Title page for ETD etd-12242010-124345

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Gilbert, Tracee Walker
Author's Email Address trwalker@vt.edu
URN etd-12242010-124345
Title Towards the Development, Application, and Evaluation of the Student Success - Oriented System Design Methodology
Degree PhD
Department Industrial and Systems Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Terpenny, Janis P. Committee Chair
Kleiner, Brian M. Committee Member
Scales, Glenda Rose Committee Member
Smith-Jackson, Tonya L. Committee Member
Watford, Bevlee A. Committee Member
  • system design
  • student success
  • participatory design
  • performance improvement
Date of Defense 2010-12-03
Availability restricted
For over 70 years, researchers have been attempting to unravel the complexities associated with enhancing student success in higher education (Berger & Lyon, 2005). This research has resulted in a better understanding of why some students decide to leave while others persist on to graduation. Despite a sizable body of knowledge that has identified the various factors associated with student success in higher education, little work has been devoted to translating the various theoretical findings into specific strategies that will guide institutions in improving student success outcomes (Tinto, 2005; Tinto & Pusser, 2006).

This study, therefore, represents a unique attempt to bridge the gap between research and practice. Specifically, it integrates relevant findings on student success with a growing body of knowledge on system design and performance improvement in order to address the following pressing need: How can institutional leaders in higher education translate theoretical concepts into actionable solutions that will facilitate student success? In order to provide a concrete course of action for institutional leaders to design practices that meaningfully impact student success, this dissertation describes the development, application, and evaluation of a Student Success-Oriented System Design (S2OSD) methodology.

The proposed methodology shifts the focus from trying to understand why students leave or stay, which is a well-researched topic in the literature, to examining how to satisfy student needs in ways that will improve student success outcomes. By doing so, this study focuses on assessing, understanding, and satisfying student needs within the context of student success theoretical perspectives. Moreover, this research proposes a methodology that institutions can use to tailor their practices to fit the unique needs of their students (Berger & Lyon, 2005). In summary, this research study was devised to achieve the following goals:

• Develop a research process that combines empirical and design methods in order to create, apply, and evaluate a system design methodology;

• Develop a guiding framework that provides practitioners with a set of mutually reinforcing principles, which is supported by a methodology designed to meet student needs;

• Develop a participatory design method and supporting tools to execute each phase of the methodology;

• Develop a performance-based evaluation framework to evaluate the usability of the S2OSD methodology; and

• Develop a validated questionnaire to assess engineering student success needs.

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