Educational Performance and Persistence of Bereaved College Students is a research which was conducted by Heather Servaty-Seib in conjunction with Lou Ann Hamilton. Whereas Heather is an assistant professor of education at the prestigious Purdue University, Hamilton is a senior student counselor attached to the office of the Dean of Students in the same institution. Their research was fully sponsored by Purdue Research Foundation Summer Grant. As university employees, they are people who are in close contact with university students. As a lecturer and counselor, Heather and Hamilton have a deeper understanding of the behavior of these students since they interact with them on day to day basis.
Despite Balk (2001) reporting that approximately 20% of undergraduate students are likely to be believed by either their parents, grand parents or other family members in a period not exceeding one year, and Balk (2001) adding that the such bereaved students have higher chances of experiencing academic difficulties of becoming problematic, Heather acknowledges that is no adequate imperial research on this topic. Therefore, she seeks to answer her research question ‘What are the effects of a significant death loss on the educational performance of a bereaved student?’ (Heather, L.S.,2008). This, in her opinion, would enable her to achieve the objectives of this research would seek to find out if such bereavements occurring in the course of studies actually affect these college students.
This is why she took her time to conduct this research to be able to gather information which can be used helping this class of students. While doing this, she used undergraduate students from Purdue University as her target population. Hence, between the summer of the year 2001 and the end of 2004 spring semester, she carefully selected a sample of 227 bereaved and 227 non-bereaved college students and subjected them to studies to ascertain if such bereavements actually affect their concentration in and the likelihood of completing their studies. Bereavements that occur to students in the curse of their studies always interfere with them and destabilize their concentration in their studies. Such traumatizing experiences have made them vulnerable to poor performance and increase their chances of terminating their studies before they reach their final years.
As already highlighted, Heather was committed to producing accurate results which could be relied upon by the university administrations or future researches. Hence, she included an added an additional 227 non-bereaved students to act as a control group. After ensuring that their age, gender, race, semester of study, SAT and school of study, they were subjected to the same studies. However, in order to accomplish this, the researcher relied on the report from the office of the Dean of Students which often get and up date reports on such occurrences. Additional information regarding the bereaved students was received from the dean’s office, university staff, family members or the bereaved students themselves. This is how the researcher managed to identify the bereaved students before subjecting them to her studies.
After choosing the subjects, the researcher went ahead to collect information. A part from relying on the data from the office of the Dean of Students, the subjects also provided first hand information about themselves. At the same time, their results were analyzed and compared with that of the other semesters. Whenever anyone was bereaved, the academic performance for that particular was recorded and compared to that of the previous and subsequent semesters.
After the completion of studies and analysis of the data, the researcher found out that it is true that bereavement interferes with the academic performance of university students. All the bereaved students who were studied recorded poor results at the end of the semester in which they lost their accomplices as a result of death. It also found out that there are higher chances of these students losing a family member in the course of their studies. This is because they belong to a generation whose parents took so long to bear children. Thus, their old grannies are likely to die while they are in their first, second or third years in the college.
A part from the lowering of academic performance, bereavement experiences made these students to be problematic. First, they were more or less likely to demonstrate satisfactory honors. Unlike the non-bereaved students whose performances remained steady, these students were either put on academic probation, dismissed or voluntarily opted to drop out of college. Moreover, they were more unlikely to be granted honors as compared to their non-bereaved counterparts.
Based on these findings, Heather confirmed that indeed, Balk was right in his earlier researches in which he had recommended a higher probability of bereavements amongst the undergraduate students. Hence, she acknowledges that this is a very touchy issue which should not be ignored any more. In her well though opinion, she recommends that student’s bereavement is a very big problem which should be dealt with accordingly. It is a very traumatizing experience which requires the in put of the university administrators to ultimately resolve. Even if death is a natural occurrence and can not be stopped, the university administration, through the office of the Dean of Students, should come up with measures to assist the bereaved students. They should be offered the necessary support to ensure that they come into terms with the loss and be ready to move on with their studies. After all, life must continue regardless of whatever happens to loved ones.
I would like to begin by commending Heather and Hamilton for conducting an extensive research on this contentious issue. Of course, Educational Performance and Persistence of Bereaved College Students is a well conducted research which addresses an integral matter in the education sector. It bridges the gap which has been there in this area because, as the researcher acknowledges in her introduction, no more empirical researches have been conducted to provide a guideline for this matter. All the activities, right from the beginning up to the end demonstrate adequate preparedness by this researcher. I would therefore like to say that it is of great value and can help in helping such bereaved students.
