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The effect of study group participation on Student Naval Aviator persistence

Dissertation
Author: Thomas H. Sheppard
Abstract:
Training naval combat pilots is expensive and time consuming, it follows that attrition from flight training is costly to the government and traumatic for the individual. Flight training is considered high-risk training, and therefore strictly voluntary. Voluntary withdrawal from naval flight training is the largest unexplained reason for Student Naval Aviator (SNA) attrition. Social integration has been demonstrated to have an effect on student persistence in academic studies (Tinto, 2005). Study group participation may facilitate social integration and affect quality of faculty contact, commitment to the institution, and ultimately the decision to persist in flight training. A collective-case study approach was used to examine study group participation and persistence of SNAs in naval flight training. In this approach, a qualitative analysis of six students was conducted to identify how study group participation affects faculty contact, social integration, commitment to the institution, and persistence. A cross-case thematic analysis of the results was conducted, to gain a better understanding of the effect of study group participation on the Student Naval Aviator.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables viii List of Figures ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Background of the Study 5 The Central Question 6 Purpose of the Study 6 Rationale 6 Research Questions 7 Significance of the Study 8 Assumptions and Limitations 11 Conceptual Framework 12 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 13 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 15 Introduction 15 Conceptual Framework 16 The Emergence of Social Integration in Attrition Studies. 20 Theoretical Debates in the Field 24 Study Groups in the Literature 28 Student-Faculty Relationships in the Literature 32 Social and Cultural Acclimatization in the Literature 36 Evaluation of Viable Research Designs 46 Conclusion 47

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CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 49 Research Questions 49 Design of the Study 50 Target Population 50 Qualitative Research Design 51 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 55 Case 1 Ann 58 Case 2 Bill 62 Case 3 Cliff 66 Case 4 Dianne 72 Case 5 Ed 77 Case 6 Felicity 82 Cross-case Analysis 90 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS 110 Results 110 Conclusions 112 Limitations 114 Implications 115 Recommendations for Further Research 117 Discussion 118 REFERENCES 121 APPENDIX A. TINTO’S MODEL OF STUDENT ATTRITION 127 APPENDIX B. SPADY’S SOCIOLOGICAL MODEL 128

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APPENDIX C. NONTRADITIONAL STUDENT ATTRITION MODEL 129 APPENDIX D. INTERVIEW PROTOCOL 130

viii

List of Tables Table 1. Selection Related Acronyms ............................................................................................. 2 Table 2. HPS Troubleshooting Checklist...................................................................................... 18 Table 3. Case Study Terms ........................................................................................................... 56 Table 4. Case 1 Themes ................................................................................................................ 58 Table 5. Case 2 Themes ................................................................................................................ 62 Table 6. Case 3 Themes ................................................................................................................ 66 Table 7. Case 4 Themes ................................................................................................................ 72 Table 8. Case 5 Themes ................................................................................................................ 77 Table 9. Case 6 Themes ................................................................................................................ 82 Table 10. Cross-case Group Dynamics ......................................................................................... 92 Table 11. Cross-case Homogeneity .............................................................................................. 94 Table 12. Cross-case Impediments to Learning ............................................................................ 97 Table 13. Cross-case Study Methods .......................................................................................... 101 Table 14. Cross-case Support Theme ......................................................................................... 105

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List of Figures Figure 1. Training Pipelines in Naval Aviation Training ............................................................... 4 Figure 2. The Human Performance System .................................................................................. 17 Figure 3. Visual Model of SNA Persistence Study....................................................................... 51

