Tag Archives: transition

Not just fun: The importance for social transition

Krassimira Teneva, Samantha Jane Logan &  Jess Inglis

Parallel session 1, Thunderstorm 1.1

Short Abstract
Research (Katanis, 2000) shows that students who do not make a successful social transition into university in the first year of study are less likely to persist. They are more likely to experience difficulties with their academic work and underachievement. This places more demands on academics to facilitate the students’ social transition as an integral part of the course delivery. This session will focus on ways you can make this happen, and on the help and support available from Student Support Services.

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Detailed Outline
In 2013-14 1446 students withdrew from the university without completing their course. They would have been affected by a number of issues (at SHU currently we haven’t got a robust process to record reasons for withdrawal) but research would suggest that failure to make friends, to feel that they belong to a community is likely to have contributed to the decision (Bers and Smith, 1991). Research (Kantanis, 2000; Urquhart & Pooley, 2007) also indicates that students who do not make a successful social transition into university in the first year of study are less likely to persist. They are more likely to experience difficulties with their academic work and underachieve. Lack of friendship networks can affect students’ self-esteem and confidence which hinders their ability to engage fully with the academic process (Thomas 2002; Tinto, 1998, 2000). The clear correlation between successful social transition and successful academic transition would indicate that academics and support staff need to do more to facilitate the students’ social transition as an integral part of the course delivery.

This session will focus on ways we can make this happen, and on the help and support available from Student Support Services. We will look at examples of projects which enhance the social experience of students, and enable them to develop friendship networks and learning communities, from SHU and other HEs

• Kantanis, T. (2000). The role of social transition in students’ adjustment to the first-year of university. Journal of Institutional Research 9 (1), 100-110 http://www.aair.org.au/app/webroot/media/pdf/JIR/Journal%20of%20Institutional%20Research%20in%20Australasia%20and%20JIR/Volume%209,%20No.%201%20May%202000/Kantanis.pdf
• Tinto, V. (1998) Learning Communities and the Reconstruction of Remedial Education in Higher Education, Replacing Remediation in Higher Education Conference, Stamford University, Jan 26-27
• Tinto, V. (2000) Reconstructing the first year of college, in Student Support Services Model Retention Strategies for Two-year Colleges, Washington DC: Council for Opportunity in Education
• Thomas, L. (2002) ‘Student retention in Higher Education: the role of institutional habitus’, Journal of Educational Policy, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 423-32

On the day this session was merged with another session, as the themes overlapped. The details of that can be found here: Culture Connect: Engaging students through mentoring and supporting their transitions

270 – Midwifery PALS (Peer Assisted Learning) – Cathy Malone

Peer learning or student-to-student mentoring schemes have been introduced in many HEIs in the last decade to help students settle into university life and help them in their learning and personal development (Hampton & Potter, 2009). The peer support scheme developed at Manchester University (PASS/SI) which integrates study support and social induction now has over fifty affiliated schemes in UK universities and involves thousands of students in peer support. Many advocates of these schemes concur with Vygotsky (1978) who suggests that students learn best from and with their peers and stress the benefits available for student participants, leaders and staff (Falchikov 2001) However, peer assisted learning schemes may sometimes be met with doubt (Longfellow et al., 2008).  In this short paper student leaders will report on the initial findings of a pilot peer supported learning scheme in Midwifery that has been running in the last year.  Volunteer student leaders will provide a brief account of the scheme, and present initial student and staff perceptions of the benefits and challenges. Questions will be posed for audience discussion on the issues, benefits and opportunities for student support.Presentation:  http://prezi.com/j6lmhiais6mo/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

270 LTA Power Point ALDHE

172 – What is is that makes today’s student induction so different so appealing? – Hilary Cunliffe-Charlesworth, Christopher Hall, Keith Radley

Using social media to support arrival and integration into Higher Education could be innovative or pointless, but as part of a blended experience there are some useful ideas. This poster describes the use of mobile phones and ipads in experiencing the use of geo-social networking. It demonstrates how students are introduced to each other and the university environment and processes. The poster reflects on what makes the transition into university a positive experience and how students can successfully integrate into the new cohort or join an existing group.

172 JustWhatisitthat

307 – Experiences of formative and summative assessment in FE – Alice Bailey

This short paper will share interim outcomes of a research project at Sheffield College on the current forms and impact of engagement by learners with feedback from tutors. Colleagues will be able to develop their understanding of the student experience at Level 3 in a Business and Professional Studies environment, as well as considering implications for supporting successful transitions into Level 4 at SHU and beyond. The project broadly considered the use of formative and summative feedback as a teaching method to improve student attainment at HE. The current situation is that study skills are taught in an ‘ad hoc’ way by tutors but that these have been shown to be successful in enhancing student engagement. For example, incidents of in-module retrieval was reduced significantly year- on-year in one module. There is little overall focus, however, on students understanding what is required of them in assessment and when reflecting on tutor feedback. For most tutors, engaging students in feedback is not the focus of their energies.  The hypothesis of the project was that students who internalise academic standards perform better than those who don’t. One anticipated outcome was a reduction in the incidences of ‘in-module retrieval’ and to generally increase grades; another was to support staff in bridging the divide between L3 and L4, giving ‘weaker’ students (typically the ones who fail to achieve 40% from their first attempt) the skills and knowledge to be able to cross that threshold. Many students who opt to complete a foundation degree at Hillsborough College do so because it is a route to university (SHU) for those with only 120 UCAS points. We have to work hard to help students move from working at a low-level L3 to L4 (and, eventually L5 and L6) as many students find this transition difficult.

