Student supports needed for switch to third level

Chances to develop more skills learned in transition year and in Leaving Certificate projects such as those required in history could ease the move up to third-level education, students have told researchers.

However, they suggest more supports are needed to assist the transition from second-level to college, to include more in-depth information on the realities of their chosen courses and the range of available supports.

The findings emerge as almost 40,000 people accepted places on courses through the Central Applications Office (CAO) over the past week, with fresh offers due to be made tomorrow.

The research for the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education was led by Eleanor Denny from Trinity College Dublin’s economics department, in partnership with University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, and Limerick Institute of Technology.

From a survey of 1,579 students of these four colleges, and 10 focus groups, time management was identified as the most significant element of the transition. It was followed by a change in the requirements for written assessments, critical thinking, and conducting independent research, but students also cited increased personal responsibility, financial, and social challenges.

The most common suggestion on skills preparation was a “college experience” programme in schools, like the work experience component of many transition year programmes, and expansion of week-long shadowing programmes which some students had access to. The use of less rote learning, more critical thinking and more research projects that require skills like referencing were among the suggestions to prepare school students for academic skills needed at college.

“There were many suggestions recommending greater use of group work, presentations and computers at second level. Students also suggested more continuous assessment and project work in secondary school,” the research report said.

“In particular, the research project in the history curriculum for the Leaving Certificate was cited as being good preparation for the sort of critical thinking and research required in many higher education contexts,” it said.

Older students and those commuting longer distances were significantly more likely to be challenged with the move to higher education. A direct relationship between transition to college and academic performance was found, with those who reported challenges with the move less likely to achieve high grades.

  • Round 2 cut-off points for all CAO courses will be in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner.


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