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‘I’d rather read the lecture notes than go to the lecture’: First year social science students’ engagement with their degree and implications for teaching.

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Presentation on theme: "‘I’d rather read the lecture notes than go to the lecture’: First year social science students’ engagement with their degree and implications for teaching."— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘I’d rather read the lecture notes than go to the lecture’: First year social science students’ engagement with their degree and implications for teaching and learning Dr. Carl Walker, Stephanie Fleischer & Dr. Sandra Winn † School of Applied Social Science Educational Development Research Group

2 Rationale A need to better understand University of Brighton SASS student study requirements Improve learning environment Embrace virtual learning environment

3 The cultural and political context The expansion of higher education in the UK Attempts to widen participation Rapid growth in student numbers and greatly increased class sizes Shifting costs of higher education to students and their families For some, term-time employment now occupies more time than academic work Virtual Learning Environments

4 What is student engagement? Participation in learning activities Intensity of effort and emotional investment in learning A significant positive relationship exists between attendance and degree result (Woodfield, 2006) Is attendance a proxy for other factors such as ability? But.. research has shown that attendance has an independent effect on academic outcome (Gatherer & Manning, 1998) The extent of the relative importance of attendance? Reasons for non-attendance, illness, inconvenient timing of classes, assignments for other modules and lack of perceived value of attending Factors that encourage attendance include interest in the subject matter, wanting to achieve a high grade, liking the tutor

5 Virtual learning environments Number of hours engaged in study unrelated to academic performance (Schuman et al, 1985, Plant et al, 2005). Virtual learning environments Those posting messages outperform those not using or passively using bulletin boards (Hoskins & van Hooff, 2005) StudentCentral: What effect does it have at the University of Brighton?

6 Gender and prior academic performance Gender has been shown to be related to degree achievement (Simonite, 2003) Women more likely to get good degrees than men although not for all ages (Richardson & Woodley, 2003) More focussed learner identity of females Lead them to work harder and more consistently, less likely to be distracted (Woodfield, 2006) Male attendance is believed to be poorer complicates the picture Devadoss & Foltz (1996) noted that student’s previous grade point average was a strong predictor of current grades

7 An investigation into student engagement… Most UK research has investigated the student experience of study, rather than attempting to quantify relationship with academic outcomes. 1. Quantitatively examine the relationship between measures of engagement and level 1 academic outcome 2. Qualitatively investigate factors contributing to, and mitigating against students’ engagement with their degree 3. Suggest strategies that may help to enhance undergraduate students’ engagement with their academic work

8 The sample

9 Data analysis Data on prior academic performance, attendance, engagement with information technology learning materials, gender and level 1 academic outcome Path analysis allows the simultaneous estimation of multiple regression equations Provides estimates of direct and indirect impact of variables Extension of the simple regression model Model fitting was hypothesis-driven and exogenous variables were chosen from the literature Exploratory rather than confirmatory The hypothesized model was run using Amos 6.0 Several goodness of fit measures were used to test the fit of the model: chi-square, comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker-Lewis index (TLI) and the root mean square errors of approximation (RMSEA) Path coefficients fully standardized and comparable within the model This model had 23 parameters with a sample size of 388. This yielded a ratio of 17 to 1

10 Results The model resulted in a good fit without modification indices Since the model is exploratory and theory-dependent, non-significant effects have not been eliminated (Abd-El-Fattah, 2006) Chi-square was not significant The CFI and TLI are derived from the comparison of an hypothesized model with the independence model TLI and CFI were above 0.95, suggested as indices of choice (Byrne, 2000) RMSEA provides sample-size adjusted estimates indicating good fit when smaller than 0.05

11 IT student engagement with learning materials GenderOverall lecture attendance Level 1 overall academic performance University entry points. 036.194.144.379.280.097.227.093 A model for level 1 academic outcome

12 What does this mean? Model was significant as measured by all standard criteria Engagement via attendance and VLE important influence exam score Attendance also important due to relationship with IT engagement Gender important to academic outcome via previous academic performance Learner identity Almost via attendance (Relatively small sample of males) Prior grade important directly and via attendance Due to ability AND though attendance

13 Qualitative Interviews Aim: Exploring students’ experience of academic engagement 25 interviews carried out on campus Selection on measures used in the quantitative analysis: Attendance and StudentCentral usage Length of interview: 30-45 minutes Tape recorded and transcribed in full Constant comparative analysis All interviewees are identified by pseudonyms

14 Qualitative Findings Transition to university Attendance and Independent study StudentCentral and attendance Attendance and confidence Peer support

15 Transition to University Adjusting to independent study “When I was at school somebody made sure that I sat down and did the work, but here I just have got so much of a free rein. If people don’t knock at my door and get me out of bed at 9 am, God knows what time I will be up.” (Martin, 23) More anxious about social aspect then academic work “It’s been really interesting, quite scary at first and a bit worrying…Meeting new people really. I am living with people I didn’t know and settling into the place and things like that, being so far away from home. It’s kind of daunting. The social life is quite important as you are here starting a new life away from everything else.” (Katy, 20)

16 Attendance and independent study Attendance and little independent study “No [I don’t do the specific tasks for independent study each week]. We have been told in some of the lectures to do homework as it were, but, no.” Interviewer: “Did you read anything from the reading list?” “I think I read one, something about qualitative and quantitative data analysis.” (Paul, 19) Infrequent attendance and no independent study Interviewer: “Have you looked at the example answer to exam question 13?” “I don’t even know what that is.” Interviewer: “Did you read the set readings for Sociology?” “No, I didn’t even realise there were readings, because I just would do my homework from textbooks. I just do my own studying from the textbook, each week from the textbooks, but I don’t understand it.” (Amy, 20)

