The application of the theory of empowerment to the academic development of first year psychology students.
This study seeks to address the alarmingly high first year failure rates for black students in this country, by developing an intervention that unites the field of academic development with the theory of empowerment. High failure rates are explained as due to a wide range of difficulties in students' adaptation to the university, from narrow cognitive to broad socio-political factors. Academic development's attempts to address these high failure rates are reviewed and criticised for their exclusive focus on cognitive and linguistic difficulties. Empowerment theory is then proposed as providing a theoretical framework, set of guiding principles and methodology to inform a tutorial programme seeking to empower Psychology 100 students to take control of their learning. An individual level of intervention is targeted in this programme, based on the assumption that individual empowerment lay the foundation for broader processes of institutional transformation and are thus essential before students can make meaningful contribution to wider processes of changes. The intervention is then evaluated using multiple quantitative and qualitative methods. Participants in the empowerment programme score significantly higher final Psychology course marks in comparison to participants in a course revision tutorial programme and a control group matched for race and academic ability, and demonstrate a significant improvement in performance over the semester. They also consider the programme beneficial both in terms of course revision and the focus on student empowerment. Participants in the empowerment programme also score significantly higher than a comparison group on a measure of academic empowerment developed for this study. The contributions of the study to the fields of academic development and empowerment are then discussed and a set of recommendations for an empowering education is proposed.