The role of psychological capital in first-year computer science students’ retention from a threshold concepts perspective

van Rooij-Peiman, Annette and Houghton, Ann-Marie (2020) The role of psychological capital in first-year computer science students’ retention from a threshold concepts perspective. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Globally, student retention is a concern in computer science (CS) study programmes. Using a qualitative longitudinal case study, this research explores how psychological capital (PsyCap) and its factors: self-efficacy, optimism, hope and resilience influence first-year computer science students’ experiences and retention from a threshold concepts (TC) perspective. The longitudinal case study contained three rounds of semi-structured interviews that were conducted with a group of 16 first-year computer science students from a Dutch university of applied sciences. The aim was to gain insights into their PsyCap and experiences in relation to student retention. In each interview round a different graphic elicitation method was applied, both as an interview stimulus and as an additional data source. Meyer and Land’s TC (2006c) provided an overarching framework to enable comparisons between the participants’ PsyCap and their experiences. The findings report on what I refer to as troublesome experiences of participants, which are a combination of troublesome knowledge (Perkins, 1999), skills and emotions, that relate mainly to students’ academic integration. In navigating liminality across TC, the identified participant groups: leavers, persisters and stayers reached different levels of success in crossing thresholds, leading to differences in their transformation towards becoming a CS student and potentially a (future) computer scientist. Findings reveal that the affective elements of the troublesome experiences influenced the participants’ psychological capital and vice versa. The interplay between individual factors, self-efficacy, hope and resilience appeared important in the participants’ retention, with hope being the main driver. The findings led to the development of an explanatory model for transition to higher education from a TC perspective. This research showed that many personal and academic variables influence participants’ troublesome experiences and these experiences influence their efforts to navigate liminality. Fostering the development of self-efficacy, hope and resilience in students could improve their transformation into successful computer science students.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? higher educationretentioncomputer sciencestudent experience ??
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14 Oct 2020 09:10
Last Modified:
06 Feb 2024 00:22