Burton, Lorelle J. and Dowling, David and Dorman, Marilyn and Brodie, Lyn (2005) Understanding student diversity and the factors that influence academic success: a preliminary study. In: McInerey, Dennis M. and Van Etten, Shawn, (eds.) Focus on curriculum. Research on Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning (5). Information Age Publishing, Greenwich, Connecticut, United States, pp. 275-298. ISBN 1-59311-207-6
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Students have always had individual differences in learning preferences and strategies, influenced by sociocultural factors such as ethnicity, culture, educational background, gender, geographical location, and socioeconomic status. The more culturally homogenous student bodies of the past tended to mask this fact. However, the increasing diversity of today’s students has brought those differences more clearly into focus. So too has the increase in off-campus - sometimes even offshore - enrolments. Educators therefore need to respond to diversity in abilities, experiences, and learning strategies if they are to support students to become confident, self-directed, and independent learners (Venter, 2003). The challenge, then, is how to achieve that goal. What are the individual and sociocultural factors that influence how individual students perform? How can teachers recognise the impact those factors can have on student learning? What changes can be made to the teaching and learning environments they provide to cater for these factors and ensure that all students have the optimum chance to succeed? This chapter will describe how a research team from USQ has taken up this challenge. We are studying a group of first-year engineering students to identify the key individual differences and sociocultural factors that influence their academic performance.
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