Date of Award

Spring 1987

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bogenschild, Erika G.

Second Advisor

Gawkoski, Roman S.

Third Advisor

Steeves, Frank L.


Students lacking adequate preparation for higher education often turn to developmental courses in two year institutions to upgrade skills in English and reading. While some succeed, ultimately enrolling in degree programs, the attrition rate in developmental courses is a national problem. The primary focus of this study was the student who persists in courses which have a high dropout rate. The study attempted to describe the attitude difference between persisters and dropouts, to measure the change in persister attitude during a semester of developmental course work, to weigh the strength of the correlation between persister attitude change and course dropout rate, and to determine whether an attitude score can predict course persistence. A twenty-four item Likert-type instrument, the Persister Attitude Survey, was developed to measure students' attitudes toward the institution, the course, the teacher, peers, education, and self. The attitude scale was administered to over 300 post-secondary students in eight Wisconsin vocational-technical institutions near the beginning and end of the Fall, 1986 semester. Although the findings did not support a correlation between attitude change and course dropout rate nor indicate that course persisters could reliably be predicted by scores on the P.A.S., the differences between the attitudes of persisters and dropouts at the beginning of the course were supported. Additionally, positive attitude changes in self-concept and negative changes in attitude toward the institution were supported in some groups. While not being powerful enough to accurately predict dropouts and persisters, the P.A.S. offers an efficient procedure for evaluating student attitudes. In addition to suggesting curricular areas which deserve attention, scores on the P.A.S. may indicate a need for intervention strategies to promote positive attitudes toward school related factors within groups where course attrition is a problem.



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