Supporting First-year Undergraduate Repeating Students Within Mainstream Tutorials
‘Supporting first-year undergraduate repeating students within mainstream tutorials’ is a qualitative research study using an interpretive, first-person Action Research (AR) approach to focus on students who are repeating their Level 5 compulsory Human Anatomy and Physiology 1 (HAP1) paper at a University in Auckland. Repeating students make up approximately 20 - 25% of HAP1 students each semester and are submerged amongst new enrolments in tutorial classes of approximately 40 students. My intention, as a researcher and fulltime tutor, was to trial strategies aimed at identifying and effectively supporting repeating students within tutorial classes. These ‘at risk’ students are not easily identifiable to their tutorial teachers as students who may require additional support and, as a group, are normally less likely to seek help.
A review of literature relating to repeating students has been considered through the lens of Vygotsky’s sociocultural learning theory and has revealed several approaches which have been explored and applied in the research. These approaches include the role of working with repeating students in the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and the significance of social interactions for learning.
Two AR cycles were carried out in 2018 across semester one and two. As a first-person Action Researcher (ARer) I positioned myself as the main participant in this research and used a reflective journal to critically reflect on my practice with an aim of uncovering and interpreting the deeper meanings behind the things I do for repeating students. In addition, I interviewed eight repeating students to bring another voice/perspective to my experience and to challenge my assumptions and pre-conceptions. Generated data were thematically analysed at the end of the first cycle and produced findings that indicated areas for enhancement for the second cycle. First-person AR has had a direct benefit for refining my professional practice to support repeating students who are integrated within my mainstream tutorials.
The findings that resulted from this study indicate that I can support repeating students through intentionally identifying them in class and taking the lead in reaching out to offer additional support. During tutorials, if I position myself as a role model and demonstrate the behaviours of a successful university student, I can increase the academic preparedness of my repeating students. Furthermore, the values I bring to my teaching and interactions in the classroom, such as integrity, fairness, persistence, respect and positivity impact my repeating students’ willingness to seek help.