17 Attendance and lack of confidence Consequence of poor attendance “When I do attend it just gives me a headache… Everyone was so far ahead and it didn’t make any sense to me. Everyone was already ahead on their projects, and I had no idea.” (Martin, 23) Lucy attempts to study without attending “When I have gone [to lectures] it’s knocked my confidence back, it’s made me more confused … I’d rather read the lecture notes than going to the lectures. So I am just doing the work in my own time and I go and get the notes off StudentCentral.” (Lucy, 21) “I don’t understand the module and I don’t get on with reading too much. Stuff I don’t understand. It gets all muddled up in my head.” (Lucy, 21)

18 StudentCentral and Attendance StudentCentral instead of attending “All the lectures I’ve missed I would go to StudentCentral and see what I have missed.” (Wendy, 19) “To be honest, Social Policy I missed a few [lectures] because I find the teacher just reads of the lecture notes. So I don’t find that he gives me anything different. He literally just reads off the lecture notes. Sometimes I won’t go to the lecture, just get the lecture notes and do the work myself at home.” (Nicky, 18) http://eig.edina.ac.uk

19 StudentCentral and Attendance Importance of lecture notes and attendance “I think they are definitely useful to have before the lecture. You have a lot more time to listen rather then getting everything down what people are saying. I find it quite hard as I can’t write as quick as the lecturer is going. So it’s a help and you just write your extra bits on the side, it’s quite useful.” (Helen, 18) “If you get the notes from StudentCentral they’re not so comprehensive as if you go yourself and write the notes. Just like you add annotations into it. If you have the notes it’s really, really basic. I found when I go to the lecture and have the lecture notes in front of me, I found it easier when I write my own notes. Sometimes it’s like a meaning or a phrase I can put in my own words which I find easier to understand.” (Andy, 29)

20 Peer support Students who do not engage academically rely on their friends to keep up with their course Interviewer: “Do you do the independent study tasks?” “Yeah, I did the qualitative interview. I did the interview with my friends and I did that going out and do the research thing, and took notes from that.” (Amy, 20) “To be honest I reckon if it wasn’t for my friends I wouldn’t actually have a clue what I was doing, because they sort of tell me when I’m supposed to do things.” (Sarah, 19)

21 Peer support – Sue’s case Friend helps to develop study skills “[My friend] really helped me, like how to study, how to revise, how to set an essay out, stuff that I could have done by myself but didn’t know quite how to get there.” (Sue, 23) Cultivate a regular study pattern “She is next to me on my floor, we have our doors open and we sit and really work. She always works from 2 to 5 in the afternoon, so I tend to do that as well. We do assignments or read or go on the internet and look at stuff.” (Sue,23) Integrate other flat mates “We all have set study times at home and the rest of the time we go completely mad and go out, go to pubs and cinemas and stuff. They are really good because they support me and we support each other.” (Sue, 23)

22 Conclusions Model was significant as measured by all standard criteria Better idea of some of direct and indirect effects that influence level 1 academic outcome Engagement via attendance and VLE important Learner identity, attendance and gender Not only academic factors determine students’ engagement Need to understand the student life as whole and bring together academic and social integration into university life Social and academic transition Confidence Peer support and learning

23 What are the implications? Access students Future work with age and IT use especially Engagement in IT learning on SS103 Ethnocentrism Emphasise attendance Involvement in VLE Tie attendance to assessment or ability to take exam? Retention Student Support and Guidance Tutor monitors attendance/submission Creating a social network and learning environment for students Learning groups, confidence and competence

24 Learning Groups Learning Group Objectives: – Address student support needs by introducing peer support – Increase time students spend in learning activities – Enhance the quality of student learning – Vocational benefits for students working in groups Introduced induction week across L1 modules Groups of 5 students Structured tasks each week

25 Learning Groups: preliminary questionnaire: My experiences of learning groups as a way to learn and study have been mostly – 61% positive – 23% negative – 14% no opinion My experiences of learning groups as a way to make friends have been mostly – 79% positive – 10% negative – 11% no opinion

26 Learning group: positive experience Interviewer: “Can you tell me more about your learning group?” “I think the idea of learning groups is actually very good because when I first started I thought it was horrendous but actually going into it and having a group of people you work with is actually a very good idea… that helps a lot and there are lovely people.” Interviewer: “In what way did it help?” “It was nice to have people in the same situation, especially as I was not living on campus. It was nice to have people around you who are in a similar situation, who start university at the same place, doing the same course and everything. It’s a good way of making friends.” (female, aged 18-20)

27 Learning group: mixed experience Interviewer: “How would you describe your experience with learning groups?” “There should have been more lectures and less time in learning groups. We pay and do not get enough time.” (male, aged 18-20) “Oh, we didn’t really meet up that much.” Interviewer: “Did you make friends with people in your learning group?” “Yeah, I was friends with them.” Interviewer: “And why didn’t you meet up?” “Because we all lived quite far away from each other so we did it individually.” (female, 18-20)

28 School of Applied Social Science Educational Development Research Group C.J.Walker@brighton.ac.uk S.Fleischer@brighton.ac.uk ‘I’d rather read the lecture notes than go to the lecture’: First year social science students’ engagement with their degree and implications for teaching and learning


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