Adjusting to university study: The experiences of students from a manufacturing background undertaking university level study

Year: 2001

Author: Scevak, Jill, Cantwell, Robert

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A recent trend in university study has been the recognition of non-traditional criteria for entry into undergraduate study, particularly for mature aged students. One increasingly common mode of entry has been through recognition of prior learning (RPL) whereby comparable industrial/commercial experience has been seen as equivalent to more formal modes of matriculation. In this study, the academic experiences of 33 male students from an industrial background were investigated as they completed a two year education degree. The purpose of the study was to investigate the quality of student adjustment to an academic environment following extensive industrial training and experience. It was hypothesised that some difficulty in academic adjustment to university study may be experienced by this group, potentially manifesting in less successful outcomes. Students completed a series of questionnaires relating to learning (approaches to learning, self regulation and epistemological beliefs) as well as a series of open ended questions relating to academic and social adjustment. Data indicated that students had developed a positive learning profile, indicated by a bias towards deep learning, adaptive self-regulation and a relatively sophisticated epistemology. However, the continued naive belief in the structural simplicity of knowledge appeared to have a significant diminishing effect on the quality of adjustment and on the quality of learning outcomes. Open ended responses revealed patterns of academic adjustment consistent the flawed understanding of the nature of university learning. Implications of these data for both RPL entry and ongoing support are broached.