First, I was impressed in the manner Heather dedicated enough time to conduct her research. Unlike many researches, Educational Performance and Persistence of Bereaved College Students is a break through because it was properly conducted. It took over three years to be conducted. I think this was a good idea because it enabled her to have adequate time to identify her target population, select the proportionate representative sample, collect, analyze and interpret the data. The setting aside of all this time indicates that Heather was prepared to conduct an extensive research which can be relied upon by the policy makers in resolving this problem. It is a milestone in research which many people have been doing within a very short time. Unlike, Heather, a lot of researchers have been carrying out their studies so hurriedly. However, this did not apply in this research because it was started in 2001 and finished in 2004.
Besides, I would like to say that I am delighted by the way in which the researcher identified her target population. Given that this mainly touches on the students, the researcher was so categorical in her choice of the target population and the sample to be used as subjects during her studies. Actually, the use of 227 bereaved and another set of 227 non-bereaved students (as a control group) were quite representational. Besides, the method of identifying the bereaved students was appropriately chosen. Given that they were identified through the dean’s office or their close contacts with the staff made it easier for such information to be gathered. At the same time, the researcher ensured that they had pairing age, gender, race, semester of study, SAT and school of study, which were used as important variables in the research. This was a very organized procedure which enabled the researcher to gather the accurate information she was intending to get. It made the research be reliable and accurate. Moreover, the use of the control groups helped in ascertaining the change in performance and behavior of the bereaved students. Whereas that of the bereaved showed a disparity, that of the control group remained stable because it had not been interfered with by such traumatizing experiences through which the bereaved were going. Since this problem mainly faces the college students, they are the ones who were used as the major subjects in this study. It made research relevant and within the required context.
In addition, I would like to express my satisfaction with the methodology and procedure used during the carrying out of this research. The procedure applied was so appropriate and helped in making sure that selected subjects were actively involved. This was achieved by the use of survey, case history and experiments. In order to understand and analyze the performance of the subjects, a survey was conducted to analyze their previous, current and future performances based on the semester in which they were bereaved. At the same time, such surveys helped in collecting information about their behaviors and changing attitudes towards their studies. These enabled the researcher to all the information that would be used in understanding the effects of bereavements to the college students.
In this regard, I would like to say that this research is so valuable. It is practical and was conducted by reputable scholars who are distinguished authorities in this field. Their experiences with the student welfare make them credible for conducting such a study. Meanwhile, they used their expertise to create adequate time, identified the most appropriate population and engaged a proportionate and representative sample. In addition, they complied with all the ethical requirements for such researches. Even if they subjected their subjects to a series of surveys, experiments and observations, their consent was promptly sought. Further more, their results are accurate and correct. They are reliable and can be of great importance to the college students themselves, parents, guardians, university administrations and researchers.
The college students, parents and guardians can rely on it as a resourceful tool which sensitizes them on seeking for counseling services whenever such incidences occur. Thus, the students should be able to acknowledge that such experiences are mandatory part of life and can not be escaped whatsoever. Otherwise, they should be accepted and overcome by boldness and counseling. It informs them that they should not use it as a basis to fail in their exams or drop out of college. To the university administration, the research enlightens them to acknowledge that student bereavements is a sorrowful experience which posses a lot of risk to the students. Thus, they should institute a counseling department to help such students come into terms with such events. Finally, to the researchers, the results of this study can be used as a baseline for future researches. This will help them to acquire more information on the effects of bereavements on college students. Thus, they will be able to produce a more refined research to help in providing an ultimate solution to this problem.
In conclusion, I would like to commend these researchers for conducting extensive studies. Surely, Educational Performance and Persistence of Bereaved College Students is a product of bright minds which are ready to liberate the bereaved college students from the yoke of agony. It represents a quality work whose recommendations can be of great importance to all the concerned stakeholders. However, I would like to recommend that more researches should be conducted in this area. Unlike this research, several scholars should create their time to carry out an inclusive research which not only uses the bereaved students, but also extends to their homes to cover their family backgrounds and incorporate their parents, relatives and family members. This will be a source of relief to everyone involved.
Heather, L.S. (2008) Assisting Bereaved College Students: New Directions for Student Services. Jossey-Bass Publishers.