A strategy to improve the academic support of first-year students in a university access programme
Sekonyela, Lerato Maletlala
MetadataShow full item record
The study focused on the development of a strategy to improve the academic support of first-year University Access Programme (UAP) students. These students seem to experience a number of challenges, and the nature of these challenges was determined through the literature review. These challenges include inequities in academic support, such as scarcity of tutoring support, the need for peer support programmes, and insufficiency in IT support and training. In addition, there seems to be a need for a preparatory support programme to deal with issues of segregation, rareness of academic support centres, and insufficient academic advising. These challenges could be the obstacles that hinder UAP student’s academic success, progression, and transition to the student’s preferred HE qualification. The identified experienced challenges paved way for the development of a strategy to improve academic support to this cohort of students. Once the strategy was developed, it was significant to identify components of such strategy, and to identify conditions conducive to the implementation of the strategy as what is successful at one institution, will not necessarily return the same results at another institution. In addition, shortcomings of the implemented strategy were identified and disseminated in this study. Functionalism was discussed as the theoretical framework that informed this study. A description of the functionalism was provided, including its evolution, its historical origin and the background in the context of the objectives of this study. Functionalism allowed for better understanding of the challenges that UAP students experienced and facilitated collaboration among the co-researchers in developing the strategy. Moreover, the argument laid by functionalism was that society consists of social institutions, and for society to function smoothly and survive, all the parts that exist within a social institution need to function interdependently and adapt to the everchanging education environment (Benokraitis, 2016: 14; Ferrante, 2013: 31; & Ferrante, 2016: 28). Participatory action research (PAR) was chosen as the research methodology in this study as one of the purposes of PAR is to improve the quality of people’s organisations and lives. Furthermore, researchers who employ PAR, study issues that relate to social problems, and that constrain and repress the lives of students and educators (Creswell, 2012: 582). Additionally, Marincowitz (2003: 595) indicates that PAR is a research process that focuses on improving quality of service by means of a selfreflective process, exploring and problem solving. Similarly, Ary et al. (2010: 515) articulate that PAR is emancipatory and transformational, and aims to challenge unproductive ways of working. In addition, data was collected through focus group discussions facilitated by the FreeAttitude Interview (FAI) technique (Nkonyane, 2014: 18; & Mahlomaholo, 2009: 228). A number of the reasons why focus group discussions were employed in the study were discussed. One of the reasons was to discover information that one would not otherwise access, that is, it is easier for other people to voice their concerns when they realise that others have similar experiences. Therefore, the participants were more comfortable to speak out and engage in discussions; they also provided evidence to reaching conclusions from post hoc analysis of separate statements from each interview. In addition, Focus group interviews work well with Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), which was employed in this study. Central to CDA was the understanding that discourse was an integral aspect of power and control, that is, this method was chosen as it allows the researcher and the co-researchers to take control of the discussion, and no one feels forced to say something that they were not comfortable sharing with the group (Babbie & Mouton, 2005: 495; Lazar, 2005: 5). FAI and CDA enabled knowledge creation and informed critical aspects pertaining to the study (Lazar, 2005: 5; & Weninger, 2012: 3).