Kendall Barton Dissertation Defense – Coaching for College Success: A qualitative study of students’ perceptions about the influence of performance coaching on non-cognitive development and retention

1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Committee: Dr. Sharon Ryan, Dr. Maqueda Randall-Weeks, Dr. Marsha Besong

Date: Friday, January 13, 2023

Time: 1pm – 3pm


The number of initiatives developed to support student persistence and retention in higher education have expanded a great deal within the last 10 years. Many of these solutions have been created with the intent to directly influence and enhance students’ cognitive abilities while disregarding the critical role that non-cognitive factors play in student success. One promising approach that more holistically addresses students’ thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to better sustain their enrollment is performance coaching—a highly personalized practice wherein students who are novices in some regard are paired with a more experienced individual on campus who supports them in developing specific skills to aid in their academic and personal success. The purpose of this qualitative interview study was to examine college students’ experiences in the Scarlet Scholar Coaching Program at Rutgers-Camden and explore their perceptions about which aspects of coaching contributed to their non-cognitive skill development and college persistence. The research questions guiding this study were: 1) What are students’ experiences in the Scarlet Scholar Coaching Program at Rutgers-Camden? and 2) What, if anything, do students say they learn after their participation in success coaching?

Using focus groups and follow-up individual interviews with current and past students, this study aimed to uncover what students found to be meaningful while participating in coaching and which aspects of the coaching relationship contributed to their non-cognitive skill development and college persistence. Data analysis revealed four major themes: 1) Performance coaching plays an integral role in student retention, 2) Student-coach match determines coaching efficacy, 3) There are universal coaching strategies that should be adaptable and implemented across all coaching programs, and 4) Success coaching satisfies students’ need for belonging. The implications of these findings for researchers and practitioners who support first-year college students are discussed. Recommendations for the Scarlet Scholar Coaching Program and other similar student services include utilizing appropriate data and staff recruitment processes to facilitate student-coach match, implementing relevant and comprehensive staff training, and expanding the use of coaching university-wide.

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