A presentation from the STEM Annual Conference 2014.
Within the body of research on student retention and success, the process of transition to higher education and issues of student engagement within the first year experience are key themes. This presentation will summarise key aspects of research centred on what it means to be a STEM student undergoing transition to higher education. As the study was designed to focus on student perceptions of the transition, a phenomenological perspective for inquiry focused on exploring and interpreting data from students' lived experience and articulating the essences of meaning in their experience. Interviews conducted with first year students from three discipline areas focused on factors perceived by the students as influencing their educational decision-making process; the students’ perception and experiences of the transition process, and the development of the students’ perceptions of tertiary education and their own learning over the course of the first year of study. The presentation will focus on the group of Science students within the larger sample cohort.
Whilst focused on a single Irish institution, the findings contribute to the consideration of potential implications for first year higher education transition policy and practice. The strength of previously acquired learning habits and approaches for the students indicate the importance of such pre-entry factors in the design of first year curricula. The narrative from the study also highlights the need to take account of the disciplinary context of learning, and the need for institutions to consider more closely the development of generic skills in harmony with subject-matter learning.