Rhetoric and Writing Aids in Student Retention Across Disciplines

Analyzing research in workshops earlier this month, composition instructors in UALR’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing say the composition program can improve student retention.

Not only do most students take composition during the time they are most vulnerable to dropping out – the earliest semesters of their college experience – but many of the practices involved in teaching composition are the same types of practices that have a positive effect on student retention.

“What we are learning from our research is that retention is everyone’s job,” said Dr. George Jensen, chair of Rhetoric and Writing. “We believe we are already having a substantial positive impact on student retention, and we hope that the brainstorming that took place in these sessions can help move all of our instructors to a higher level of mindfulness about the positive role they can play in this area.”

He said retention is really all about connection: connecting students to the university, to one another, to the instructor, and to positive attitudes about remaining in college.

“We believe that writing is one way to help facilitate those connections,” he said. “In our writing courses, students conference one-on-one with instructors, and they participate in peer feedback groups.”

Instructors emerged from the sessions with new ideas about how they can best contribute to student success. The department plans to incorporate their findings into their pre-semester workshops and follow up with similar sessions in the future.

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