Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 6, No. 1 (2009)

Learning approaches, personality and concepts of knowledge of first-year students: Mature-age versus school leaver

Lorelle J Burton, University of Southern Queensland
Janet A Taylor, Southern Cross University
David G Dowling, University of Southern Queensland
Jill Lawrence, University of Southern Queensland


There is considerable interest in how students study and what skills best facilitate their academic performance. This paper reports on some of the key outcomes of a large individual differences study of student learning profiles at a regional Australian university. It examines how studentsí conceptions of knowledge, approaches to learning, and personality relate to academic success measured using grade point average (GPA). A total of 1078 students, 706 mature-age and 372 school leaver students, completed an online survey during their first semester of study at the University of Southern Queensland. The data were summarised using multivariate techniques (e.g., correlation and regression analyses) and first-year student profiles were built using standard descriptive statistics. Univariate analyses showed that mature-age students obtained higher GPAs and scored higher on the Deep and Strategic learning approaches than did school leavers. Conversely, school leavers scored higher on the Surface approach to learning. Regression analyses indicated that the Strategic approach positively predicted GPA. Intellect and Conscientiousness were each found to positively predict the Deep approach to learning; Conscientiousness was found to positively predict the Strategic approach to learning; and Emotional Stability and Intellect were each found to negatively predict the Surface approach to learning. These findings provide implications for curriculum design and delivery and for transition programs for both school leaver and mature-age students.

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