Black British minority ethnics (BME) students are nationally underachieving in comparison to their Ethnic Chinese and White peers, showing typically a 16 per cent graduate attainment gap in the UK. Previous research has suggested that the attainment gap could be explained by BME student disengagement, as the students typically commute from family home to University, and they work part time. However, peer-assisted learning (PAL) has been shown to have a positive impact on addressing and resolving student alienation and disengagement. However, a question still remains regarding whether student perceptions hold up to statistical analysis when scrutinised in comparison to similar cohorts without PAL interventions. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
This paper presents the results of a statistical study for two cohorts of students on engineering courses with a disproportionately high representation of BME students. The research method involved a statistical analysis of student records for the two cohorts to ascertain any effect of correlation between: PAL; student ethnicity; and student parental employment on student academic performance and placement attainment.
The results indicate that PAL has no significant impact on the academic performance; however, PAL has a positive impact on the placement/internship attainment for BME students and students from parental households with parents in non-managerial/professional employment.
The research limitations are that the cohorts are small, but more equal diverse mix of different social categories than any other courses. However, as the cohorts are less than 30 students, comparing social categories the data sets are small to have absolute confidence in the statistical results of academic performance. Even the t-test has its limitations as the subjects are human, and there are multiple personal factors that can impact an individual academic performance; therefore, the data sets are heterostatic.
The results highlight that there is need for pedagogy interventions to support: ideally all BME students from all social categery to secure placements; BME students who are unable to go on placement to gain supplementary learning that has the same impact on their personal development and learning as placement/internship experience; and White students from managerial/professional family households to engage more in their studies.
Not addressing and providing appropriate pedagogy interventions, in the wider context not addressing/resolving the BME academic and placement attainment gap, a set of students are being disadvantaged to their peers through no fault of their own, and compounding their academic attainment. As academics we have a duty to provide every opportunity to develop our student attainment, and as student entry is generally homogeneous, all students should attain it.
Previous research evaluation of PAL programmes has focused on quantitative students surveys and qualitative semi-structured research interviews with students on their student engagement and learning experience. On the other hand, this paper evaluates the intervention through conducting a quantitative statistical analysis of the student records to evaluate the impact of PAL on a cohort’s performance on different social categories (classifications) and compares the results to a cohort of another group with a similar student profile, but without PAL intervention implementation.
Nortcliffe, A.L., Parveen, S. and Pink-Keech, C. (2019), "Statistically, Does peer assisted learning make a difference on a UK engineering degree programme? HETL Scotland 2017", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-04-2017-0047Download as .RIS
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