1 CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem College graduates are aggressively recruited to become navy pilots. Accession to flight training can be from several sources, including the Naval Academy, Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or Officer Candidate School. Pilot training is time consuming and costly, so great effort is put into selection of candidates who are likely to succeed in the program. All candidates are volunteers, have demonstrated the ability to complete an undergraduate degree, and have received commissions through an officer accession program. From October of 2006 to March of 2007, 152 students attrited from flight training (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2007). A loss of over 150 students in one-half of a year represents a significant cost in resource dollars and human capital. Survey responses from the attrited students indicated that 42% had voluntarily withdrawn (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2007). The reason that such a large percentage of SNAs had voluntarily withdrawn from training is not fully understood. While attrition statistics are compiled and analyzed, the problem has not been looked at from a Human Performance Systems’ perspective. Additionally aviation training is treated as a production process where the nuances of social integration are not recognized. Methods and techniques that facilitate social integration, like study group participation are serendipitous occurrences left to the student to initiate. Investigation of this phenomenon from a Human Performance Systems’ perspective in the context of the extant literature may prove illustrative. Applicants for the naval flight training program undergo a series of selection tests in the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB). The technical nature of the training and military culture

2 produces an array of acronyms, which makes reading the material difficult to an outsider. Table 1 lists the commonly used acronyms in the selection process. Table 1. Selection Related Acronyms Acronym Nomenclature API Aviation Preflight Indoctrination AQR Academic Qualification Rating ASTB Aviation Selection Test Battery NAMI Naval Aerospace Medical Institute SNA Student Naval Aviator PFAR Pilot Flight Aptitude Rating UPT Undergraduate Pilot Training

Applicants for aviation training must be between 19 and 27 years of age, have a baccalaureate degree and have a minimum score of “4” on the Academic Qualification Rating (AQR) and a “5” on the Pilot Flight Aptitude Rating (PFAR) (Naval aviation training, 2005, p. 2). The AQR and PFAR are derived from the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB). The ASTB is designed to predict performance and attrition through the primary phase of aviation training for SNAs (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2008). The ASTB is comprised of six subtests: Math Skills Test, Reading Skills Test, Mechanical Comprehension Test, Spatial Apperception Test, Aviation and Nautical Information Test and Aviation Supplemental Test. The candidates receive two scores that are derived from combinations of the subtests. The Academic Qualifications Rating (AQR) is used to predict academic performance in Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API) and the primary phase of ground training school, while the Pilot Flight

3 Aptitude Rating (PFAR) is used to predict primary flight performance for SNAs (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2008). The Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (2008) explains, “the AQR and PFAR are standardized and reported as stanines. AQR and PFAR scores range from 1 to 9” (p. 3). Candidates undergo a comprehensive physical screening to ensure they are physically able to withstand the rigors of flight. Once selected the candidates begin Naval Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) also referred to as the pipeline. The pipeline consists of Introductory Flight Screening (IFS), Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), Primary Flight Training, Intermediate and Advanced Training, see Figure 1. At the end of the Primary Flight Training phase, candidates will be selected for an aircraft type based upon performance. The Chief of Naval Air Training (2007a) describes the Naval Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) as six training courses or phases, designed to produce qualified pilots to fly jet aircraft, multi-engine turboprop, helicopter, and tilt-rotor aircraft. Phase one, API, is common for all SNAs and is located at Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, Florida. Phase two, Primary Flight Training is also common for all and is conducted in either Pensacola, Florida or Corpus Christi, Texas. There is an element of competitiveness in the first two phases of training. The type of aircraft an SNA is assigned to in intermediate and advanced training, is dependent upon performance in primary. Top performers are typically assigned to jet training, followed by multi-engine aircraft and then helicopters. The Chief of Naval Air Training (2007a) describes the selection process, “upon completing Primary, SNAs are assigned to the Intermediate Tilt-rotor, Intermediate Jet, Advanced E-6, Advanced Multi- engine, or Advanced Helicopter phase based upon their performance in the primary phase of training” (p. II-1). The training is a combination of academic study and mastering complex physical skills, and while great effort is exerted to identify and select candidates who will

4 succeed, some do not. A portion of the failures and withdrawals can be explained by academic failure or lack of flying skills, 40% simply Drop on Request (DOR), (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2007). This loss of students represents a siginficant cost in time and resources

Figure 1. Training Pipelines in Naval Aviation Training

Attrition reports are generated bi-annually for all of the training pipelines. In a recent survey of SNAs completing the primary phase of training, Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (2007) reported that of 1878 respondents, 108 had attrited, 416 had completed, and 1353 were still in training. The loss of 108 SNAs from flight training is an attrition rate below 6 percent; nevertheless, the loss of 108 SNAs represents a significant cost in human capital and dollars. While researching a thesis on student pilot success Boyd (2003) calculated that each student dropped, cost the Navy between “$20,000 and $160,000, depending on stage and pipeline” (p. 1). The attrition rate is surprising, given that all candidates are volunteers, college graduates, have passed comprehensive physical screening and are selected based on a validated selection test.

