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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Learner Expectations and Experiences of Mature-age Students Entering University

Jean Searle.

Increasingly universities are becoming concerned about the experiences of first-year undergraduate students in terms of student satisfaction, achievement and retention. In order to provide a strategic response to these issues, research was conducted within the Faculty of Education at one Australian university across five cohorts of students as they commenced study at university. All commencing students were invited to undertake an initial survey regarding their educational background, their motivation for becoming educators, and their preparedness for univeristy. They were also invited to nominate to take part in focus group interviews later in the semester.

In this paper I will present findings from the survey an follow-up interviews with students from one of the cohorts, that of mature age students studying Adult & Vocational Education. Demographic data from this cohort will be compared with data from a similar cohort from 1993. Secondly, in order to identify factors which shape student satisfaction, achievement and retention, data will be presented in relation to:
1) individual histories: including data associated with the student’s readiness for academic study,
2) individual engagement: including the degree of support available to the student at home or at work, and
3) institutional affordances: factors associated with the student’s experiences at university.
The latter is of particular importance in the light of one finding that initial levels of enthusiasm are not matched by similar levels of preparedness or knowledge of academic discourses.


Jean Searle  (Australia)
Senior Lecturer in Adult & Vocational Education
School of Vocational, Technology & Arts Education, Faculty of Education
Griffith University

Jean is the Deputy Head of the Schools of Education, Brisbane-Logan and former Director of the Queensland Centre of the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Australian Research Consortium. She is a Senior Lecturer within the School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education and teaches subjects focusing on adult literacy in the Bachelor of Adult & Vocational Education, Bachelor of Training and Master of Training & Development programs. Her research interests include adult and workplace literacy, the history of adult literacy, social and e-literacies, flexible delivery and academic literacies.

  • Adult Learners
  • Mature-age Students
  • Academic Discourses
  • First-year university experiences

(Virtual Presentation, English)