22 SES 06 D, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Parallel Paper Session
According to OECD (2010), 30 % of students entering a higher-education programme do not complete a programme at this level.This is not least the case within science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM), which ‘in many countries [...] are among the disciplines where the dropout rates are the highest’ (OECD, 2008)(74). At the same time there is an international call for increasing the number of graduates within STEM. Increasing the retention rate would therefore contribute significantly to an increased number of graduates.
A review of research in student non-completion within STEM concluded that there cannot be identified one single explanation for student non-completion (Ulriksen, Madsen, & Holmegaard, 2010) . An array of factors affect students’ persistence, but as pointed out by Harvey and colleagues, rather than focusing on retention the attention should rather be directed towards students’ learning experiences in general (Harvey, Drew, & Smith, 2006).
This paper addresses first-year STEM students’ experiences on entering university. The research focus is to increase our understanding of student non-completion within STEM programmes. In a wider perspective we explore what factors that may hamper students’ learning experiences during first year at university.
Students’ non-completion is not an isolated event, but is happening over time in a continuous negotiation within the students and, explicitly or tacitly, between the students and their social environment (peers, family etc.). The model of student leaving proposed by Tinto (1993) points at the social and academic integration as important for retention. This process of integration should be considered in the light of students’ work on constructing an identity which is also a key component in students’ choice of study. To understand this issue of identity the social structure in which the construction of identities is embedded should be considered along with the personal and interactional level Shanahan (2009). For this purpose, Bernstein (2000) provides a framework for understanding what students are expected to handle when entering the university programmes, both concerning the content of the study and the teaching and learning activities. Bernstein’s concepts of recontextualisation, classification and framing relates to the way educational content is selected and transformed, how different elements relates to (or are kept in isolation from) each other, and how the programme content relates to the outside world. Where the elements within the programme are kept separated the internal classification is strong. Where they stand in an open relationship it is weak. Similarly, where the programme is isolated from outside elements the external classification is strong, while being weak when the relation is open. Framing conceptualises the control over the educational process, e.g. the pace and the sequencing of the teaching. Where the control is entirely with the teacher the framing is strong, whereas an (apparently) higher degree of student control is weakly framed.
Bernstein’s concepts provide an insight into the pedagogical and curricular structure of the programme and what it implies from the students’ attitudes, approaches and practices (Ulriksen, 2009).
Andrews, M., Squire, C., & Tamboukou, M. (Eds.). (2008). Doing Narrative Research. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage Publications Ltd. Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity. Theory, research, critique. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa Harvey, L., Drew, S., & Smith, M. (2006). The first-year experience: a review of literature for the Higher Education Academy: The Higher Education Academy. OECD. (2008). Encouraging student interest in science and technology studies. Paris: OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). OECD. (2010). Education at a glance 2010. OECD indicators Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/45/39/45926093.pdf Shanahan, M.-C. (2009). Identity in science learning: exploring the attention given to agency and structure in studies of identity. Studies in Science Education, 45(1), 43-64. doi: 10.1080/03057260802681847 Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving College. Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. (Second ed.). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Ulriksen, L. (2009). The implied student. Studies in Higher Education, 34(5), 517-532. doi: 10.1080/03075070802597135 Ulriksen, L., Madsen, L. M., & Holmegaard, H. T. (2010). What do we know about explanations for drop out/opt out among young people from STM higher education programmes? Studies in Science Education, 46(2), 209-244. doi: 10.1080/03057267.2010.504549 Yin, R. K. (2003). Case Study Research. Design and Methods (3 ed. Vol. 5). Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.
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