First year students and research: A constructivist approach

Calum Downie


STEM delivery has, traditionally, involved the instructor proffering facts, of which the learner accepts and repeats without real synthesis. In the 4th Industrial Revolution however, where connectivity is ubiquitous, a priori knowledge must not only be recognised, but also welcomed.

Since the inception of block mode, n = 530 Exercise Science students have completed a research methods unit. Learning outcomes for this unit include the ability to read and understand scientific literature. The challenge was to create a connection between content and the students prior knowledge, allowing for individual interpretation and creation of understanding.

Students, in focused groups, were introduced to the steps involved in finding and reading scientific literature. In these small groups, individuals were able to discuss found content and, when combined with their pre-existing knowledge, take their a priori, and creating a posteriori, knowledge. (Jonassen, 1991)

First year students, especially those with lower educational background, have historically struggled with the unit, leading to poor completion rates. Since the shift to block mode, completion has increased as have assessment outcomes. It would appear that the combination of focused delivery, and recognising of a priori knowledge has had a positive impact on these outcomes.


First year, Block Mode, Research, Pedagogy

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