Students' approaches to learning and their performance in the Extended Project pilot

Within the new framework set out in the final report of the Working Group on 14–19 Reform (2004), an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) was proposed in England to foster the development of students' independent study skills. Widespread national provision of a fully accredited EPQ, as a stand-alone Level 3 qualification, began in September 2008, preceded by a fully evaluated pilot. A survey of students taken during the pilot explored the relationship between students' approaches to learning and their achievement on the EPQ, in addition to assessing the extent to which the new qualification fulfilled its aims. On the basis of questionnaire responses from students, a set of models was fitted to describe the extent to which attainment and engagement with the pilot EPQ were influenced by learning approach. Results showed that, notwithstanding the contribution of previous academic achievement, attainment on the EPQ was positively related to intrinsic motivation; clearly a desirable attribute for lifelong learning but also an indication that the qualification may encourage students to be more innovative and creative about their learning. Furthermore, students' engagement with the project appeared independent of their prior achievement – a feature which has the potential to help lower the barriers to participation.

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