Learning Styles and Retention: achievement on an 'A' level programme in a Further Education College

Marian Woolhouse, University of Hertfordshire and Trixi Blaire, West Herts College

Student retention and achievement are key issues in all phases of post - compulsory education. This is especially true in the Further Education sector where some aspects of funding rely on student retention and achievement. Many colleges experience problems of retaining students and this can be acute on 'A' level programmes where many of the students come to college with lower grades at GCSE than those undertaking 'A' levels in schools and have additional difficulties which have led them to not return to school. In addition they are often taking subjects which are new to them and they are in an unfamiliar learning environment - all of which may make studying difficult.

This project involves collaboration between a Further Education college and a University. The aim is to discover if there is any relationship between the mis-match of students' preferred learning styles and their teachers' preferred teaching styles and retention and achievement of A level students. If there is, it is hoped that ways of minimising the difficulties can be found to improve retention and achievement.

The project involves giving the Honey and Mumford learning styles questionnaire to a sample of A level students during their induction programme. Their teachers also complete a specially designed teaching styles questionnaire. In the first phase of the project those students who withdraw will be telephoned and interviewed to ascertain if any of their reasons for leaving were related to a mis-match in learning / teaching styles. The second phase will look at students' achievement, at the end of their two year programme, and whether there is any relationship between their achievement and preferred learning / teaching styles.

The presentation will focus on preliminary results of the first phase of the project.

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