5 The single largest reason for students leaving training is “Drop on Request” (DOR). Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (2007) stated that “DOR encompasses a wide variety of reasons that are not captured by the use of this comprehensive term” (p. 9). The inability to identify the discrete reasons for voluntary withdrawal from training inhibits the construction of an effective model of Student Naval Aviator attrition. According to Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (2007), of the 152 SNAs that attrited from flight training between October of 2006 and March of 2007, 52 SNAs reported learning and performance as their reason for leaving flight training. Considerable effort is expended to collect descriptive statistics on those who withdraw, yet little has been done to effectively reduce the voluntary attrition rate. There is an abundance of literature on the effect of social integration on student persistence. Study group participation has been shown to facilitate social integration, increase commitment to the institution, and improve persistence. The literature is lacking on the effect of study group participation on persistence. Background of the Study The Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA), located in Corpus Christi, Texas, is responsible for training all new pilots for the United States Navy. CNATRA is comprised of five Training Air Wings, operating approximately 725 aircraft with an average annual budget of nearly $500 million. The Chief of Naval Air Training (2007b) reports flying over 400,000 hours each year, approximately one quarter of the total flight hours for the entire United States Navy. The outcome of these expenditures and investment in resources is 1,500 United States and International Pilots, Naval Flight Officers, and Combat Systems Officers annually. The costs of the Global War on Terror have added to the normal budgetary pressures to reduce costs. CNATRA uses a process improvement method called the Naval Aviation Production Process to improve training pipeline efficiency. The process focuses on reducing the

6 time to train one pilot, called cycle time. Students who are set back slow down the cycle time and when a student is dropped from training that missed training seat is seen as waste in the system. CNATRA works incessantly to reduce attrition. Attrition reports are generated twice a year. The attrition rate fluctuates little, yet the largest reason for attrition, DOR, is unexplained. The process improvement method employed has yet to account for the DOR rate nor does it address the social integration aspect of the SNA experience. The Central Question How do Student Naval Aviators (SNA) use study groups in the Navy’s flight training program? Study group participation may affect an SNA in a variety of areas, including social integration, commitment to the institution, and ulitmately persisitance. However, SNA inclusion in a study group or even participation in a study group is apparently deteremined solely by the SNA. There is little, if any, documentation on study groups in flight training. Tinto (2005) acknowledged a gap in retention research, stating “in this regard a significant gap remains between what researchers know about the nature of student retention and what practitioners need to know to enhance student retention” (p. ix). While SNA attrition is monitored routinely, study group participation and its effect on SNA persistence has not been studied. Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study is to examine how study group participation is used by Student Naval Aviators to improve their performance in flight training. Rationale Flight training in the United States Navy is a complex mix of academic study and mastery of physical skills in a high-risk environment. Flight training happens within the context of adapting to a military culture and a culture unique to naval aviation. While the culture of

7 naval aviation has changed over the years, it remains a predominantly Caucasian male environment (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2007). The SNA demographic is however changing, with more candidates of increasingly diverse backgrounds. Social integration has been identified as a key factor in student persistence (Spady, 1971; Tinto, 1987). Social integration describes the degree of fit between the student and the culture of the organization, manifested in peer group interaction and faculty interactions (Tinto, 1975). Social integration may be difficult for minority or female students. Participation in a study group may facilitate social integration. Study groups can provide the SNA access to peer resources and emotional support during stressful times (Amenkhienan & Kogan, 2004). Social integration can increase morale and commitment to the institution, which also increases persistence (Tinto, 1987). If study group participation has been shown to improve social integration in a college setting, it may also improve social integration in naval flight training. Improved social integration might improve SNA persistence. Research Questions The central question for the phenomenon under study is: (1) What effect does study group participation have on Student Naval Aviator persistence in flight training? Subquestions to central question are: (1) What effect does study group participation have on the social integration of Student Naval Aviators in flight training? (2) What effect does study group participation have on Student Naval Aviators’ performance in flight training? (3) What effect does study group participation have on the quality of Faculty Contact for

