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Conducting Student Follow-up Studies
If you are an instructor of vocational-technical education, follow-up studies of former students, whether they completed the program of training or for some reason did not complete it, can serve several useful purposes. Contacting former students provide an excellent opportunity to:
identify the careers these students entered which are directly and indirectly related to the training they received,
identify their plans for further education, and
obtain their suggestions for program improvement.
You may have responsibility for either conducting a student follow-up study yourself or working with a team of other vocational-technical instructors and administrators. This module is designed to acquaint you with follow-up procedures that should be utilized and give you skills in planning and conducting a student follow-up study.
Why Conduct a Follow-up Study
What is a Follow-up Study?
A follow-up study is a procedure for collecting pertinent data from or about individuals after they have had similar or comparable experiences. It is important to remember that “follow-up” implies the collection of data about something that has already taken place.
Why Conduct a Follow-up Study?
The decision to conduct a follow-up study should evolve from the objectives of the total program evaluation effort. Once the objectives of the evaluation effort have been determined, one can begin to identify the kinds of information needed to answer questions about how well the vocational program objectives are being achieved.
Follow-up studies serve a very useful purpose in eliciting reactions from former students about how well the vocational education program prepared them for entry-level employment. Important information may be obtained
about questions such as—
What training received was important to them?
What training was unimportant?
What suggestions for improving the programs do they have?
Some of the major reasons for conducting follow-up studies are as follows:
To determine the number and kinds of employment which former students entered locally and regionally on a part-time or full-time basis
To learn the extent to which former technical students have made use of their technical training
To discover the extent of occupational mobility among former students
To obtain information from former students as to the adequacy of their training
To ascertain why some former students dropped out before completing training
To determine how the school could be of further assistance to the former students relative to counseling, training, and/or placement
To discover the extent to which former students are taking advantage of available post-secondary and adult occupational training opportunities
To determine the occupational difficulties encountered by former students
Who Should Be Involved in Follow-up Studies?
Technical Instructor—The technical instructor will generally be involved in determining the objectives of the follow-up study, as well as the type of data to be gathered and the method(s) to be used to meet those objectives.
School administration—The school administrator is as important to any evaluation effort as the instructor is. The school administration will find several uses that can be made of the findings of a follow-up study. A few of these uses might include revising program offerings, upgrading technical facilities, replacing outdated equipment, and adding student services such as job placement.
School counselor(s)—The school counselor(s) should be very interested in the results of an evaluation effort. The results of a carefully planned and executed follow-up study in conjunction with other aspects of evaluation will provide much useful information for vocational counseling.
Student committee—There is a growing trend to include students in the formulation of objectives and plans for follow-up studies. A student committee can be useful in pinpointing curriculum areas in need of review.
Occupational advisory committee—It is most important to involve citizens in an active capacity in any follow-up study. The involvement of these members of the community is most important to the success of the follow-up. Advisory committee members obtain feedback from the community regarding the preparation of students for employment.
How to Conduct a Follow-up Plan
Developing a Plan for the Follow-up Study
The plan should contain the following types of information:
Written objectives for the study
Responsibilities of the groups to be involved in conducting the study
Identification of group(s) to be surveyed
Activities to be conducted to assist in attaining the objectives of the follow-up study
Budget items and estimated costs
Schedule of activities
Plans for implementing the findings
Once developed, the follow-up study plan should be submitted to the administration for final approval before work is actually begun to carry out the study.
Determining the Follow-up Procedure
The following factors should be considered in determining the best follow-up procedure(s) to use in any specific situation.
What kinds of data are needed?
How much data are to be obtained?
What are the sources of data?
How much time is available?
What is the size of the group(s) to be studied?
How much money is available?
What is the availability and competency of the staff?
Locating Former Students
There are a number of methods that can be used to secure the addresses of former students. Some of these methods include—
Writing “Please Forward” on announcements and questionnaires
Sending self-addressed change-of-address cards to parents of non-respondents so the parent can provide the current address
Checking area telephone directories
Asking help from other students who are still in school
Developing Follow-up Questionnaires
The program objectives become the basis for stating the criterion questions and, consequently, the follow-up questionnaire items.
Developing Questionnaire Items
To provide students with a vocational program which will prepare them for a career that is satisfactory to them.
SAMPLE CRITERION QUESTION:
How well do former students feel their vocational program prepared them for a satisfactory career?
SAMPLE ITEMS FOR THE QUESTIONNAIRE:
1. Considering all of your occupational experiences since leaving school, how well do you feel your school prepared you for your career?
- Well prepared
- Satisfactorily prepared
- Inadequately prepared
2. How do you feel about your current job?
- I am very satisfied
- I am satisfied
- I am dissatisfied
- I am very dissatisfied
Designing the Questionnaire
The mechanical presentation of the questionnaire is very important. Some suggestions follow.
Colored paper tends to result in a higher return.
If the questionnaire is printed in booklet form, make sure the pages are numbered in sequence (and don’t stick together).
Make sure the printing is of high quality.
Design the questionnaire in a size convenient for mailing.
Almost anything you can do to make your approach “different” will enhance the possibility of receiving a response.
Summarizing, Interpreting, and Reporting
Student Follow-up Data
Hand Tabulation—simply involves tallying the respondents’ answers of each questionnaire item.
Counting—When dealing with checklists, the counting of the responses is a simple task.
Percentages—Percentages are frequently used to indicate the number of respondents marking a certain questionnaire item.
Tables—The construction of tables is relatively simple if the following suggestions are adhered to.
Place the table as close as possible to where it is first mentioned in the report.
Center above the table, the word “TABLE” on a line by itself, with the number in Arabic numerals.
Center, above the table and under the word, “TABLE” the caption of the table. All of the captions should be in capital letters.
A double-ruled line should separate the table caption from the rest of the table. A single line is used at the bottom of the table. Vertical lines should be used to separate columns where there are more than two columns of data.
Purpose of Report—The purpose of the report of a follow-up study is to:
Inform the readers about the class(es) studied,
The objectives of the study,
The methods used to conduct the study, and
The conclusions inferred from the study.
Disseminating the Report—The report should be presented to the school administration.
Follow-up studies of your former students can hold two very important "keys." The first key identifies where the program objectives have been met. The second key identifies where important changes may need to be addressed.
Students have different reasons for not completing their course of study. If you as an instructor or administrator can discover some of these circumstances; you may have the necessary information of increasing not only student retention but student success rates as well! Good luck!
Maximizing Student Success Rates
Does your institution have any follow-up procedures for former students?
© 2014 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS