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HERE Project Toolkit

HERE Project Toolkit

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  • 1. The HERE Project ToolkitA resource for programme teamsinterested in improving studentengagement and retentionHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 1
  • 2. IndexIntroduction …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. p3‗What Works? Student Retention & Success‘ ………………………………………………………………... p3The HERE Project ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. p4The HERE Project methodology & resources ………………………………………………………………….. p5Doubting ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… p6Persistence, continuation & retention …………………………………………………………………………. p6How to use this toolkit ……………………………………………………………………………………..…….. p7The HERE Project recommendations …………………………………………………………………………… p8Recommendation 1) Identify and respond to students at risk ……………………………………………. p9Recommendation 2) Help students to make the transition to being effective learners at university .. p13Recommendation 3) Relationship and communication with staff ……………………………………… p17Recommendation 4) Help students make more-informed decisions about choosing the right coursein the first place …………………………………………………………………………………………………… p22Recommendation 5) Improve social integration ……………………………………………………………. p25Recommendation 6) Improve a sense of belonging to the programme ………………………………. p30Recommendation 7) Foster motivation and help students understand how the programme can helpthem achieve their future goals …………………………………………………………………………….…. p34Recommendation 8) Encourage students‘ active engagement with the curriculum …………….…. p39Recommendation 9) Ensure that there is good communication and access to additional studentsupport ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………... p44Evaluation …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… p47References ………………………………………………..………………………………………………………… p48The HERE Project Research Team ……………………………………………………………………………… p51This toolkit was developed by:Ed Foster & Sarah Lawther at Nottingham Trent UniversityChristine Keenan & Natalie Bates at Bournemouth UniversityBecka Colley & Ruth Lefever at University of BradfordISBN 978-1-84233-154-5HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 2
  • 3. Introduction to the What Works? Student Retention & SuccessHERE Project toolkit The HERE Project is one of seven funded by the Higher Education Fund- ing Council for England (HEFCE) and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF). The seven projects, involving 22 higher education institutions, haveBetween 2008 & 2011, research teams been evaluating effective strategies and interventions to ensure highfrom Nottingham Trent University, continuation and completion rates. The projects have been working toBournemouth University and the Uni- generate practical outputs including reports that enhance practice andversity of Bradford explored two key associated toolkits and resources to assist other institutions to learnthemes associated with student reten- from their work and improve student retention and success. It is antici-tion as part of the ‗What Works? Student pated that the outputs of this programme will be particularly significantRetention & Success‘ programme. in the context of the current changes facing higher education.The teams looked at the impact of stu- The Higher Education Academy‘s Widening Participation team has pro-dents‘ doubts (when strong enough to vided co-ordination for the seven projects and developed an overarch-consider withdrawal) and the role that ing conceptual model.programme teams had on retention andengagement.This toolkit was based on the evidence Staff capacity building Student capacity buildingpresented in the final project report in2011. It is a resource developed forprogramme teams to review their ownretention practices. Individual staff willalso find it useful as will a range ofprofessional, support and management Academiccolleagues.The overriding message from our re-search is that there is no simple solu- Social Servicestion, no magic bullet, to retention. Theprogramme teams we interviewed car-ried out many small scale interventions;you may already be doing some or all ofthem. However, this toolkit provides anopportunity for staff to reflect on their Student engagement & Institutionalown practice and consider strategies for belonging management &improving student retention and suc-cess. co-ordinationThe HERE Project team Pre-entry in HE Beyond HEFebruary 2012www.HEREproject.ac.uk Further information about all the projects involved in the ‗What Works?‘ research can be found at http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/retention-and-Contact ed.foster@ntu.ac.uk successHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 3
  • 4. The Higher Education: Retention & Engagement (HERE) ProjectBetween 2008 & 2011, the HERE Pro- HERE Project Key Findingsject investigated first year student re-tention as part of the ‗What Works? In our study...Student Retention & Success‘ pro-gramme. The HERE Project was deliv-ered jointly by Nottingham Trent Uni- 1. Approximately one third of first year students had experiencedversity, Bournemouth University and doubts sufficiently strong for them to consider withdrawing.the University of Bradford. We believedthat exploring retention & engagement 2. Student doubters were more likely to leave than non-doubterstogether was important. At its mostbasic level, retention is a benchmark 3. Student doubters reported having a poorer quality university expe-measure of engagement and our prior rience than non-doubters.research into engagement suggestedthat factors associated with engage-ment would also be important to help- 4. Students usually had more than one reason for doubting.ing students to remain on their courseof study. 