Improving the achievements of non-traditional students on computing courses at one wide access university
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AbstractThis longitudinal study set out to improve the retention and achievements of diverse students on computing courses in one wide access university, firstly by early identification of students at risk of poor performance and secondly by developing and implementing an intervention programme. Qualitative data were obtained using the ASSIST questionnaire, by focus group discussions and an open-ended questionnaire on students’ experiences of the transition to higher education (HE). Quantitative data on student characteristics and module results were obtained from Registry. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS version 10. The study comprised two phases where phase one sought to enable the early detection of students at risk of poor performance by investigating the data set for patterns that may emerge between student achievement at Level 1 and entrance qualification, feeder institution, approaches to learning, conceptions of learning, course and teaching preferences and motivation. Phase one findings showed a trend of poorer performance by students who entered computing courses in HE with an AVCE entrance qualification. It was also shown that mature students scored more highly on the deep approach scale compared to their younger counterparts. Phase two investigated the data set for patterns that may emerge between student achievement at Level 2 and entrance qualification, approaches to learning, conceptions of learning and course and teaching preferences. Phase two, using action research, also sought to develop an intervention programme from the findings. This intervention programme was designed to improve aspects of information delivery to students; the personal tutor system, assessment régimes, Welcome Week, and teaching and learning. Piloting, evaluation and refinement of the intervention programme brought changes that were seen as positive by both staff and students. These changes included the Welcome Week Challenge which involved students in activities that sought to enhance students’ interactions with peers, personal tutors and the school and university facilities. These findings have shown that, for staff in wide access HE institutions, some knowledge of the previous educational experiences of their students, and the requirements of those students, are vital in providing a smooth transition to HE. A model of the characteristics of a successful student on computing courses in HE and a model for enhanced retention of diverse students on computing courses in HE were developed from the research findings. These models provide a significant contribution to current knowledge of those factors that enhance a smooth transition to HE and the characteristics of a successful student in a wide access university.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy