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Survey reveals university students may be overestimating their academic performance

A recent study has shown a gap between what lecturers expect and what students think is expected of them.

In a survey of over 1,400 undergraduates at Denmark’s Aarhus University, 72 percent said they were “well prepared” for lessons.

However, their lecturers begged to differ – when asked whether they thought their students were well-prepared, only 43 percent felt they could agree with the statement.

The study, which was presented at the Society for Research into Higher Education’s annual research conference in Wales earlier this month, also found that less than half of the 283 teachers surveyed agreed that their students’ work was thorough, while 83 percent of student respondents thought they had been detailed in their submitted assignments.

Hanne Balsby Thingholm, the study’s co-author and assistant professor in education at Aarhus’ Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, said: “Most students are thinking they are doing a good job, but it is clear that teachers do not agree.”

She told Times Higher Education that the wide disparity between students’ expectations and that of their lecturers showed “a lack of effective communication between educators and learners”.

“Teachers need to be more explicit about what they expect from their students. It should not be up to students alone to figure out these expectations for themselves,” she said, adding that more time should be dedicated to conversations about how undergraduate study differed from earlier levels of education.

Dr Balsby Thingholm also believes that “teachers need to think not just about what they are teaching, but whether their students learn how to study”.

Also covered in the survey, 68 percent of students felt that they were good at organising or structuring their study time, but just 51 percent of teachers agreed.

On the other side of the coin, 89 percent of teachers think they had set clearly defined learning goals, but only 59 percent of students agreed.

“It is not enough for teachers to simply formulate learning goals – they need to discuss them with students,” explained Dr Balsby Thingholm.

“If students understand what their lecturers want to achieve with them and how they will develop their skills, then it will help students to develop their own learning strategies,” she added.

Image via Shutterstock

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