Wednesday 19 June 2019

Leaving Cert did not prepare us for university, claim students in study

The study revealed a challenging shift from second to third level. Stock Image
The study revealed a challenging shift from second to third level. Stock Image
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Students believe that the Leaving Cert failed to prepare them adequately for university, according to a Dublin City University (DCU) study.

More than 300 pupils who sat the Leaving Cert last year, and who are now studying business, education, engineering, computing, humanities, social sciences, science or health courses, were surveyed towards the end of their first year.

Key findings include:

  • Less than a quarter (24pc) felt well prepared to use technology to improve their learning;
  • Only a quarter (25pc) felt well prepared to interrogate and critically evaluate information or ideas;
  • Only 27pc felt well prepared to compare information from different sources;
  • Only 28pc felt well prepared to identify sources of information;
  • 30pc felt well prepared to explore ideas from a number of different perspectives.

Independent thinking, open-mindedness and confidence in reaching decisions were among the other areas where students overwhelmingly felt that the Leaving Cert did not sufficiently lay the foundations for their college work.

Some positives did emerge, including the 83pc who agreed that the Leaving Cert had given them the skills to be well organised and to persist when learning was difficult.

Some 75pc of students agreed the senior cycle had equipped them to be self-disciplined and with an ability to cope with the pressure of heavy workloads, while 72pc said it prepared them to manage their time.

The study was carried out by Prof Michael O'Leary and Dr Darina Scully of the Centre for Assessment Research Policy and Practice in Education at DCU.

Prof O'Leary said that while there were some encouraging findings, overall the research revealed a challenging transition between second and third-level education.

"The Leaving Certificate programme is not, on this compelling new evidence, sufficiently equipping students with the necessary skills for third-level study," he said.

He said because the students were in first year, their perceptions of the Leaving Cert were current, informed and required both attention and action.

Prof O'Leary referred to a review of senior cycle under way by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, as a follow-on to junior cycle reforms.

He said the junior cycle reforms sought to provide students with the tools to start developing greater learner autonomy and the review of the Leaving Cert could build on that.

Prof O'Leary said changes should include exposing students to a wider range of literature and teaching them how to cite others to lend support to their views.

He also called for a broadening of assessment - beyond the traditional exams - to include approaches that facilitate the gathering of evidence for critical, independent thinking.

Irish Independent

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