Development of a task-oriented induction week programme to increase student engagement and confidence

Dr Ciara O’Hagan & Damian Kingsbury

Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.5
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Short Abstract

The aim of this project was to evaluate the impact of a task-based induction week programme on levels of academic and social confidence among new level 4 students on a large-cohort course.

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Detailed Outline
Experiences of the initial transition to higher education are an important factor in student engagement and retention1, particularly in courses with large cohorts2. To ease the transition, most universities develop induction programmes which aim to ease the transition and accelerate students’ integration to the university community, often targeting both academic and social factors3.  The development of supportive and personal relationships with tutors has also been cited as an important determinant of engagement and retention4,5.

Recruitment to the first year of our undergraduate course increased by 60% in 2014-2015 to 233 students. Anecdotally, teaching staff were concerned about low levels of understanding among incoming students of the expectations of higher education learning, and also poor engagement with Academic and Professional Advisors (personal tutors). To address this, and in light of the increase in student numbers, the course induction programme was redesigned with a task-orientated approach6. Students completed tasks and challenges in small groups throughout the week, with the support of their assigned Academic and Professional Advisor.

The programme was evaluated by administration of an online questionnaire which asked students to provide qualitative feedback on their experience of induction week, and used a modification of the Academic Behavioural Confidence scale7 to assess the students’ confidence about their abilities to engage with higher education at the beginning of induction week (n = 204 responses), at the end of induction week (n = 81) and midway through the semester (n = 115). Students’ confidence in their understanding of university-level study, their ability to navigate the university and city, and their awareness of extra support available all increased immediately following the induction programme; and confidence relating to making friends and working on group projects was consistently high at all three timepoints. However, students’ confidence in their ability to manage their workload, do well in assignments and ask staff questions all decreased significantly by week 6 of the first semester. This finding requires further investigation, and may suggest that programmes of induction to higher education should be extended beyond an initial ‘welcome week’ as students adjust to the academic demands of university-level study.

1. TINTO, V. (1993) Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition, 2nd ed. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
2. WHITE, S.A. and CARR, L.A. (2005) Frontiers in Education 2005. Proceedings of 35th annual conference, 19-22 October 2005, Indianapolis.
3. HASSANIEN, A, and BARBER A (2008).The international journal of management education 6(3), 35-43.
4. WILCOX, P et al. (2005) Studies in Higher Education, 30(6), 707-722
5. YORKE, M, and LONGDEN, B. (2008) The first-year experience of higher education in the UK. Higher Education Academy.