8 Student Naval Aviators in flight training? Significance of the Study The flight training curriculum is continuously evaluated and revised with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of the instruction and reducing attrition. While the design of the curricula is constantly evaluated, scant research has been conducted on the effect of study group participation on SNA persistence. SNAs form study groups on their own volition, which may result in a tendency towards a homogenous makeup of the group. This method of constituting study groups may make it more difficult for minority and female students to join a study group. If study groups positively affect persistence, minority and female students would then be at a disadvantage. Study group participation may aid social integration, academic performance and persistence. If so, this study may identify practices that could potentially improve Student Naval Aviator persistence in primary flight training, especially minority and female SNAs. The cost associated with the loss of one operational aviator was estimated by Eskew (1997) to be $72,000 per SNA, with 152 SNAs leaving flight training in a six month period; attrition costs are estimated to be in excess of $21 million per year. The loss of 152 students not only represents the costs of training those individuals but also represents assets that will not be available to the customer, in this case the fleet. In the aviation pilot production process, those 152 students will not become pilots and the time that it takes to replace them represents a delay in providing a trained pilot to the fleet. Perhaps of greater importance than the costs though, is the possibility that the findings may be generalizable to other populations. Definition of Terms Attrition, the term used when a student or trainee fails or withdraws from a course of study or training program, the opposite of persistence (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a,

9 p. H-1). Aviation Selection Test Battery, abbreviated as ASTB is series of tests used by the United States Navy and Marine Corps to select candidates for flight training (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, p. VIII-6). Academic Qualifications Rating, abbreviated as AQR, is a score that is produced by combining portions of the ASTB tests and is predictive of academic performance (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, IX-2), with a predictive validity for academic grades of r = .45 (p < .001) (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2008). Aviation Preflight Indoctrination, abbreviated as API. The first aviation course for student pilots after entering the Navy (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, IX-2). Black Greek Organizations, abbreviated as BGO, are fraternal organizations found on college campuses (McClure, 2006). Drop on Request, abbreviated as DOR. A request generated by an SNA to withdraw from flight training. Flight training is considered high-risk training and all participants must be volunteers (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, p. I-3). Human Performance System (HPS), a model used to analyze an individual’s work output, particularly in a professional or vocational environment (Rummler, 1996) Introductory Flight Screening, abbreviated as IFS, this course is usually taken prior to commissioning. IFS is accomplished by enrollment in a private pilots licensed course, through the solo flight stage (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007c, p. 2). Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, abbreviate as NAMI. NAMI is a department of the Navy Operational Medical Institute that provides professional support, technical advice and

10 consultative services to the Chief of Naval Air Training (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2008). Naval Flight Students, abbreviated as NFS, are Naval Officers that are undergoing training to become combat naval pilots (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, H-3). Nontraditional student, a person attending college usually older than the typical student, not residing on campus and often on a part-time basis (Metzner & Bean, 1987, p. 28). Pilot Flight Aptitude Rating, abbreviated as PFAR is a score that is produced by combining portions of the ASTB tests and is predictive of primary flight performance for Student Naval Aviators (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, II-3), with a validity of r = .35 (p < .001) to predict SNA flight grades (Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, 2008). Persistence, continuing in a course of education or training towards graduation or completion, the opposite of attrition (Tinto, 1987, p. 119). Pipeline, the term used to describe the training continuum of SNAs from API, primary, intermediate, and advanced flight training (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, H-4). Setback, the academic practice of holding an SNA back that is struggling academically. This allows the SNA to repeat the course section (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, H-4). Student Naval Aviator, abbreviated SNA is a naval officer that applied for and was accepted into the flight training program (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, p. H-5). Study Groups, two or more students meeting with the expressed purpose of studying. Studying includes whatever methods the students use to enhance their learning. Undergraduate Pilot Training, abbreviated as UPT. Six training courses, designed to produce qualified pilots to fly jet aircraft, multi-engine turboprop, helicopter, and tilt-rotor aircraft (Chief of Naval Air Training, 2007a, H-5).

