Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why students are failing

Greetings from the University of Canberra, where Dr Jon Scott, from University of Leicester, is talking on "Why are students failing? What works to improve retention and success?". He was involved in UK research on the student experience. This showed that most of the problems for new students were not to do with their studies, but social issues of adjustments in leaving the family home and becoming young adult on campus.

Some of the issues also relate to the adult postgraduate students I deal with. As an example Jon's research shows the students do not have recent experience in writing so much. My students comment on the amount of reading they have to do and the need for the detailed referencing. Adult students have less difficulty with planning their work, but have the pressures of work and family.

One interesting aspect is where students get advice from during their university time and how helpful they find it. Jon's research show that the student's personal tutor is the primary source of advice, but students are not that happy with the quality of advice. Students instead are comfortable with advice from family and friends. Being a recent postgraduate student enrolled for face to face and on-line courses is that I have found the quality of advice much higher with an on-line course. I can ask a question and get an answer later and the person preparing the answer has my details, including the history of previous questions in front of them. With a face to face query, I have to find the staff member so I can ask a question, then remind them of who I am and what I am doing.

While Jon presented an interesting and well researched analysis of what the issues are for new students, the proposed way to improve this were disappointing. As an example, the research shows that the personal tutors are relatively ineffective. The proposed solution was better training for the tutors. Instead I suggest replacing the tutors with an on-line help services, with a group of tutors to help. Another example was that Jon identified the difference of school education which allows students to resubmit until they reach the required standard, with university examinations where the student has once chance to pass or fail. It coursers to me that the solution is to adopt the school approach.

Jon also presenting "Student and staff perceptions of assessment feedback: Myth and reality" Friday.

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