Document Type

Theses, Masters


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Master of Arts(MA) in Third Level Education..



This mixed method case study was based in the Institute of Technology and was conducted with the co-operation of four experienced lecturers of engineering and three groups of first year undergraduate engineering students. The main aim of the research was to identify factors which constitute barriers to the independent study and learning of first year engineering students.

A large proportion of first year engineering students do not return to college for the second year of their programmes. Many reasons for this are identified in the research, including the failure to pass assessments and examinations as a result of the lack of independent study and learning. It was necessary for the case study research design to be mixed in method and sequential in nature to best address the complexity of the research question. Qualitative exploratory interviews were conducted with the four experienced lecturers of engineering. The analysis of the data gathered in conjunction with my own personal experiences, and knowledge gathered from a review of the literature served to guide and inform the selection of the questions which were used in a quantitative student survey. This was completed online, and included the “Brief Measure of Leaner Autonomy”. This resource provides a numeric value for the student’s learner autonomy. The inclusion of this measure provided a mechanism to explore the relationship between the level of autonomy of the students, their profile and their study habits.The findings of the student’s survey were subjected to quantitative comparative analysis. In order to best meet the aims and objectives of the research and to best represent the significance of these findings they were subsequently subjected to qualitative analysis. Strength was added to the research by revisiting the findings which emerged from the qualitative interviews during the qualitative analysis of the data from student survey. Identified by as barriers to independent study and learning were, the lack of commitment to study by the students, the lack of sound study skills, a low level of learner autonomy in young male with low CAO points on entry, and students working too many hours. The recommendations of this research focus on the need of third level institutes to recognize the importance of sound study skills training.