Sunday, October 11, 2009

Michigan State Noncognitive Study

A "Report of the First-Year Follow-up of College Applicants at Twelve Universities" was forwarded to me by a colleague. According to him, the report is public now, but the appendices with survey instruments are not. I haven't seen the report itself online, and because of copyright don't feel like I can post it. But herein are some highlights.

The authors are Neal Schmitt, Abigail Billington, Juliya Golubovich, Jessica Keeney, Timothy Pleskac, Matthew Reeder, Ruchi Sinha, and Mark Zorzie, and the work was supported by the College Board, which is interesting.

The basics:
  • Participants: Earlham College, Furman University, Johnson & Wales University at Providence, Kenyon College, Lafayette College, Meredith College, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Southern California, and University of Washington
  • 844 students provided enough data for analysis, initially through a College Board web survey of applicants on background, interests, and judgment, then through a follow-up for those who enrolled. The overall yield rate (enroll/app) was 26%. Of those who enrolled, 42% responded to the follow-up survey (there was a $20 incentive).
  • The kinds of data considered were biodata (background and life history, not blood pressure), a situational judgment test (SJT) representing behaviors, demographics, self-reported performance (BARS), citizenship behaviors (positive or negative), academic satisfaction, social satisfaction, grades and standardized test scores, an inventory of "shock" events a student may have experienced, the big five personality traits, substance abuse, use of time, and self-reported withdrawal tendency.
The report is chock-full of tables of data with correlations and crosstabs, but I'll skip to the regression results. Here are some key findings, quoted from the executive summary (pg. 3):
  • First-year college GPA is predicted significantly by several biodata scales, most notably Knowledge, Ethics, and Perseverance, but HSGPA and SAT/ACT scores are much more predictive of college GPA than are biodata and SJT.

  • Self ratings of performance (BARS), Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB), and student self-reports of Deviance were especially well predicted by the biodata measures and SJT while HSGPA and SAT/ACT were relatively uncorrelated with these outcomes.
It's disappointing that first year GPA isn't better predicted by this gob of noncognitive variables. But completion is a better goal, and the study hasn't had time to mature to that point. For example, any actionable information about first-year retention would be worth its weight in undergrads. Stay tuned for the next report.

Update: Dr. Neal Schmitt gave me a link to a publications page, which will soon include the body of the report I cited.

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