11 Assumptions and Limitations The researcher conducting a qualitative study should acknowledge bias in the design of the study. Because convienience sampling was used to identify potential participants, a risk of sampling bias is present. The reasons students may opt not to participate are not known but could insert sampling bias into the study. In order to reduce researcher bias an instrument and protocol were developed for the interviews. The researcher assumes that SNAs apply for the flight training program because they want to become pilots and naval officers. The researcher assumes that no organizational pressure to participate or not participate in the interviews was employed. The researcher obtained informed consent before interviewing any participant. This study examined the impact of study group participation on persistence in a professional training continuum. Because the flight training environment is different than the students of Spady’s (1971), Tinto’s (1975), and Metzner and Bean’s (1987) studies, their findings may not be transferable to the SNA experience. The people in the flight training program have been physically screened and academically tested for the ability to succeed in the program. The selection criteria for SNAs may limit the generalizability of the findings to larger populations. The demographics are predominantly male and Caucasian indicating that most of the respondents may tend toward the dominant population. The inability to use control groups is a limiting factor. Use of control groups would facilitate the ability to isolate the effects a treatment variable. Use of control groups was excluded because of the potential adverse impact on the SNA.

12 Conceptual Framework This study takes place within the context of naval pilot pipeline training. The study will examine the extent that study group participation influences SNA persistence. Study groups may positively affect social integration and by extension SNA. The target population is the set of SNAs who have recently completed or withdrawn from primary flight training. The participants are naval officers some of whom have withdrawn from flight training, but may continue in the naval service in a different vocation. The identities of the participants will remain confidential. This study is based on theories of the Training and Performance Improvement discipline. Fundamental to performance improvement is the view of performance from a systems’ perspective. Rummler and Brache (1988) explain, “every performer exists within a particular human performance system” (p. 46). The naval flight training program is a training system, which is in agreement with Tinto’s view of colleges. Tinto (1987) recognized the systematic nature of school when he observed, “inherent in the model of institutional departure is the important notion that colleges are in a very real sense systematic enterprises comprised of a variety of linking interactive parts, formal and informal, academic and social” (pp. 117-118). Performance improvement professionals also recognize the systematic nature of school. Gilbert (1996) in his seminal work on human competence described a “school system as a performance system” (p231). Performance improvement practitioners approach issues from a systematic perspective. Examining SNA persistence from a Human Performance System’s perspective can aid in identifying factors affecting attrition. Rummler and Brache’s Human Performance System includes five components: the performer, input, output, consequences, and feedback. In the flight training system the Student Naval Aviator is the performer, the input is knowledge and skills

13 instruction, the output is SNA performance, the consequences are the grades, and feedback is provided as a debrief after each event. When troubleshooting performer problems Rummler and Brache (1988) suggest asking, “Do the performers have the necessary knowledge to perform? Do the performers know why desired performance is important? Are the performers physically, mentally and emotionally able to perform?” (p. 46). Four of the five components for the flight training system have been heavily researched, along with some performer characteristics. While SNAs are tested academically and physically screened for fitness, little has been done to gauge SNA emotional readiness. Effective socialization is a significant factor in an individual’s emotional readiness (Felton, & Shinn, 1992; Scheff, 2007). Study group participation in other studies has been shown to affect socialization, academic performance, and relationship to faculty. This study can demonstrate the effective use of the Rummler and Brache’s Human Performance System model in research. Study group participation has been found in other studies to be associated with persistence (Amenkhienan & Kogan, 2004; Fischer, 2007). Study group participation may be both a catalyst and a barometer of SNA persistence. If SNAs are invited to join a study group because they are socially integrated, then group participation may be an indicator of the potential for persistence. If SNAs become socially integrated because of their membership in a study group then study group participation may be a catalyst for social integration. Organization of the Remainder of the Study This study includes a review of the literature regarding student persistence with a focus on the effects that study group participation may have on student persistence. Study group participation was expected to affect social integration, which affects peer group support, relationships with faculty, and commitment to the institution. This document provides an

14 overview of the research methodology used in the study, a description of the population, and the instrument used in the study. The collected data are presented and the analysis of the results explained. Implications for practitioners are outlined and suggestions for further research are discussed.

