Date of Award

Fall 8-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Sherry DeVore

Second Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Bishop

Third Advisor

Dr. Steve Bishop

Abstract

Student retention poses a major challenge to higher education in America. Research has demonstrated colleges that foster student engagement have higher retention rates than colleges that fail to do so. Writing centers are student services that improve student engagement and retention. This study focused upon the Fall 2013 cohort of developmental composition students in one Missouri community college, to determine if students’ use of the writing center made a positive difference upon student engagement or successful completion of their course. The study was designed with a two-pronged approach to answer four questions. The first question was posed to determine a statistical difference existed between the retention rates of developmental composition students who visited the writing center and students who did not. A Chi-square Goodness of Fit statistical analysis determined with 95% accuracy that a difference did exist. The remaining questions were posed to obtain student perceptions regarding prospects for persisting in school, level of engagement with the college, and effects the writing center made upon engagement and persistence. These questions were answered with an online survey employing 19 Likert-scale statements to which the student could express level of agreement; responses were subjected to descriptive analysis. Student respondents expressed nearly 100% belief they would persist in school; expressed a high degree of engagement while claiming they were not engaged with the college; and expressed over 75% belief that the writing center had improved their engagement and persistence in school. These findings suggest writing centers do offer a valuable tool for improving student engagement and persistence. Future studies should be designed to provide a more global assessment of what writing centers do and how they might improve their services.

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