Exploring demographic influences on students' academic performance over a five-year programme

T. Sommerville, V.S. Singaram

Abstract


Introduction: This mixed-method interpretive study examines the influence of five demographic characteristics or factors on the academic achievements of a cohort of 202 students through a five-year medical degree programme.

 

Methodology: A quantitative analysis was performed, analysing a series of 32 summative assessments according to racial grouping (as defined in South Africa), first language, sex, age at entry, and source of finance for study. During the cohort’s third year, a stratified sample of 19 students and six staff members was interviewed, individually or in groups. Their opinions on these five factors were elicited using, as stimuli for discussion, graphs showing the performance of a previous cohort.

 

Results: Quantitative analysis of assessment marks demonstrated statistical differences between groups of students when examined according to race, first language, or financial support, the differences being maintained over the full five years. No significant differences were seen according to sex or age. Qualitative investigation revealed a number of opinions on, and explanations of, the differences observed. Some respondents’ comments and proposed explanations seemed, at first, counterintuitive, yet appropriate to the pertaining circumstances.

 

Conclusions: This study has implications for academic development, and advances the literature on diversity and demographic factors influencing student achievement, beyond mere statistics by exploring the details of students’ lives as they relate to the factors investigated. 


Keywords


Diversity, higher education, quantitative methods, qualitative methods, student race, language, sex, age, finance

Full Text:

PDF

References


Bernstein, B. 1996. “Discourses, knowledge structures and fields: some arbitrary considerations.” In: Bernstein B, editor. Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: theory, research, critique. London: Taylor & Francis; 169-181.

Bernstein, B. 1999. “Vertical and horizontal discourse: an essay.” British Journal of Sociology of Education 20(2): 157-173.

Berrey, EC. 2011. “Why diversity became orthodox in higher education, and how it changed the meaning of race on campus.” Critical Sociology 37(5): 573-596.

Bloch, G. 2009. The toxic mix: what's wrong with South Africa's schools and how to fix it. Cape Town: Tafelberg.

Breier M, & Wildschut, A. 2006. Doctors in a divided society: The profession and education of medical practitioners in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Christie, P, Butler, D & Potterton, M. 2007. Schools that work. Pretoria: Ministry of Education report.

Coleman, JS. 1966. Equality of educational opportunity. Washington: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Cross, M. 2004. “Institutionalising campus diversity in South African higher education: Review of diversity scholarship and diversity education.” Higher Education 47: 387-410.

David, M. 2007. “Equity and diversity: towards a sociology of higher education for the twenty-first century?” British Journal of Sociology of Education. 28(5): 675-690.

Ferguson, E, James, D & Madeley, L. 2002. “Factors associated with success in medical school: systematic review of the literature.” British Medical Journal. 324: 952-957.

Field, A. 2009. Discovering statistics using SPSS. 3rd ed. London: SAGE.

Fleisch, B. 2008. “Primary education in crisis: why South African schoolchildren underachieve in reading and mathematics.” Cape Town: Juta.

Fraser, W & Killen, R. 2005. “The perceptions of students and lecturers of some factors affecting academic performance at two South African universities.” Perspectives in Education. 23(1): 25-40.

Greene, JC, Caracelli, VJ & Graham, WF. 1989. “Toward a conceptual framework for mixed-method evaluation designs.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 11(3): 255-274.

Haist, SA, Wilson, JF, Elam, CL, Blue, AV & Fosson, SE. 2000. “The effect of gender and age on medical school performance: an important interaction.” Advances in health science education. 5(3): 197-205.

Heugh, K. 2009. “Contesting the monolingual practices of a bilingual to multilingual policy.” English Teaching: Practice and Critique. 8(2): 96-113.

Kusurkar, R, Kruitwagen, C, ten Cate, O & Croiset, G. 2010. “Effects of age, gender and educational background on strength of motivation for medical school.” Advances in Health Sciences Education. 15(3): 303-313.

Leach, J, & Moon, B. 2008. The power of pedagogy. London: SAGE.

Mwamwenda, TS. 1995. Educational psychology - an African perspective. Durban: Butterworth.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme. 2015. Mission Statement. National Student Financial Aid Scheme; [cited 16 September 2015]. Available from: https://www.nsfas.org.za/NSFAS/ABOUT_US/MISSION_STATEMENT

Ngidi, DP. 2007. “Students' and lecturers' perceptions of some factors influencing students' academic success or failure at a historically black university in South Africa.” South African Journal of Higher Education. 21(4): 717-732.

Obanya, P. 1995. “Case studies of curriculum innovations in western Africa.” International Review of Education. 41(5): 315-336.

Samuel, M. 2008. “Accountability to whom? For what? Teacher identity and the Force Field Model of teacher development.” Perspectives in Education. 26(2): 3-16.

Singaram, VS, Sommerville, TE, van der Vleuten, CPM & Dolmans, DHJM. 2011. “ 'Looking at the glass half full': Exploring collaborative mixed group learning as a transformative force for social inclusion in a South African higher education setting.” Alternation: International Journal for the Study of Southern African Literature and Languages. 18(2): 96-114.

Sommerville, TE. 2013. “Race, power, performance and perception: practical and theoretical observations in higher education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.” Alternation. 20(1): 74-99.

Trochim, WMK. 2006. General linear model. Social Research Methods. [cited 1 December 2010]. Available from http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/genlin.php

Trueman, M & Hartley, J. 1996. “A comparison between the time-management skills and academic performance of mature and traditional-entry university students.” Higher Education. 32: 199-215.

University of KwaZulu-Natal. 2012. Undergraduate prospectus. Durban & Pietermaritzburg: Student Academic Administration.

Zeleza, PT & Olekoshi, A. 2004. “African Universities in the twenty-first century: Future challenges and a research agenda.” In: Zeleza, PT & Olekoshi, A, editors. African Universities in the twenty-first century. Pretoria: Unisa Press.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.20853/32-2-2054

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

eISSN: 1753-5913

Copyright © 2016 South African Journal of Higher Education

Hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2016.

Creative Commons License -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Disclaimer:
This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.