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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Considering the student perspective : factors that undergraduates perceive as influential to their academic performance in science Welsh, Ashley Jayne

Abstract

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, AUCC, (2007) and the Global Science Forum (OECD, 2008) indicated that in the next decade or so, the wave of baby boomer retirements and the increasing demand for a knowledge-based population would fuel a greater demand for individuals with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. With this increasing demand for individuals with STEM degrees in Canada, it is more important than ever for universities to focus on enhancing students’ academic experiences (AUCC, 2007). Administrators within the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC) were concerned with improving the success of their students and were eager to understand what factors students perceived as influential to their academic performance. This concern fostered the orchestration of this mixed method study with data being collected via a survey (roughly 500 respondents), 24 one-on-one interviews and a four-person focus group discussion. The quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed to determine the factors that students perceived as most important to influencing their performance in science and why these factors were perceived as important. The data was also analyzed for gender differences. Students identified several academic, social and personal factors as influential but the most important factors were related to: the role of the instructor, assessment methods, study skills and habits, community, and the involvement of others. In comparison to males, females placed more emphasis on the approachability of their instructors, assessment methods, study skills and habits, the involvement of others and commuting. Based on the results of this study, recommendations were provided for administrators, faculty, and students on how they could positively affect the academic performance of undergraduates in science programs at UBC.

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