Considering the Student Perspective


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Considering the Student Perspective: Factors that Undergraduates Perceive as Influential to their Academic Performance in Science
Author: Ashley Welsh

Published in: Education
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Considering the Student Perspective

  1. 1. Considering the Student Perspective:Factors that Undergraduates Perceive as I fl Influential to their Academic ti l t th i A d i Performance in Science Ashley Welsh Research Coordinator Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative University of British Columbia
  2. 2. Background to the StudyAdministrators concerned with the success ofstudents in particular courses within the pFaculty of ScienceConcern fostered orchestration of mixedmethod study t explore f t th d t d to l factors students t d tperceived as influential to their academicperformanceInitial discussions with staff, faculty, andstudents helped to inform the study design andcontent 2
  3. 3. Research Questions1. What academic, social and personal factors do undergraduates within the Faculty of Science perceive as most influential to impeding or enhancing their academic performance? f ?2. How d male and f H do l d female undergraduates l d d t differ in what they perceive as being most influential to their academic performance? 3
  4. 4. Data CollectionExploratory interpretive mixed method study Student survey (~575 respondents) 24 one on one interviews one-on-one A four-person focus group discussion 4
  5. 5. Research Participants Faculty of ScienceUndergraduates Second year and higher 5
  6. 6. Results: Most important factors % of studentsRank perceiving factor as Survey Question CategoryValue Important or Very Important 1 It is important for me to succeed academically Personal 98.2 2 Ability for the instructor to make the course interesting Academic 89.4 3 Developing and adapting study habits... D l i d d i d h bi Academic A d i 84.7 4 Instructor’s ability to speak English clearly Academic 84.3 5 The lack of relevant practice problems... p p Academic 83.1 83 1 6 My interest in a subject... Personal 77.5 7 Receiving encouragement from parents/family/guardians... Social 76.2 8 Uncertainty in types and difficulties of problems... Academic 72.2 9 Volunteering or working limits studying... Social 70.0 6
  7. 7. Results: Differences between male and female responses for most important factors The percentage of males and f h f l d females that percieve the top ranked l h i h k d factors as important to influencing their academic performance100.0 90.0 Males Females Overall 80.0 80 0 70.0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Most important factors 7
  8. 8. Results: Statistically significant differences y g between male and female students’ responses (Note: Females placed more importance on these factors than males) SignificanceStatement p-valueThe lack of relevant practice problems to complete before an exam... p p p <0.01The approachability of your instructor <0.01Receiving encouragement from my parents, family, and/or guardians... <0.01The use of in-class learning techniques in class <0.01 0.01Developing and adapting study habits for university courses 0.01The number of students in the class 0.01Suggestions from parents family and/or guardians influenced my choice of parents, 0.01 0 01majorMy uncertainty in knowing what types and difficulties of problems will be 0.02asked on a midterm/final exam...Ability for the instructor to make the course interesting 0.03My commute to campus limits the amount of time I spend studying 0.05 8
  9. 9. Summary of Most Important Factors ResultsACADEMIC• Qualities of the instructor SOCIAL• Assessment & expectations • Involvement of others• Study skills and habits • Additional responsibilities• Pedagogy and classroom • Commuteenvironment• Courseload OTHER • Community • Advising and academic support PERSONAL • Interest • Academic success 9
  10. 10. Results: Academic factors ACADEMIC • Qualities of the instructor Need for the instructor to be: Approachable i id and outside of class A h bl inside d t id f l Clear & organized in the presentation of their lectures Interesting, engaging, enthusiastic Females perceived developing relationships with faculty as more important than males ith f lt i t t th l 10
  11. 11. Results: Example of student responses The ability for the instructor to make the course interesting 60% 50%% of fstudents 40% 30% Males 20% Females 10% 0% Unimportant Slightly Somewhat Important Very Important Important Important 11
  12. 12. Results: Academic factors ACADEMIC • Assessment & expectations Regular feedback helped students assess their th i progress Knowing what to expect on midterms/exams guided students studying students’ Females expressed feeling more anxious or stressed when not adequately prepared 12
  13. 13. Results: Example of females placing more importance on the factors The lack of relevant practice problems is a/an __________ factor influencing how well I perform on exams60%50%40%30% Males20% Females10%0% Unimportant Slightly Somewhat Important Very Important Important Important 13
  14. 14. Results: Student quote“For exam questions [the instructor will] ask Foreveryone to think up potential exam questions andshe will put them all together and choose fromthem. We actually have a say in what our – it givesus more power over what we’re going to study andwhat we can expect ” expect. Fourth year female in plant biology 14
  15. 15. Results: Academic factors ACADEMIC • Study skills and habitsMajority of students struggle with developingappropriate study skills and h bit i t t d kill d habitsDifficulty with tailoring habits for differentscience disciplines (conceptual vs problem- vs. problembased)Students rarely receive advice or guidance onhow to study 15
