At-Risk, First-Year Students' Patterns of Perceptions of Their Academic Performance Activities and Grades Earned


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Virginia Tech


Researchers and practitioners in an attempt to understand academic performance, and thus reduce academic failure, have identified variables associated with academic performance. Although this research has been useful, there are limitations and critiques: 1) findings are often inconsistent; 2) student experiences and perceptions tend to be constructed as dichotomous variables: thus little is known about interconnections and contradictions in students' lives; and, 3) gender, race and class are constructed as variables to assess difference and not as social structural positions of power. The purpose of this research is to explore at-risk, first-year students participating in a structured intervention program and their perceptions of their academic performance. In addition, the ways in which their perceptions are shaped by gender. Through multiple qualitative techniques of semi-structured interviews, content analysis, and observations over an 8-month period I constructed an understanding of students' perceptions of their academic performance. The students' perceptions are interconnected such that themes emerged illuminating three patterns of perceptions. My analysis illuminated some manifestations of how gender shaped students' perceptions. However, gender was but one lens, not the dominant analytical lens, from which to explore and understand these students' perspective. Using extensive quotes from students in a narrative form, these patterns are described and discussed. As a sociologist, a feminist, and student affairs professional, I am concerned with structural elements of a given phenomenon; therefore I make particular mention of organizational and policy issues and implications associated with the patterns of student perceptions.



At-risk students, college students, academic performance, Gender