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Johanna Pionke, Probation, Dismissal & Reinstatement Issues Interest Group Chair

Why do some students fail to succeed in college? What interventions are most successful with these students? There is great demand for research revolving around these questions. As chair of the Probation, Dismissal & Reinstatement (PDR) Issues Interest Group, I challenge you to approach your PDR students from a research perspective.

Students typically do not come to college expecting to fail. Instead, most enter college with the expectation that they will have the opportunity gain knowledge that can help them earn a better living for themselves and their families. Research verifies that students often believe that there are few reasons why they will not succeed. They view academic probation or dismissal as something that will not happen to them.

Bartlett (2002) cites the 2001 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Annual Survey of Freshman Students showing that 44.1% of freshmen reported earning 'A' averages in high school. 57.5% of freshmen estimated their chances of making at least a B average in college as being very good. 76.5% of students expected to earn a bachelor's degree while 20.8% thought they had a very good chance of graduating from college with honors. Only 0.9% felt there was a good chance they might drop out of college temporarily, while 0.7% felt chances were very good that they would drop out of college permanently. Among this same cohort of students, 67.9% rated themselves above average in academic ability, though only 45% ranked themselves above average in writing ability and 44.2% ranked themselves above average in mathematical ability.

Despite students' positive attitude regarding their academic abilities, many end up on the academic probation, suspension or dismissal rolls. At the conclusion of each academic term, advisors, faculty and administrators review these students' academic progress and wonder why they were not successful. We look for ways to identify, or predict, those who are at greatest academic risk so that we may prevent their downward spiral. We question whether we should intervene with students who are struggling academically, or if it is better to invest time and resources on more successful students.

In journals, books and other publications, we search research for information relating to academic recovery issues, yet find little available. At conferences, it's often standing room only' in sessions discussing intervention programs at other institutions. Yet different student and program variables affect an institution's intervention program. Programs vary widely in terms of their requirements, structure, and level of intrusiveness. Some require a weekly class while others rely upon regular contact with advisors or mentors. Some intervention programs utilize group activities and tutorial support services, while still others require counseling services. Some programs are organized at the departmental level; others are college wide.

With so many different variables, it is difficult to attribute student academic success or failure directly to participation in an intervention program. What roles do student characteristics play in a student's ability to succeed? Do students' academic preparation, job and family responsibilities, study skills, or locus of control affect success? Is there a way to account for these variables?

At the conclusion of each academic term, I challenge you to look for research questions within the components of your institution's probation, dismissal and reinstatement procedures. Turn these into research projects and share your results with the Probation, Dismissal & Reinstatement (PDR) Issues Interest Group.

Johanna Pionke
Kent State University


Bartlett, Thomas. (2002, February 1). Evaluating Student Attitudes is More Difficulty This Year. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Volume 29, Issue 21, p. A35, 4p.

At the NACADA Clearinghouse -

Higgins, Beth (2004, December 1) 'Advising Students on Probation'

Cite this article using APA style as: Pionke, J. (2003, December). Academic probation, dismissal,and reinstatement issues: A research challenge. Academic Advising Today, 26(4).  [insert url here]


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