5. The primary reasons for doubting were associated with students‘The HERE team explored two themes experience of the programme.associated with retention: The impact of doubting on stu- 6. The main reasons for staying were support from friends and family, dents‘ decisions to persist adapting to the course/ university, student‘s personal commitment The impact of individual pro- and drive and how the programme will help students achieve future gramme teams on student re- goals, particularly employment. tentionFurther details about the HERE Project 7. The primary times for doubting were immediately before and aftercan be found at Christmas. Very few respondents in our survey (conducted March –www.HEREproject.org.uk May 2011) had expressed doubts prior to starting university.There is a fundamental difficulty writ- 8. Students reported differing degrees of doubt. Although, even amongst those with the strongest doubts, not all departed.ing a resource like this. At what leveldo we pitch our recommendations? Dowe for instance write recommenda- 9. Some student groups appear more likely to doubt than others.tions aimed at new lecturers or forthose who are intimate with the reten- If this is the case then either move spoken to teaching staff in our owntion literature? We have tried to use on quickly, or use this opportunity institutions about the toolkit, oftenclear examples throughout to get to reflect. How could your practices what they have found most usefularound this problem. Nonetheless, you be improved or barriers overcome? is the opportunity to take time tomay find that you are familiar with reflect on the headings and howmuch of what we offer in this toolkit. We have found that when we have they apply to their own practice.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 4
  • 5. HERE Project Overall, it was clear that there was no second stage (page 7) of the toolkit single factor adopted by these pro- process. Our experience with staff inmethodology gramme teams that significantly in- developing the toolkit suggests that fluenced student retention. However, the cards can really help push con- it appeared clear that: versation forward. The cards can beThe HERE Project used a mixed meth- downloaded from the HERE Project  There were many small actionsods approach. Seven large scale sur- website www.HEREproject.org.uk taking place that appeared toveys of first year students were con- support student retention.ducted to explore students‘ experi- We have deliberately kept the amountences at university and factors asso-  Successful programmes were of detail about our findings to a mini- able to help students adapt to mum in this toolkit. You may be in-ciated with doubting. Sixty seven stu- being effective learners in HE terested in reading part or all of thedents were interviewed individually or and created an environment in final report. Once again this can bein focus groups to provide richer de- which students felt known, val- found on the website.tails about their experiences. The ued and part of a community.progression of respondents was ana- We have written some of the pro-lysed to subsequently test the impact gramme audits as case studies. Youof doubting on retention. HERE Project Further may be interested to see more detailsThe research findings were used to about the views of the programmedevelop a series of audit tools. These Resources teams and students in the case stud-were used with programme teams to ies on the website.explore their practices supporting We have produced a series of re-first year students to succeed. Ten source cards associated with this Copies of resources, presentationsprogrammes were surveyed across toolkit (see picture below for the and reports can also be found on thethe three institutions. These were cards in use). Each A5-sized card has HERE Project website. Please take aprogrammes with either very high one recommendation and associated look at www.HEREproject.org.ukrates of retention or good rates of key recommendations. These are de-retention but were working with par- signed to be conversation starters in If you have any questions, then weticular demographic groups, for ex- staff meetings or development ses- would be happy to talk to you. Pleaseample STEM subjects, or a high num- sions. We envisaged that they would email ed.foster@ntu.ac.uk for furtherber of first generation in HE students. be valuable for anyone organising the information.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 5
  • 6. The importance of doubting Persistence, continua- tion & retentionWe contend that doubting is a per- Secondly, whilst there is extensive Our research showed that doubtersfectly normal reaction to the change high quality research into student were more likely to withdraw earlyof circumstances most students en- retention in the UK (for example when compared to non-doubters.counter when starting a new universi- Yorke & Longden 2004, Quinn et al. When we tracked the progress of thety course. We therefore use the term (2005), much of if has been conduct- March—May 2009 survey respond-‗doubting‘ to describe students who ed with students who have already ents, 8% of doubters had withdrawnhave doubts about being on the right withdrawn from their course and so by December 2009, whereas only 2%course/ right university that are suffi- there is a risk that their (often more of non-doubters had done so. In oth-ciently strong to have considered negative) responses to researchers er words 98% of non-doubters hadwithdrawal. reflect post hoc rationalisation about continued into their second year their university experience. However, whereas only 92% of doubters hadWe found that