Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Are "good" students born or made?

Here's an interesting one - are "good" students born or made? This study suggests that although students increase in autonomy (surely a major objective of higher education) as they progress through their course, this change is minor compared with individual variation at the start of the course. What does that say about how we are teaching them, and what are the implications for student recruitment?

Teacher and student perceptions of the development of learner autonomy; a case study in the biological sciences. (2014) Studies in Higher Education, doi: 10.1080/03075079.2013.842216
Abstract: Biology teachers in a UK university expressed a majority view that student learning autonomy increases with progression through university. A minority suggested that pre-existing diversity in learning autonomy was more important and that individuals not cohorts differ in their learning autonomy. They suggested that personal experience prior to university and age were important and that mature students are more autonomous than 18–20 year olds. Our application of an autonomous learning scale (ALS) to four year-groups of biology students confirmed that the learning autonomy of students increases through their time at university but not that mature students are necessarily more autonomous than their younger peers. It was evident however that year of study explained relatively little (< 10%) of total variation in ALS scores in this student population, which suggests that personal and environmental/societal factors profoundly influence the degree of learning autonomy and should be a focus of future research.

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