The transition to post-secondary education for Canadian Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal students : a focus on adjustment, fit and anticipated persistence.
Why do some first year students continue and others leave before their second year? This has been a pressing question for a number of years. Consequently, there has been a growing interest in examining the experiences of first-year post-secondary students and identifying the factors that are associated with their attrition and persistence. In Canada, there is a specific need to understand the experiences of the Aboriginal people. This group of individuals has shown significantly lower post-secondary completion rates than the non-Aboriginal population, and many view their participation in higher education as being the key to a better future. The purpose of this research was to explore factors associated with the adjustment and anticipated persistence of first year Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. To this end, the connections between adjustment, person-environment fit, anticipated persistence and a number of psychosocial and background variables were investigated using a quantitative-descriptive mixed method design. In the first part of the study, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants within a university context and Aboriginal participants alone within a college environment were followed from the fall of their first year (N=316) to the spring of their first year (N=159) in order to examine the first year transition experience. In the second portion of the study, a subset of Aboriginal students (N=11) was interviewed about their post-secondary experiences in order to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the transition experience. Full or partial support was found for the majority of the hypotheses related to adjustment, fit, and anticipated persistence. In the present study, academic, social and personal-emotional adjustment were each associated with subjective fit, beliefs about the transition experience, social support, and academic self-efficacy. Furthermore, each type of adjustment was also associated with additional unique correlates. This research also highlights that anticipated persistence is complex, with a number of background factors (e.g., high school preparation), psychosocial factors (e.g., beliefs about the transition experience, social support, academic self-efficacy) as well as adjustment and person-environment fit being relevant to this decision. In addition, this research highlights that Aboriginal students do not have poorer adjustment or fit compared to their non-Aboriginal peers but that they do have lower levels of anticipated persistence. A discussion of these and other findings as well as the implications and limitations of the present study is provided.
transition, retention, university, persistence, Aboriginal, students, post-secondary, adjustment
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)