15 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction Pilot training in the Navy has benefited from the efforts of previous research but the primary focus of the research has been upon the selection of viable candidates. This study is about student persistence with students who are in training to become combat naval aviators. This literature review examined the research on student persistence. The lack of persistence of adults in educational pursuits has been studied for almost two centuries. Verner and Davis (1964) found that educators had recognized persistence as a serious problem in 1814 “when Thomas Pole urged adult teachers to visit those students who were absent in order to exhort them to attend regularly” (p. 157). Even when studies on persistence were done, they were not well known. Verner and Davis go on to say that while 30 studies had been completed since 1928, educators still complained of the lack of research available. Since Verner and Davis’s observations, the problem of persistence has been studied by a significant number of researchers. Tinto (1987) discusses the profusion of studies, stating “there have been few problems in higher education which have received as much attention (e.g., McNeely 1937: Iffert 1956; Summerskill 1962; Skaling 1971; Tinto, 1975; Cope and Hannah, 1975; Pantages and Creedon, 1978; Raimst, 1981)” (p. 36). The number of persistence studies has continued to grow since Tinto’s observations. The intent of this review of literature is to identify the research that is most applicable to the unexplained withdrawal of SNAs in flight training. Research that examines the effect of study groups’ participation on social integration, faculty contact and persistence was identified and reviewed. A multitude of factors affect student persistence, though the factors coalesce around academic performance and social integration. Three dominant themes emerge

16 from the literature that impact academic performance and social integration. Social integration, faculty contact, and study group participation appear to enhance student persistence. Study habits (including study group participation) may enhance social integration and increase faculty contact. Study habits include the amount of time spent studying, with whom, and study skills. Faculty relationships are important because they can provide the student performance feedback and motivation to study. Social and cultural acclimatization are important because successful adjustment to college life includes building peer networks, establishing relationships with faculty, and adopting the group norms of successful students. Study group participation is typically viewed only in the context of study habits; however, the literature also shows that study group participation can affect faculty relationships, academic performance, and social integration. The inference from the literature is that student performance may be improved by participation in a study group. Conceptual Framework The concept of the study is to examine the SNA as the performer, in the context of Rummler and Brache’s (1995) Human Performance System (HPS), see Figure 2. The HPS model can be used as a diagnostic tool to isolate the cause of performance problems. The HPS model, in concert with other models of student attrition, was used to isolate a major cause of SNA attrition. It is a relatively straightforward process to superimpose the HPS model on the flight training system. The SNA is the performer in the flight training system. The inputs to the system are curriculum instruction, performance support, and environmental factors. The SNA is the performer in the system, possessing unique attributes, which may change as a result of being in the flight training system. The outputs are flight performance, academic grades, and personal development. A positive consequence is the achievement of a pilot’s rating, known in the student

Full document contains 143 pages
Abstract: Training naval combat pilots is expensive and time consuming, it follows that attrition from flight training is costly to the government and traumatic for the individual. Flight training is considered high-risk training, and therefore strictly voluntary. Voluntary withdrawal from naval flight training is the largest unexplained reason for Student Naval Aviator (SNA) attrition. Social integration has been demonstrated to have an effect on student persistence in academic studies (Tinto, 2005). Study group participation may facilitate social integration and affect quality of faculty contact, commitment to the institution, and ultimately the decision to persist in flight training. A collective-case study approach was used to examine study group participation and persistence of SNAs in naval flight training. In this approach, a qualitative analysis of six students was conducted to identify how study group participation affects faculty contact, social integration, commitment to the institution, and persistence. A cross-case thematic analysis of the results was conducted, to gain a better understanding of the effect of study group participation on the Student Naval Aviator.