions.
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