Whose benefit is it anyway? Dispelling the deficit model of non-traditional learners in higher education using focus groups

Abstract

Although it is a commonly held view that Foundation Year students lack the confidence and the academic skills usually held by ‘typical’ university learners (Ford and Grantham, 2003; Marshal, 2016), anecdotal evidence would contradict this deficit view. Many Foundation Year students have held challenging jobs or positions of responsibility prior to joining the course or are mature students with the experience and transferable skills that brings. This means they are organised, critical thinkers with interesting and insightful suggestions on how the course is organised and on the subject matter being studied. This research aims to reveal the benefits and skills these students already possess by utilising the student voice. Through the use of focus groups with seventeen Foundation Year students in various disciplines, what they bring to the programme was examined through thematic analysis. This led to three categories of value being identified: pedagogical value, pastoral support, course-management. These findings contradict the idea that the benefits gained in education are a one-way process. Accepting and welcoming the valuable viewpoints and contributions students can bring raises implications for how these benefits can be harnessed more effectively to advance higher education and improve the student experience.

Clifford, M. (2020) Whose benefit is it anyway? Dispelling the deficit model of non-traditional learners in higher education using focus groups. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 10(2). Available at: https://educationstudies.org.uk/?p=11394 [Accessed 20 Sep, 2020].