Academic self-concept at post-16: Comparing peer-guided, dyadic and autonomous learning as transitional interventions

Celia Bone

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Transitioning from GCSE to ‘A’ level, students struggle emotionally and academically to meet the requirements of ‘A’ level study, drop out and fail (Hall, 2003; DfES, 2011a). The OECD (2003) found that post-16 learners rarely know how to learn on their own whereas effective learners have a positive academic self-concept related to higher attainment (Marsh, 2007). This study followed transitioning students working either collaboratively or alone asking what happens when a transitional intervention is used, such as a collaborative learning strategy, with students studying psychology and ethics for the first time and is there any impact on their academic self-concept and attainment? Rooted in a social constructivist paradigm, a mixed method, 9-month study followed 73 learners in their first 12 weeks of an ‘A’ level programme. Students chose one of three groups; a group guided by a more knowledgeable peer, dyadic pairs or alone. A concurrent triangulation strategy was employed to quantitatively and qualitatively assess students’ transitional experiences. Qualitative data revealed students valued a collaborative strategy. They felt a significant emotional attachment to their peers, which aided academic confidence and understanding. Dovetailed with quantitative data all three contexts showed increased academic self-concept correlated positively with increase in ALIS expected grades (r= +0.299). Emerging themes were the importance of choice of study group, the need for fun, that collaboration stabilised students’ emotional wellbeing, students developed a positive regard for others, an increased positive social identity and improved academic self-concept. Findings illustrate schools can facilitate students’ transition, protect them from isolation, boost their emotional wellbeing, and support their academic confidence, not only increasing their academic attainment but preparing them for life-long learning. This research is not only of value to students but also to teachers, headteachers and governors as well as academics and leaders of further education who lobby for more resilient, competent and buoyant learners.
Original languageEnglish
  • Clark, Jim, Supervisor
  • Roberts, Helen, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusIn preparation - May 2016
Externally publishedYes


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