I am interested in how students learn, and how they make transitions between different learning environments. When the differences between environments are very large, such as those between high school and large universities, the transition can be particularly difficult for students, and may be reflected in their levels of motivation and performance.
With my colleague Assoc. Prof. Rob Reid at the University of Adelaide, Australia, we investigated the impact of prior learning at high school on the performance of students in a large (>800 students) introductory Biology class. We found that, contrary to our expectations, students that completed Biology at high school were no better off in this class than those that didn’t do Biology, suggesting that differences in the ways that these courses are taught at different levels, as well as the expectations of students, may be key factors in their success at university. These discrepancies between expected and actual performance also have important implications for tertiary entry requirements. More details of our study can be found here in our paper in Higher Education Research and Development.
Read what peers are saying about our research in commentary piece by Alison Campbell, the Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning and Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.