The student experience of final year in an undergraduate degree programme in Education Studies
Keywords:Dissertation, Ecology, Education Studies, Internship, Professionally-orientated, Undergraduate education, Work-related learning.
This case study explores the student experience of the final year of a four year undergraduate degree in ‘Education Studies’, with a focus on the perceived impact of curriculum design of the programme. The context is an Irish college of education, and the programme structure has been designed to allow for flexibility to accommodate varying student interests and professional pathways. As the first full iteration of the programme came to a close, it was considered an opportune time to ascertain if the programme was meeting its curriculum design objectives in terms of preparation for the chosen professional pathway post-graduation from both the student and staff perspective. Literature explored included learning ecologies, work-based learning, and the final year experience. Data was collected through a student survey, individual interviews with self-selecting students, and a focus-group interview with the programme development team. Findings suggest that students could clearly identify the development of skills, knowledge and competencies for the workplace through an internship; also highlighted was value in undertaking a dissertation for researching a topic of personal interest, with it noted as a challenging, intense experience. Having appropriate levels and different types of support for students facing the challenges in final year was a significant outcome. A model emerged for final year support in three contexts: pedagogic, workplace and research, and we argue that this is a main research contribution that this study makes to educational research. A discussion of implications for curriculum development in ‘Education Studies’ highlights the need for ‘cohesion’ workshops to be integrated to final year to synthesise student learning, embedding a formalised support structure in order for students to have a greater understanding of choices available to them post-graduation, and introducing a scaffolded approach to ePortfolio development to encourage innovation.
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