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Bridging the gap between school and university science

27 April 2018

Bridging the gap between school and university science Better links are needed between universities and schools and colleges to help tackle the ‘expectation-reality gap’ that STEM students report facing in their first year of undergraduate study.

This is one of the recommendations from a study by Dr Julie Hulme from Keele University that will be presented at the BPS annual conference next week in Nottingham.

Dr Hulme told us:

“Moving from school or college into higher education requires students to adapt to some significant changes. My work explored some of the challenges and opportunities experienced by students in making the transition to university, and identified ways in which they can be supported.”

The study engaged 381 participants, including academics, teachers, students and other stakeholder group representatives, across eight STEM disciplines, in strategic discussions about the issues faced by students making the transition from pre-tertiary education into studying STEM within higher education.

There was broad agreement that students could be better prepared to make the transition from pre-tertiary to higher education, particularly over academic skills. Nnote-taking, time management, writing, information literacy, practical skills, independent learning, critical thinking and numeracy were all identified as important across the range of disciplines.

There was also dismay at the decision to remove practical coursework from some Psychology A Level courses.

Some suggested students needed to be better prepared for the learning and teaching approaches employed within higher education, and in their expectations and understanding of the nature of their academic discipline of choice.

However, it was recognised across all disciplines that there was little understanding of either curricula or of teaching, learning and assessment practice within either sector from members of the other, and that this needed to be addressed urgently to facilitiate student transition into higher education.

Dr Hulme said:

“The emphasis of research and practice to date had largely focused on what universities and other higher education providers can do to support students once they arrive; the question of how to better prepare students prior to their arrival, or the extent to which this might be possible, had not been properly addressed.

“The overall message from my study is that schools, colleges and universities need to work more in partnership to support students in the transition to university.”

Our annual conference is taking place at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham, from 2-4 May.

Online registration has now closed, but you will be able to register at the conference. Please note that the accommodation is now fully booked and places at the conference dinner will be subject to availability.

Click here to read more about our annual conference.

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