Insights from a study on non-submission of assignments: How can students best be supported?
Non-submission of summative assignments has an impact on a significant minority of students but is not well understood (Prinsloo, 2019). At the University of Northampton, 70% of Integrated Foundation Year (IFY) students have a non-submission on their academic profile as they enter Level 4 and nearly 10% of all student assignments overall are not submitted (Coulson and Loddick, 2021). Students who fail to submit initially are offered a second submission point, but their grade is capped at 40%: data suggests that addressing this could close 50% of the GEM (Global Ethnic Majority) attainment gap.
A study was initiated in partnership with IFY academic staff to research into the experience and implications of non-submission of assignments for GEM and non-GEM students in IFY. The project aimed to understand the long-term implications in terms of academic outcomes through understanding why students fail to submit and how they recover from this. Data on student outcomes in recent years was interrogated and interviews were planned with current and former IFY students who had failed to submit at least one assignment. These interviews were conducted by existing IFY students to encourage an open dialogue. Following low levels of participation in the research, the project was widened by inviting all undergraduates who had failed to submit at least one assignment to complete a survey with open-ended questions exploring the non-submission. Insights from this study will be reported, which will inform the practice of both Learning Developers and lecturers. If we can offer timely and appropriate support, we may be able to promote assignment submission, which in turn could improve student retention. This would allow more students to achieve their goals and contribute to a sustainable model of higher education.
Coulson, K. and Loddick, A. (2021) ‘Non-submission of assessments – the impact on the BAME attainment gap’, Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) Conference. Online 7-9 April.
Prinsloo, P. (2019) ‘Tracking (un) belonging: at the intersections of human-algorithmic student support’, Pan-Commonwealth Forum. Edinburgh 9-12 September.
Thomas, L. (2012) Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: final report of the What Works? Retention and Success Programme. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/retention/what_works_final_report.pdf (Accessed: 9 September 2022).
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