‘Why are we doing this if there’s no connection?’ The importance of prior experience in academic learning on a Master’s programme

Pearce, Sarah. 2023. ‘Why are we doing this if there’s no connection?’ The importance of prior experience in academic learning on a Master’s programme. Journal of Further and Higher Education, ISSN 0309-877X [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

Personal approaches to learning in Higher Education are acknowledged to offer an engaging and motivating approach to learning. This article argues that they can also enable students to learn more effectively, and apply this learning to their professional lives. Previous research has suggested that three of the most difficult facets of Master’s level study for students are abstract thinking, unpredictability, and research skills. This practitioner study found that drawing on students’ prior personal and professional experience is an effective way to develop these skills, because it provides the necessary contextualisation for learning. Interview data from one diverse cohort on a Master’s in Education programme show that the students believed that this approach improved their understanding of these three areas, and their ability to use formal assignments to explore and explain their experience. This more personal and engaged approach to learning addresses a neglected area of higher education: attending to Master’s students’ academic skill development.

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Additional Information:

“This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in the Journal of Further and Higher Education. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.”


student-centred learning; prior experience; Master’s; pedagogy

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies
Educational Studies > Centre for Identities and Social Justice


15 November 2022Accepted
10 February 2023Published Online

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Date Deposited:

03 Jan 2023 10:44

Last Modified:

15 Feb 2023 15:49

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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