307 SHU L&T Conference June 2013

2012 Transitions into postgraduate study

Anna Heussi

Much previous research into the area of student transitions has mainly focussed on the transition from high school to university (Palmer, O’Kane, & Owens, 2009). However it may be that the difficulties experienced by those transitioning into postgraduate study are much greater as new difficulties come into play. For example, for those who have not been to university before, or those who also have a full-time job. The current research wanted to explore student perceptions about the transition into postgraduate study. In particular, perceptions with regards to difficulties encountered and suggestions for improvements to aid this transition.

 After attaining questionnaire data surrounding student experience, it became apparent that student transition experience was a key area that required attention, especially with regards to: receiving support, commitments outside of university, and knowing what they needed to do in order to succeed on the course. In order to explore these key areas of concern two focus groups session were conducted with students from some of the courses that completed the initial survey. Focus groups were conducted at the university and lasted approximately 40 minutes. Within these focus groups the discussion was prompted into the key areas of concern identified in the survey.

Participants were collected via opportunistic sampling in lectures. The first focus group contained 4, more mature, participants and the second contained 5 younger participants. Each focus group was recorded and then transcribed. Analysis will consist of firstly, identifying key themes in the discussions. Secondly key areas of concern will be highlighted to focus on things that aren’t quite working in the university. Lastly things that work well and improvements suggested by students will be highlighted. Hopefully the findings will have important implications for improving future student experience in experiencing the transition into postgraduate study.

Link:  Presentation and blog

B2 – (EX42 and EX36) 11.50

2012 Why ‘fun’ is not enough: exploring effective transition into HE

Catherine Arnold and Stella Jones-Devitt

Background: paper addresses two themes – Expectations and Engagement – drawing upon evidence from the Young Persons’ Attributes programme, a recent HWB initiative in collaboration with Local Authorities and regional NHS employers. This aimed to raise expectations and awareness of Level 3 young learners taking non-A Level routes into Higher Education (HE) or workplace. It draws upon work of Dyson and Kerr (2011) advocating that: initiatives which are able to engage with complex local dynamics have an important role to play in tackling links between education, disadvantage and place (p6). 

Key ideas: stakeholders agreed to pilot a project giving learners the opportunity to experience going the extra mile. This aligns with Watson’s assertions (2006) that the most productive form of widening participation gets learners to the matriculation starting point. The intention was to provide a lived experience that improved chances of a positive first year HE experience. By doing this programme, learners have gained: 

  • Experience of HE lectures and workshops.
  • Skills in writing a HE assignment and in receiving feedback. 
  • Understanding of the importance of professional practice in both workplace and HE.
  • Appreciation of the significance of effective communication with employers and HE Institutions. 

Intended outcomes: the experience raises several issues for exploration. Key factor relates to developing ‘critical beings’ advocated by Barnett (1997). We have some ideas to share, seeking to address: 

  • Are we preparing in-coming students with the right skills, attitudes and understandings, in order to have the best opportunities for their future?  
  • As colleges and schools are pressurised to meet targets for course pass rates, are they unable to use supposedly ‘riskier’ teaching methods which develop students’ thinking abilities; hence disadvantaging their students?
  • What can be done constructively to address these gaps?
  • How many of these issues should be the business of HE? 


Barnett, R. (1997) Higher Education: A Critical Business. Buckingham: SRHE/Open University Press.

Dyson, A., & Kerr, K. 2011. Taking action locally: Schools developing area initiatives. Manchester: University of Manchester.

Watson, D. (2006) How to think about widening participation in UK higher education Bristol: HEFCE.

B2 – (EX36 and EX42) 11.50

Presentaion:  Why Fun is not enough  Diagram – Why Fun is not enough

2012 Developing computer students’ expectations in a partner college

Bill Esmond, Mike Smith and Joyce Drake, Chesterfield College

Students progressing from vocational further education programmes often experience difficulty in leaving behind ‘supportive’ educational practices regarded as acceptable in further education settings but inappropriate in higher education settings (Bathmaker 2009). Problems may be exacerbated where students progress onto higher education within the same institution, where the continuation of setting may blur the ‘further/higher’ boundary (Burns 2007).

College staff teaching Applied Computing programmes in Collaborative Partnership with SHU encounter these issues both with full-time 18-year-old students and with part-time, mature students in employment (usually in an IT environment), who have not been in formal education for quite some time.

C1 – (EX18, EX04, EX13, EX15) 14.20

These problems are addressed not simply by explanation of higher education processes but by engaging with students’ existing understanding to development research and analysis skills. An exercise before the course begins confronts the familiar sources on which students are over-reliant, exploring questions about CDC and the PLATO technology developed from the 1950s, which has contributed significantly to modern computing through on-line tools, applications and games.

A further development seeks to provide students with opportunities to access and post their work on the college’s VLE in advance of the course start, providing early experience of higher-level assessment, electronic submission and assessment, whilst the use of cloud computing for these purposes is under review.

Click for presentation:  C1 EX18 Developing computer students’ expectations

2012 Great extpectations: exploring the potential of text messaging to support students

Claire Craig and Neil Mayne, Salvation Army

Mobile phone technology has transformed how we communicate and interact with each other.  For many students texting is the means through which they maintain contact with friends manage their social lives.   This paper presents the findings of a small pilot project that explored the potential of mobile phone technology and text messaging to support students during their transition to university. 

Fifty three students participated in the pilot and were sent weekly uplifting text messages during the first eight weeks of their first semester at university.  The content of the messages, developed in partnership with third year students aimed to offer reassurance, practical advice and signpost individuals to support mechanisms within the university. 

Qualitative data was collected at the end of the pilot.  Analysis of this data showed that students found the texts to be motivating, helped to manage expectations, build confidence and offered reassurance particularly during assessment weeks. 

Within this paper I will describe some of the key lessons learned and share plans for the future development of this work.

C1 EX13 Presentation

C1 – (EX13, EX04, EX15, EX18) 14.20