The Influence of a Gap Year on the Academic and Social Mindset of Higher Education Students

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This paper reports on the perceptions of a group of students who went on a gap year on various aspects of their gap year experience. The research approach was qualitative. Data was gathered by means of 21 interviews. From the findings it became clear that matriculants mainly decide to take a gap year because they are uncertain about what they want to study, want to earn money or simply want to take a break from studying. The research also showed that a gap year can help determine students' choice of a field of study or career to follow in a variety of ways. It also indicated that a gap year may influence students' academic and social adjustment to life at university, in various ways. On a social level, students integrate more easily after a gap year, because they have learnt how to work with diverse people during their gap year. Although some students have difficulty studying again after a year or two, those who do tend to be much more motivated and focused with the result that they tend to work very hard to make up for the time lost during their gap year(s).

Keywords: Gap Year, Higher Education Students, Study and Career Choice, Academic and Social Adjustment at University
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. Marietha Nieman

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies
College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa

Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

Marietha Nieman is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of South Africa. She has been involved in open and distance learning since 1990. She teaches the modules Leadership, Management and Student Support in Adult Education and Instructional Techniques and Multimedia in Adult Education in the Postgraduate Diploma in Tertiary Education. Her current research interests include the gap-year phenomenon and support to higher education students studying through the medium of a second language. Marietha, who is also interested in assessment practices in higher education, is a qualified, registered assessor and moderator.

Ref: L09P0836