Beyond the First Year Experience in Science: Identifying the Need for a Supportive Learning and Teaching Environment for Second Year Science Students

Wendy Loughlin, Sarah-Jane Gregory, Glenn Harrison, Jason Lodge

Abstract


The Second Year (sophomore) Slump is a well-defined phenomenon affecting American undergraduate students in the middle years of their degree. In the Australian context, minimal attention has been given to identifying or addressing potential concerns with the transition and satisfaction of students beyond their first year of study in science degrees. A case study of second year students (n = 165) studying a bioscience course is presented. Potential student demographic factors, including low social economic status, non-English speaking background, first in family to attend University (>60%), and Grade Point Average (GPA) progression, were examined. An academic slump based on GPA trend of a decrease of GPA greater than 0.35 was observed for 33% of the student cohort, irrespective of their program of study or background. We surveyed the second year students to identify their concerns in this year of study and their preferences for various support activities. The survey indicated that academic workload/expectations and work experience were of most concern to students. The survey results were considered in the context of an institutional focus on strategies to enhance student engagement and retention throughout the student lifecycle. We propose that a strategic design approach, with alignment between curricular and co-curricular activities, is more likely to have success in enabling science academic staff to engage and support second year students.

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