Teaching Matters

PS4 R5 Retention via connectedness: Insights from using projective techniques

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Teaching Matters 2020 | Presentation Details | 1 December 20201 Dec 2020


Retention via connectedness: Insights from using projective techniques


Clive R Boddy, School of Management, CoBE



Presentation Type

Showcase Presentation


Room 5




The current generation of students sound poised, self-reliant and appear to be confident. However, appearances can be deceptive. Using a projective technique based on the thematic apperception test and involving the gathering of responses to a bubble drawing (Boddy, 2018), research illustrates just how isolated, disconnected, and strained undergraduates actually feel. Projective techniques facilitate the delivery of truthful responses via depersonalising the question; thus removing social desirability bias (AQR, 2020; Boddy, 2010). This enables the emergence of underlying feelings towards the university experience that are not well captured by the direct questioning typically used in student retention and attrition research. Projective techniques are little used in academia but when explained to academics they are deemed to be useful (Boddy, 2005b). They produce valid and insightful findings (Boddy, 2005a; Soley, 2010) and have been recommended for research into teaching (Boddy, 2004) and student retention (Boddy, 2010). Findings from recent research utilising a projective technique, indicate that all undergraduates consider leaving university; and that emotional considerations are foremost, regardless of the rational, socially biased answers that students give in typical surveys. Findings reveal that students feel emotionally disconnected from their friends, homes and families; and insufficiently connected to their undergraduate peers, universities and lecturers. A respected model of retention is Tinto’s, and this has been validated in previous studies. Findings from recent research using a projective technique also support Tinto’s model of student retention (Tinto, 1982; Tinto, 1988) but with greater emphasis on the social integration aspects of the model (Boddy, 2020).


AQR. (2020). Projective and Enabling Techniques [Online]. Association of Qualitative Researchers. https://www.aqr.org.uk/glossary/projective-and-enabling-techniques

Boddy, C. (2020). Lonely, homesick and struggling: undergraduate students and intention to quit university. Quality Assurance in Education. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAE-05-2020-0056

Boddy, C. R. (2004). From brand image research to teaching assessment: Using a projective technique borrowed from marketing research to aid an understanding of teaching effectiveness. Journal of Quality Assurance in Education, 12, 94-105.

Boddy, C. R. (2005a). Projective techniques in market research: valueless subjectivity or insightful reality? A look at the evidence for the usefulness, reliability and validity of projective techniques in market research. International Journal of Market Research, 47, 239-254.

Boddy, C. R. (2005b). What do business research students think of the potential for Projective Techniques in business research? Quite a bit actually. Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Conference 2005, Dublin. Academy of Marketing.

Boddy, C. R. (2010). A Paper Proposing a Projective technique to Help Understand the Non-Rational Aspects of Withdrawal and Undergraduate Attrition. ergo: The Journal of the Education Research Group of Adelaide, 1, 11-20.

Boddy, C. R. (2018). Bubble Drawing. In B. Frey (Ed.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation. Sage.

Soley, L. (2010). Projective techniques in US marketing and management research: The influence of The Achievement Motive. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 13, 334-353.

Tinto, V. (1982). Limits of Theory and Practice in Student Attrition. Journal of Higher Education, 53, 687-700.

Tinto, V. (1988). Stages of Student Departure: Reflections on the Longitudinal Character of Student Leaving. Journal of Higher Education, 59, 438-455.

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