The college pipeline from start to finish is an extraordinarily complex process with numerous decision points, options, and obstacles. Students from advantaged social backgrounds are more likely than those from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend schools and colleges staffed with advisers and support staff that have time and resources to assist them. They may also draw on relationships with family, adults in their communities, or knowledgeable peers for assistance in navigation decisions. For students without such supports, the sequence of choices may become so overwhelming that they respond by delaying decisions or making poor choices that lead to sizable delays in their degree progression. With these challenges in mind, IES has funded three information and advising initiatives that draw on insights from researchers, practitioners, and the research literature.
Technical Working Group Meeting
In July 2019, NCER convened a technical working group of 14 researchers and practitioners for a set of conversations structured around three intervention strategies that have garnered substantial attention over the last 5 years: nudges and other light-touch informational campaigns; intensive, proactive coaching and advising; and comprehensive approaches that comprise advising and other supports such as technology and financial incentives. Researchers and practitioners shared perceptions about the effectiveness of each strategy, its relevance to targeted student populations, and conditions for implementation. At the end of the day, working group members provided recommendations (see the Technical Working Group Meeting Summary for a full list), including the following:
- Institutions should help determine what strategies get tested, apply for research grants, and participate in the research as it progresses.
- Research is needed that addresses the large amount of information that students face and that identifies the types of information that students respond to and act on.
- Replication studies should be designed to measure the effectiveness of promising intervention strategies for specific student groups, with the goal of enhancing effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.
Practice Guide on Effective Advising for Postsecondary Students
In October 2021, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released a Practice Guide on Effective Advising for Postsecondary Students. The practice guide includes four evidence-based recommendations designed for an audience of administrators and staff at community colleges, 4-year institutions, and other public or private technical colleges who are responsible for designing and/or delivering advising to students:
- Intentionally design and deliver comprehensive, integrated advising that incorporates academic and non-academic supports to empower students to reach their educational goals.
- Transform advising to focus on the development of sustained, personalized relationships with individual students throughout their college career.
- Use mentoring and coaching to enhance comprehensive, integrated advising in ways that support students’ achievement and progression.
- Embed positive incentives in intentionally designed advising structures to encourage student participation and continued engagement.
Gap Analysis of Information and Advising Research and Practice
In March 2020, the Lead Team of the College Completion Network began a project aimed at identifying gaps in the research evidence base for information and advising strategies. The project is organized into three parts:
- A systematic review of the research literature, documenting evidence of the effect of information and advising policies, practices, and programs on student outcomes
- A scan of information and advising policies, practices, and programs that colleges use to improve student outcomes
- A gap analysis to compare the findings from the scan to the findings from the systematic review to look for effective practices that are not widely implemented and promising practices in the field that have not been evaluated
The team plans to report its full set of findings by December 2021. College Completion Network study descriptions are available here: https://collegecompletionnetwork.org/studies.
This blog is the second in a blog series on Effective Postsecondary Interventions that highlights interventions with evidence of effectiveness generated through IES-funded research. For the first blog in the series, please see here.
Written by James Benson (James.Benson@ed.gov), a Program Officer for Postsecondary Education within NCER’s Policy and Systems Division, and Felicia Sanders (Felicia.Sanders@ed.gov), a Program Officer for the What Works Clearinghouse within NCEE’s Knowledge Use Division.