Crossing the bridge: Nigerian students’ independent learning experience in English sixth form college

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis considers the experience of independent learning of a small group of international students studying in three sixth-form colleges in England. It is an empirical account of independent learning experience at college level and the resulting understanding of this experience. It follows a multimethod approach to develop the vlog-interview method involving data collection from eight international students in one academic programme, the university preparatory International Foundation Programme (IFP), across three different independent sixth-form colleges in England. I follow an emergent approach to code and analyse the data collected. Independent learning emerged as a phenomenon with three dimensions rooted in transformational experience: affective, behaviour and cognitive experiences. The thesis offers an account of independent learning-as-experience through three distinct domains, which encompass the students’ college world. Conceptually, the study - as framed by an experience perspective of independent learning - rejects the linear processual model of independent learning. Instead, I conclude that Challenging preconceptions, Extending engagement and Crossing the bridge are key components of the three dimensions outlined above and illustrated in the shifts in students’ independent learning, which contributes to a more nuanced understanding of independent learning and of the student as an independent learning ‘experiencer’. This distinguishes this conceptualisation from a process and development view of independent learning identified in the literature. The thesis thus furthers understanding of what independent learning might be in the (international) student experience. First, it enriches understanding of students’ independent learning in the sixth-form college context. Second, it further conceptualises independent learning. Third, it provides a perspective of ‘experience’ in relation to the impact of students’ beliefs on their independent learning ability. Fourth, by working with the concept ‘independent learning-as-experience’, it offers an example of using an African-centred approach to guide the increasingly complex knowledge systems of the present times. Fifth, the study contributes to qualitative educational research methodology by developing the vlog-interview method to reveal students’ (re)conceptions of independent learning as not limited to processes, practices and approaches to learning. Last, the study addresses some deficit notions underpinning much of the discussion about international students, particularly in Western countries, regarding learning experiences in post-16 settings, and suggests an experientially progressive awareness of independent learning in an increasingly changing environment for learning and development.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSylvie Lomer (Supervisor), Susie Miles (Supervisor) & Garry Squires (Supervisor)

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