Research Framework

Description of background information and research questions driving Student Success (Re)defined

Literature Review

A literature review and discussions with key practitioners and researchers indicates student support activities must be (1) integrated into students’ daily experience and (2) included in the overall curriculum. This research also demonstrates that students are more likely to succeed when they are directed, focused, nurtured, engaged, connected and valued. We define these "six success factors” as:

  • Directed: helping students clarify their aspirations, develop an educational focus they perceive as meaningful and develop a plan that moves them from enrollment to achievement of their goal
  • Focused: fostering students’ motivation and helping them develop the skills needed to achieve their goals
  • Nurtured: conveying a sense of caring where students’ success is important and expected
  • Engaged: actively involving students in meaningful and authentic educational experiences and activities inside and outside the classroom
  • Connected: creating connections between students and the institution and cultivating relationships that underscore how students’ involvement with the college community can contribute to their academic and personal success
  • Valued: providing students with opportunities to contribute to and enrich the college culture and community

The RP Group updated this literature review during the project to ensure the study incorporated new research on this subject into its design and analysis and addressed additional questions that arose as our examination unfolded.

Read the final edition of the literature review brief.

Download six success factors graphic with definitions.


Research Activities

Phase 1 – Perform Student Perspectives Research (summer 2011 - fall 2012; complete): 

  • Conducted phone surveys with 785 students at 12 California community colleges that (1) demonstrate higher rates of transfer for or enroll high concentrations of Latino and/or African-American students and (2) represent the geographic and size diversity of the state’s system
  • Further explored key survey findings through focus groups at four colleges involving 102 students
  • Determined what factors students find particularly supportive of their success

Read the study research questions.

Review the student perspectives survey instrument.

Review student focus group instruments including consent formquestions and the six success factors rating sheet.


 Phase 2 – Engage Stakeholders with Research (fall 2012 – fall 2013; complete):

  • Released a full report of findings from our student perspectives research and a brief summarizing the key themes that emerged from these results
  • Reached a broad audience of classroom faculty and instructional administrators, counselors and student services professionals, institutional and system-level leaders and foundations and research organizations through a range of venues; presentations have included keynote addresses at annual conferences, full-day discussion sessions for practitioner associations, convocation speeches and facilitated exercises at individual institutions
  • Held four convenings in the Far North, San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern regions of the state with the 12 colleges participating in the student perspectives survey; engaged teams of practitioners from each institution participating in the study in a facilitated discussion of their individual college findings, the findings overall and the ways they could use these results to strengthen support on their campuses


Phase 3 – Promote Action Based on Research (fall 2013 – spring 2014):

  • Released an “action guide” designed to support college practitioners in an inquiry and planning process based on the study’s findings; this process aims to assist existing campus efforts or facilitate new initiatives designed to strengthen student support
  • Developed a “practitioner primer” featuring 23 approaches from community colleges in California and across the country that demonstrate our study’s five key themes and six success factors
  • Partnered with the Academy for College Excellence (ACE) to develop a case study showing how ACE demonstrates the five themes from the Student Support (Re)defined research
  • Conducted additional presentations focused on sharing research findings and promoting the action guide
  • Continued facilitating dialog among college practitioners and state-level leaders about how to take action on these findings at both the college and system levels

Read a full updated description of the project’s methodology.