Struggling first-year science students – who’s gonna fix them?

Lackeyram, Dale
Dodd, Jason
Latta, Lenore
Pritchard, Peggy A.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Research examining the first-year transition experience demonstrates that students struggle in finding a balance between academic, social and personal demands on their time (McInnis, 2001). This results in a misperception of the amount of work and time required to accomplish academic tasks (Watson et al., 2002). Most institutions attempt to ease this transition by offering a variety of academic and non-academic supplemental programs and services.

When it comes to improving academic skills, another approach that is commonly used is to intentionally integrate these skills into the first-year curriculum. However, these efforts still occur during the period when students are struggling to adapt to their new social and physical environments, and to cope with the psychological and cognitive demands of higher education. Since there is limited time available in the university semester, a third approach to easing the first-year academic transition is to allow for more practice time between the introduction and the use of a particular academic skill. We will present our SPOT (Science Portal for Ontario Teachers) online module as an example of this third approach to facilitate the introduction of university-level academic skills within the high school curriculum.

In this session, participants will identify key skill areas for development among first year students. This will provide the basis for the exploration of mechanisms through which university faculty and staff can work together with high school instructors to communicate the post-secondary academic skill expectations of students prior to their entering university. As a group, we will brainstorm “How can we introduce university-level academic skills into the high school setting?” and “Who is responsible?”

Presented at the Western Conference on Science Education 2013 on Tuesday July 9, 2013. Full conference proceeding can be accessed at
first year transition, introductory science, academically at-risk