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Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Research findings to enhance experience of first-years

ACHIEVEMENT: Prof Tyrone Pretorius, University of the Western Cape Rector, congratulates Vuyokazi Mntuyedwa, an Academic Literacy lecturer in the Fundani’s Student Learning Unit who graduated with the Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology in December. ACHIEVEMENT: Prof Tyrone Pretorius, University of the Western Cape Rector, congratulates Vuyokazi Mntuyedwa, an Academic Literacy lecturer in the Fundani’s Student Learning Unit who graduated with the Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology in December.

The findings of a CPUT academic’s doctoral research will contribute towards the making of policies aimed at reducing the dropout rate of first-year students.

The findings can be utilised to inform practical strategies and policies to empower first-year students to deal productively and progressively with peer pressure in the higher education (HE) sector.

The dissertation titled: First-Year Students’ Experiences of Peer Groups and Peer Pressure in the Residences of a South African University penned by Vuyokazi Mntuyedwa, an Academic Literacy lecturer in the Fundani’s Student Learning Unit, saw her graduate with the Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology at the University of the Western Cape in December 2020.

The participants in the research were female, male and mixed gender students who reside at university residences. The findings revealed that the first-year students joined different groups and encountered both positive and negative experiences.

Positive experiences were observed in relation to academic performance and sense of belonging. The negative experiences included peers influencing others to adopt antisocial behaviour, experiencing undue materialistic pressure, and depending on others for making decisions. It was also found that academic success depended on students’ interconnectedness, sense of belonging, peer support and recognition.

“As it is stipulated in the findings, some of the students join academic groups in order to get support, acquire good marks and learn more from their peer groups,” explains Mntuyedwa. “Contrary to that, other students changed their behavior after joining the group, for instance, they start drinking alcohol and take drugs.”

She says student leadership participation was one of the motivating factors for some of the participants to join some peer groups as they want to also participate in decision-making processes in the university and boost their self-esteem. The former student leader adds that first-year students join co-curricular activities for social integration and participation in the rugby Varsity Cup.

“My dissertation will help the first-year students to gain better knowledge about the phenomenon of ‘peer pressure’ in [the] higher education sector,” argues Mtuyedwa. “The dissertation is highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of peer pressure and how the participants managed to overcome their experiences of peer pressure.”

The dissertation also makes some recommendations that assist first year students when entering university for the first time as it gives a clear picture of students’ transition from high school to university.

“I want to negotiate the implementation of a First-Year Experience course in all institutions of HE so that all the first-year students who will be registered in future can benefit from the recommendations of the study. I want to plan the topics for that course as someone who will be teaching [it] and has a good understanding of the valuable topics.”                  

Written by Kwanele Butana

Email: butanak@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Business and Management Sciences and Education Faculties, Student Affairs Department and Cape Town and Mowbray Campuses.