Challenges facing mature returners to Education and an evaluation of strategies to address these

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Challenges facing mature returners to Education and an evaluation of strategies to address these. Context/rationale. Part-time course – mature students Low prior academic achievements Students’ work/other commitments Feedback from students re issues Issues arising from assignments
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Challenges facing mature returners to Education and an evaluation of strategies to address theseContext/rationale
  • Part-time course – mature students
  • Low prior academic achievements
  • Students’ work/other commitments
  • Feedback from students re issues
  • Issues arising from assignments
  • Experiences of course leader
  • Student reasons for leaving course
  • Research group
  • Students joining the course in May 2006
  • First data collection from all 80 students
  • Second data collection from 9 volunteers
  • Third data collection via voluntary survey (35/71 remaining students responded)
  • Fourth data collection from all present at final year 3 teaching session in May 2009
  • Final data collection from 50/80new year 1 2009-10, in October 2009
  • Timings of data collection
  • Early autumn term year 1
  • Spring term year 2
  • Spring term year 3
  • Exit year 3
  • Early Autumn term new year 1
  • Data types and collection methods
  • Taped and transcribed group interviews
  • One to one taped and transcribed interviews with volunteers
  • Online survey available to all
  • Paper questionnaire to all year 3
  • Paper questionnaire to all year 1
  • Themes from interviews
  • Self-worth/fear of failure
  • Guilt over other commitments
  • Challenging and changing existing relationships
  • Making space for study and self
  • Pride and development
  • Accessing help
  • Group dynamics
  • ReferencesStudents from low socio-economic groups: (Merrill 2004; Tett 2000; West 1996), women entering HE as mature students: (Acker and Piper 1984; Pascall and Cox 1993; Merrill 1999) women students from specific ethnic groups: (Pickerden 2002) the experience and risk of being a mature student new to HE: (Waller 2005). Gorard et al (1998)Interview criteria
  • Completely new to HE
  • Worried will not complete
  • Never expected to go to University
  • Single parent
  • Non-British background
  • Over 40
  • Heavy other commitments
  • Findings – core group
  • Self-image remains an issue even late in the course
  • Few students think of themselves as ‘students’ primarily, some not at all
  • Most feel their performance is at best ‘average’
  • Guilt remained a significant issue
  • All found the course very demanding
  • Family benefits, personal pride and status and group support were the top motivations
  • Findings (cont)
  • Most rarely asked for help
  • Most felt they could not have done the course when younger
  • All identified significant personal growth
  • All identified the support of their student group as the key positive factor
  • Almost all would recommend the course to a friend or colleague
  • All but two would do it again
  • Findings – (cont)All those interviewed either completed or are about toResults for this cohort were the highest for several years!Full student data is difficult to collect!Anxiety does not mean poor achievement or failureFocus may move to reducing anxiety rather than boosting resultsActions for new cohort
  • Newsletters for applicants waiting to start the course
  • E-mail exchanges with other students before course starts
  • Using past students at Open evenings
  • Explicit acknowledgement and reassurance re key issues
  • Skills audits/targeted tutorials
  • Actions (cont)
  • Timetabled tutorial sessions; 1st assignment marked/returned
  • Invitations to tutorials for all gaining a D grade in any assignment
  • Blogs and discussion boards on Breo sites
  • Caas attend course committee to address part-time issues
  • Preliminary findings – new year 1 – 50 students surveyedSimilar levels of anxiety at start - 35 describe the course as ‘great challenge’However 34 are ‘confident’ or ’very confident’ they will complete – big riseRetention rate up – 1 left over summer. Original research group = 9 leftOnly 11 ‘rarely/never’ described selves as student40 said very/quite likely to seek help41 had no suggestions for improvements to induction/provisionResponse to innovations – said very or fairly useful /50Information materials – 46Open evening 36E-mail contact - other students 30Newsletters before start - 33Early induction sessions – 43Maths/literacy tutorials – 35Library/breo induction - 39Reponses (continued)Own use of library and Breo – 43Discussion boards on sites – 27Course handbook – 50Unit handbooks – 50First assignment marked/returned by personal tutor - 50Conclusions Established systems most valuedPersonal tutor marking/returning work voted best innovationsignificant reduction in caas issuesStudents don’t know what’s newInnovations valued by majorityEvidence of reduced anxiety and higher retention may suggest impactNext steps
  • Monitoring of retention, results and student welfare continues
  • Consideration of impact of increased ethnic minority/EAL ratios may be next focus
  • Unlikely we can wholly remove the issues as many are external, but some evidence of impact!
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