First year undergraduate courses in higher education tend to be designed based on assumptions of students’ prior knowledge. Almost 600 undergraduates at five UK universities, studying biological sciences, were given an MCQ test in their first week at university, based on biology A-level (pre-university examination) core criteria. Results demonstrated low-level retention of basic concepts. There was variation between subject area and examination board and an inverse correlation between MCQ score and time since taking A-levels. By discovering what students remember from their pre-university learning, undergraduate courses can be designed to be more student-focused and so develop a deeper-learning teaching strategy. The results also suggest that, if A-levels are to be redesigned to enhance their impact for students entering higher education, creating programmes which encourage retention of key concepts should be a key factor to consider.
Harriet Jones, Beth Black, Jon Green, Phil Langton, Stephen Rutherford, Jon Scott & Sally Brown. Indications of Knowledge Retention in the Transition to Higher Education. Journal of Biological Education 20 Jun 2014 doi: 10.1080/00219266.2014.926960