22 SES 04 B, Students' Readiness and Expectations
In order to decrease university dropout rates it is important that first-year students are well-prepared for university education. If secondary school teachers would be able to distinguish between groups of students based on differences in university readiness they could adapt their teaching practices to meet the specific needs of these groups. Moreover, both guidance and career counsellors and teachers would then be alerted to students for whom university might not be a good choice and to students who would make good candidates to apply for extra challenging programmes at university. In this way, information on students’ university readiness may contribute to more students being better prepared for university and making suitable higher education choices. This is important, since many students all over the world drop out or switch their major during or after the first year of university.
The most basic predictor of study success in university is prior achievement, i.e. secondary school GPA (Koning, Loyens, Rikers, Smeets & Van der Molen, 2012). Academic achievement can be explained by cognitive (i.e. intelligence) and non-cognitive factors, such as psychosocial and study skill factors. In this study, we will focus on the latter, since these can be more easily influenced by education than the first. Some important non-cognitive predictors of achievement are curiosity, effort, and the use of learning strategies (Robbins et al., 2004; Richardson, Abraham & Bond, 2012; Ruffing et al., 2015; Von Stumm, Hell & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2011). Making a typology of secondary school students based on curiosity, effort, and learning strategy use might already provide us with a rough view on which groups of students are more or less prepared for university. However, this first analytical step is only informative in the sense that it gives an overview of how students differ from each other regarding factors that explain their current achievement. It does not provide us with sufficient information on university preparedness. Therefore, in this study we relate the categorization of students based on curiosity, effort, and learning strategy use to three important measures of university preparedness: self-efficacy in university-specific skills, scientific interest, and the accomplishment of important study choice tasks. This second step will provide us with an overview of how the specific classes of students that were formed using predictors of academic achievement, differ in factors that affect the transition to university. Consequently, looking at the characteristics of each class regarding the university preparedness measures, we could make an educated guess on how risky the transition for students in that class would be.
Research on predictors of achievement in secondary education as well as research on psychosocial and study skill factors that impact study success in higher education will be used as a theoretical framework.
Aims and research questions
The aim of this study is to identify meaningful groups of secondary school students that share the same characteristics on academic achievement predictors - effort, curiosity, and learning strategies - and to see how these groups differ in measures of university preparedness. The practical value of this profiling of students is that secondary school teachers and guidance counsellors can identify students who are likely to face a difficult transition to university and therefore are at risk of dropping out, and consequently can differentiate their instruction or guidance in order to meet the specific needs of these groups regarding university preparedness. Our research is guided by two questions:
1) Which student profiles can we discover based on the indicator variables effort, curiosity, and learning strategies?
2) How do these groups differ in factors of university preparedness, namely self-efficacy, scientific interest, and the accomplishment of study choice tasks?
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