  16. 16. Results: Student quotes“I would cram just before the exam and continued to dothat because I didn’t know how to change. I shouldhave talked to some people and didn’t seek guidance didn tso I got bad marks in first semester.” Third year male in biochemistry“I actually felt lost sometimes. I don’t know how tostudy for some courses and it would be nice if there ywas, I guess, support and advice in that because I don’tthink you can study for different courses in the sameway.way ” Second year female in general science 16
  17. 17. Results: Academic factors ACADEMIC • Pedagogy & classroom g gy environment Females preferred th use of active F l f d the f ti learning techniques (i.e. clickers, group discussions)) Pedagogical techniques encouraging collaboration reduced feeling isolated in large classrooms l l 17
  18. 18. Results: Student quotesC c e s are ea y great things. e been e e edClickers a e really g eat t gs I’ve bee relieved when, e ,for example, 75% of the class selected my (incorrect)answer. It forced the professor to go over that materialin a very beneficial way I feel that if he simply asked way.“everyone understand?” no one would have saidanything and we would have moved on. Third year male in physics 18
  19. 19. Results: Academic factors ACADEMIC • Courseload In the interviews 13 out of 24 students interviews, switched from taking five courses a semester to four 19
  20. 20. Results: Social factors SOCIAL • Involvement of othersFamily provided emotional support forstudents in difficult circumstancesFemales were more prone to relying onsuggestions from or relationships with otherswhen choosing their major 20
  21. 21. Results: Student comments“She’s (the instructor) inspiring – the way she talks about plantsand makes things interesting. I just wanted to learn moreabout it and she told me I could specialize in it I didn’t know I it. didn tcould so when I found out there was that option I was prettyexcited.” Fourth year female in plant biology“I guess the teacher was really passionate about it andengaged with the class and it sparked my i t d ith th l d k d interest. It wasn’t t ’tso cut and dry like memorize all these body parts – it wasthinking deeper. Now that I’m in the sciences I’m looking atthings way differently th I use to.”thi diff tl than t ” Third year female in biology 21
  22. 22. Results: Social factors SOCIAL p • Additional responsibilities Volunteering and/or work limited the amount of gtime students spent studying or on-campus Necessary to create balance betweenacademic and social responsibilities d i d i l ibiliti Several students chose volunteering or workexperiences to enhance their learning 22
  23. 23. Results: Social factors SOCIAL g • CommutingLong commutes limited students’ studentsinvolvement with activities on campusCommuters expressed having difficulty in p g ybuilding or belonging to a social andacademic community 23
  24. 24. Results: Student quote“When d“Wh I drove a lot last year – rush h l tl t h hour controlled t ll dmy life. I would be on campus at 6 am to avoidrush hour and to get free parking. I would bring mysleeping bag and sleep in the car for an hour andthen go to class at 8 am. It was horrible!” Fourth F th year female in hydrology f l i h d l 24
  25. 25. Results: Personal factors PERSONAL te est • Interest • Academic SuccessInterest influenced students’ desire toattend class and complete courseworkAlthough the definition of success variedfrom one student to the next, they alldesired success 25
  26. 26. Results: Student quote“It’s more about what is going on in yourpersonal life that really dictates how much youdo at school.” Fourth year female in cell bio & genetics 26
  27. 27. Results: Other OTHER • Community y • Advising and academic supportStudents expressed difficulty with finding andbelonging to an academic and social community(especially in 1st/2nd year)( i ll i 1 t/2 d )Interacting with their peers, instructors andadvisors gave students a sense of belonging andwas beneficial to their academic performance 27
  28. 28. Results: Student quotes“In high school they told us to expect our marks to godown in university but they didn’t say that if you try, youcan keep them up!” Seco d yea e a e ge e a science Second year female in general sc e ce“I have had great advising from two professors. Theyare two role models that have been close to me andquite the influence on how I view and act in the field.” Third year female in computer science & physics 28
  29. 29. Recommendations Administration Faculty Students 29
  30. 30. Recommendations for administrationOrganize course-specific study skills workshopsMore personalized advising for students Counsel students regarding the number of courses they enroll inAddress the needs of commuter students andprovide services to meet those needsEnhance comm nication bet een professional communication betweenservices (i.e. counseling & advising, learningcommons) and faculty 30
  31. 31. Recommendations for facultyShare and engage students in your researchCreate an interesting engaging and safe interesting,environment for learning Appropriate use of active learning techniques (i.e. clickers, group discussion)Provide advice regarding study techniques tohelp students prepare for examsBe an advocate for science & role model forstudents 31
  32. 32. Recommendations for studentsDevelop/adapt study skills and habits before andduring y g your university degree y gEarly on in degree Make a degree plan and revise it accordingly Build relationships with faculty, advisors and peersBe an active participant in your learning Get involved on- or off-campus with various academic and social activities 32
  33. 33. Final Words“After all those shortcomings and not doing well inthat first semester I came to the conclusion that it’sgoing to be hard I have to put a lot of work in it hard. it.If I don’t put a lot of work into it – I’ll have to takewhat I get.” Third year male in biochemistry 33
  34. 34. Additional InformationAshley Welsh’s Full Thesis htt //hdl h dl t/2429/28868Selections from Ashley Welsh’s Thesis: DataAnalysis & Conclusions summary of Ashley Welsh’s Thesis p g y yresearch ademicPerformanceFactors_2pager.pdf ademicPerformanceFactors 2pager pdf 34