Academic Probation: How Students Navigate and Make Sense of their Experiences
Sage, Toni L.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Fine Arts and Communication
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This study explores how students on academic probation navigate and make sense of their experiences at one university. Quantitative methods were used to determine what student characteristics were most overrepresented on probation. Qualitative methods were used to identify student experiences and challenges and how students were navigating their probationary placement. Demographic characteristics of students who were overrepresented on probation included students who were: male; of lower prior academic achievement; early in their college career; ethnic or racial minorities; first-generation college students; transfers; low-income; and over the age of 24. The primary reasons cited for academic difficulties included under-preparedness or lacking academic success strategies appropriate for college-level academic work. Additional experiences that contributed to students‘ overall difficulty in college included: institutional and instructional challenges; lack of meaningful advising and mentoring experiences; reluctance to seek help; lack of knowledge or use of support services; interference from disabilities; financial challenges; family, personal, or social challenges; and extended absences. Three issues stood out as particular concerns regarding the efforts to improve student success and retention: the complex and unique web of challenges that each student faced; reluctance to seek help on the part of many students; and the intense reaction by some to their lack of academic progress. Recommendations are offered for consideration, including assisting students with the development of academic success strategies, addressing institutional and instructional challenges, improving advising and mentoring practices, and implementing a mandatory probationary intervention program.