Exploring the optimal role of residence heads in promoting student success: an institutional case study

Groenewald, Johan (2017-03)

Thesis (DEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2017

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : Attempts to improve student success in higher education are becoming more holistic and integrated in nature, while also acknowledging that informal out-of-class learning environments can significantly contribute to promoting student success. Such out-ofclass environments include student residences. In South African higher education too there is a growing awareness of the role that residences could play in promoting student success. This study focuses on exploring the optimal role of residence heads in promoting student success, with Stellenbosch University (SU) as the institutional case. The complexity of the South African higher education context within which SU finds itself and the transformation that the institution itself is undergoing make envisaging the optimal role of the residence head in the future SU challenging. The research question this study seeks to answer is: What is the optimal role of residence heads in promoting student success at a higher education institution? As this research problem is vague, broad, complex and systemic, it firstly necessitated an overview of international and national developments in student success and the role of residences in this regard, culminating in a student success level conceptual framework. This study adopted an interpretivist research paradigm. The research design was an explorative revelatory single case of the residence environment at SU. The research method for data gathering and data analysis was Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA). Purposive and convenient sampling from four population groups within the residence environment of SU identified participants for the focus group discussions and personal interviews. These focus group discussions and personal interviews enabled the construction of systems influence diagrams (SID). SIDs are mindmaps representing participants’ interpretation of the phenomenon being investigated. The most significant finding of the study is that the optimal role of the future residence head is a blended role of being a leader and playing an intentional educational role. The main purpose of this blended role is promoting student success. Furthermore, the residence head should not see student success simply as academic achievement, but should have a holistic understanding of promoting student success. The conceptualised student success level (SSL) framework can significantly contribute towards promoting such a holistic understanding of student success, and therefore, also influence the understanding of student success in higher education environments and institutions. This study makes contributions at the theoretical and practical level as far as the framework for student success is concerned. It also makes theoretical, policy and practical contributions as far as the role of the residence head is concerned. The conceptualised student success framework would allow higher education institutions the option of assessing their student success approach towards residences and the residence head role. The outcome of the research in terms of the blendedness of the residence head role is significant as this gives higher education institutions a better understanding of what the residence head role should or could be to promote student success. The findings of the study are also significant in that they suggest practical educational skills sets for residence heads to contribute to achieving student success at the different levels of the framework.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Pogings om studentesukses in hoër onderwys te verbeter word toenemend meer holisties en geïntegreerd van aard, terwyl daar ook erkenning is dat informele buiteklas omgewings ‘n deurslaggewende bydrae tot die bevordering van studentesukses kan maak. Sodanige buite-klas omgewings sluit koshuise in. In Suid-Afrikaanse hoër onderwys is daar ook ‘n toenemende bewustheid van die rol wat koshuise in die bevordering van studentesukses kan speel. Hierdie studie fokus daarop om die optimale rol wat koshuishoofde in die bevordering van studentesukses kan speel te ondersoek, met Universiteit Stellenbosch (US) as die institusionele gevallestudie. Die kompleksiteit van die Suid-Afrikaanse hoëronderwyskonteks waarin die US sigself bevind en die transformasie wat die instelling self ondergaan bied bepaalde uitdagings daaraan om die optimale rol van die koshuishoof aan ‘n toekomstige US in die vooruitsig te stel. Die navorsingsvraag wat hierdie studie wil beantwoord is: Wat is die optimale rol van koshuishoofde in die bevordering van studentesukses aan ‘n hoëronderwysinstelling? Aangesien hierdie probleem vaag, breed, kompleks en van sistemiese aard is, het dit eerstens ‘n oorsig van internasionale en nasionale ontwikkelings met betrekking tot studentesukses en die rol van koshuise daarin genoodsaak, wat uitgeloop het op ‘n konseptuele raamwerk van vlakke van studentesukses. Die studie is vanuit ‘n interpretiewe navorsingsbenadering gedoen. Die navorsingsontwerp het bestaan uit ‘n ondersoekende, onthullende gevallestudie van die koshuisomgewing aan die US. Die navorsingsmetode vir data-insameling en dataanalise was Interaktiewe Kwalitatiewe Analise (IKA). Doelgerigte en geriefsoorwegings het gegeld by steekproeftrekking uit vier populasiegroepe in die koshuisomgewing aan die US wat deelnemers vir fokusgroepbesprekings en individuele onderhoude geïdentifiseer het. Hierdie fokusgroepbesprekings en individuele onderhoude het die daarstelling van sisteeminvloeddiagramme (SIDs) moontlik gemaak. SIDs is grafiese voorstellings van deelnemers se interpretasie van die fenomeen wat ondersoek word. Die mees deurslaggewende bevinding van die studie is dat die optimale rol van die toekomstige koshuishoof ‘n vermengde rol is van ‘n leier te wees en ‘n intensionele opvoedkundige rol te speel. Die primȇre doel van hierdie vermengde rol is die bevordering van studentesukses. Die gekonseptualiseerde raamwerk van vlakke van studentesukses kan ‘n noemenswaardige bydrae maak tot so ‘n holistiese verstaan van die proses van groei, leer en ontwikkeling, en kan gevolglik ook die verstaan van studentesukses in hoëronderwysomgewings en –instellings beïnvloed. Hierdie studie maak bydraes op sowel teoretiese as praktiese vlak in soverre dit hierdie raamwerk vir studentesukses aangaan. Dit maak ook bydraes op teoretiese, beleids- en praktiese vlak sover dit die rol van die kohuishoof aangaan. Die gekonseptualiseerde studentesuksesraamwerk bied aan hoëronderwysinstellings die geleentheid om hulle studentesuksesbenadering tot koshuise en koshuishoofde se rol te beoordeel. Die uitkoms van die navorsing in terme van die vermengdheid van die rol van die koshuishoof is betekenisvol aangesien dit hoëronderwysinstellings ‘n beter begrip gee van wie die koshuishoof moet wees en wat hy/sy moet doen om studentesukses te bevorder. Die bevindinge van die studie is ook betekenisvol aangesien hulle praktiese opvoedkundige vaardighede vir koshuishoofde voorstel waardeur hulle kan bydra tot die bevordering van studentesukses op die verskillende vlakke van die raamwerk.

Thesis

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