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Social support and academic success: field experiments in further education in England

Groot, Anthona Sophia Bibiana; (2018) Social support and academic success: field experiments in further education in England. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Universally, humans have a strong need to feel valued and cared for by their close social relationships (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). The degree to which people can identify such sources of support is strongly correlated with positive emotional and physical health outcomes (Thoits, 2011; Taylor, 2011), as well as academic achievement (Song, Bong, Lee, & Kim, 2015; Wentzel, Russell & Baker, 2016). Yet, few researchers have robustly tested how supportive communication between students and their social networks can be stimulated when it is lacking. This thesis makes a contribution to the academic literature and education policy by developing and testing interventions that motivate, inform, and remind students and their immediate social networks about their learning. The thesis introduces a fresh approach to the design of social support interventions. Rather than introducing new ties or establishing formal mentoring relationships, students’ existing relationships are enlisted to provide support. Students’ friends and family are, after individual randomization, sent a series of weekly text messages over the full academic year. These messages contain actionable and relevant information about the student’s course, inspired by recent information interventions in education (Kraft & Rogers, 2015; Chande, 2017). The results indicate that informing study supporters of students’ learning improves student attendance and attainment in maths and English qualifications. The follow-up trial shows that communicating with study supporters and students simultaneously is more effective than communicating with study supporters only. Qualitative evidence provides new insights for the design and implementation of supportive information interventions. Additionally, this thesis provides novel qualitative evidence that support from parents and friends helps students overcome challenges through cognitive appraisal processes. This data therefore offers new support for the popular hypothesis in the published literature (e.g. Feeney & Collins, 2015) that improved coping with emotions is a primary mechanism of social support on psychological well-being and academic success.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Social support and academic success: field experiments in further education in England
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: RCT, social support, education, field experiment, information intervention, mixed methods
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10057636
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