Hope for success: effects of an academic intervention for at-risk college students
Hope theory provides a framework for understanding individual differences in human motivation and ultimately, academic achievement. However, research on the short-term and long-term effects of educational hope interventions is limited. This multi-pronged quantitative analysis of a hope-based intervention demonstrates the combined value of hope, self-determination, and goal orientation theories as guiding frameworks for teaching college students considered at-risk for failure in the context of a study skills course. Results of pre/post questionnaire data suggest the intervention is successful in enhancing constructs related to hope and well-being such as positive affect, optimism, and adaptive coping styles. Content analysis of regular goals set by students as part of their participation in the intervention suggested mechanisms by which positive changes occur. Finally, evidence from longitudinal data analysis including student performance after course completion suggests the intervention may have positive lasting effects that could alter students’ academic trajectories. Taken together, results from the three sets of data provide evidence that the intervention helps students learn strategies useful for reaching their goals. The hope—goal orientation—self-determination theory triad seems to provide a useful framework for higher education practitioners and decision-makers to discuss practical means of increasing retention and graduation rates, especially among specific populations considered at risk for failure and/or drop-out.