Faculty Support for Student Mothers: Comparing Student and Faculty Perspectives
The importance of faculty support of students in higher education is well-researched. There are positive correlations between faculty support and a host of student attributes such as satisfaction, academic attainment and retention. When there is a breakdown of understanding between faculty and students, or where perspectives of support are totally different, it can lead to isolation of students and misunderstandings from both sides. For students in particularly stressful or eventful periods of their life, this support can be critical. Student mothers who are juggling take care of a newborn, whilst keeping up with full time studies, need support and encouragement in copious amounts. We interviewed both student mothers and faculty at the same institution and explored their perceptions of the ways in which support was offered and received. Factors which may influence the quality of support offered by faculty were examined, such as the faculty’s perception of the student mothers’ support systems and coping mechanisms. These perceptions were compared with the students’ own descriptions of these factors. It was found that the faculty’s perceptions of the home support systems were similar to those experienced by the students, yet their college support systems were generally misunderstood. We discuss how this could possibly lead to faculty supporting student mothers inadequately in some areas, and how this may impact on student retention.
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