Impact of a mathematics bridging course on the motivation and learning skills of university students

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The transition from secondary to tertiary education is an exciting and yet challenging event in the educational biography of students. During this transition, students often meet with unexpected challenges, which may cause them to drop out from their degree program. Many universities offer bridging courses or longer-term interventions to support their incoming students in this period. To examine the effect of a bridging course designed to reduce gaps in prior mathematical knowledge, promote social-emotional well-being, and foster learning skills, we implement a repeated-measures intervention study. We analyze the outcomes of the intervention, which features tutors with special training, autonomous choice of topic areas, peer learning, and materials for self-directed learning. We measure the development of motivational beliefs reflecting the will to learn (achievement goals, satisfaction of basic psychological needs, implicit theories, self-efficacy) and the skills to learn (reactions to errors, self-regulated learning) at the secondary-tertiary transition. These aspects are captured at multiple measurement points among students (N = 679) who participate in the bridging course (intervention group) and those who do not (control group). The intervention boosts motivational beliefs related to social embeddedness and learning skills in the short term. The observed decrease in autonomy, competence, and self-efficacy might be explained by higher standards that students use for their self-assessment in the new peer group. In the long term, all aspects of the will to learn, except for social relatedness, show stable to strongly negative developments in both groups. Among those students who do not participate in the bridging course, mostly strongly negative developments are observed. The results suggest that the peer tutoring strategy is highly effective and the need for longer-term interventions to uphold the positive short-term effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education
Early online date25 Sep 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Sep 2023

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 501016 Educational psychology
  • 501005 Developmental psychology
  • 503018 University didactics


  • Achievement goals
  • Bridging course
  • Learning strategies
  • Mathematics
  • Repeated-measures design
  • Secondary-tertiary transition

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