approximately 1/31 of our findings suggest that many stu- done so. Most of these students hadall survey respondents had doubts dents who subsequently left actually progressed to the second year, how-strong enough to have considered had a more negative experience ever, some had transferred to otherwithdrawing at some point during the whilst studying on their course. This courses or were repeating parts, orfirst year. therefore appears to offer a useful all, of the first year. We have thereforeWe would suggest that doubting is point of triangulation with post with- used the terms ‗persisted‘ anduseful to those interested in retention drawal studies. ‗continued‘ interchangeably to referfor two reasons. to students who are still retained on In our studies doubters reported:Firstly, there are many more student their course as we cannot always say  A less satisfactory academic that students had ‗progressed‘.doubters than there are leavers. Our experience.study appears to be in line with previ- Even amongst students who haveous research into doubting. For ex-  Lower levels of understanding withdrawn, it appears likely that manyample Rickinson & Rutherford (1995) about the differences between will return to higher education some-found that 21% of students were FE & HE. where. Yorke et al. (1997) found thatdoubters and Burrows (2010), 40%.  Lower levels of confidence when surveyed 75% of withdrawn stu-Yet in the UK, around 10% of students dents had either already restarted onwithdraw from their course during the  Being more likely to be working a higher education course or werefirst year (NAO, 2007). Most doubters ‗very hard‘ or ‗not very hard at planning to do so. However, our in-therefore do not become leavers. In all‘. terest is in how individual institutionsthe course of our study we believe  That they were more likely to can optimise student retention andthat we have uncovered many of the be struggling with their studies minimise the distress for individualfactors that explain why this is so. and less confident about asking students associated with early with-Indeed the 9 sets of recommenda- for help (although in the event, drawal.tions are largely based on the feed- were more likely to actually askback we received from doubters who for it).stayed.  That they were less likely to be enjoying their studies.1 37% of all respondents were doubters in the 2009 survey (n=873), 32% in 2011 (n=1,063).HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 6
  • 7. How to use this toolkitWe suggest that the recommendations They arise from: the themes and issues they raise. Itin this toolkit are best explored as may not be possible to implement the  Data gathered during the HEREpart of a team development process, ideas in your setting, but could you Project from students or tutors.such as a meeting or away day. None- do something different that achievestheless an interested individual will  Information from retention or the same result? The ten programmesfind plenty that is useful to reflect learning and teaching research. we audited used a range of differentupon if they work through the toolkit  The experience of the HERE approaches to support their students:on their own. Project team working with first we suggest you reflect on ways of year students in a range of implementing ideas in the most rele-Each of the nine recommendations roles. vant way for your particular context.contains a set of suggested actionsfor the user to consider implement- We do not recommend that you un- We have left plenty of spaces for youing. thinkingly follow the recommenda- to make notes throughout the toolkit, tions listed, but instead reflect upon please do use them.Step 1 Step 2 Step 3Take stock of the situ- Discuss Recommen- Reviewing your ac-ation by looking at dations 2 ‗student tions and considerRecommendation 1 transition‘ and 5 further recommenda-‗identifying students ‘social integration‘ tionsat risk‘What data do you currently possess We suggest that you do this as part We recommend that you agree toabout retention? Is retention a of a team meeting or away day and have at least one review meeting asproblem for all students, or a spe- allocate a few hours to discuss the part of the action plan in stage 2. Itcific group (for example, repeating themes and make plans. The may be appropriate to review with-students)? What do you want to toolkit discussion cards may be a in a few months of starting toachieve from the exercise? Are you useful way to engage the team. make changes and at the end oflooking to achieve a specific target We suggest starting with these two the academic year.(such as increasing retention by a recommendations as they deal with  What changes were you ablecertain amount) or creating a more some of the most potent and far- to implement?engaging student learning envi- reaching themes we encountered.ronment?  What impact did they appear By the end of the meeting we rec- to have on retention or stu-This stage might be most produc- ommend that the team have creat- dent engagement?tively done by one individual such ed an action plan for identifyingas the programme leader and the  What would you do differ- students at risk, supporting stu-information gathered from it dis- ently next time? dent transition and social integra-cussed at the start of the meeting tion. At this point, you can revisit thein step 2. toolkit and consider other areas.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 7
  • 8. HERE Project toolkit RecommendationsRecommendation 1…………………………………………………. Page 9Identify and respond to students at riskRecommendation 2…………………………………………………. Page 13Help students to make the transition to being effective learners at universityRecommendation 3…………………………………………………. Page 17Relationship and communication with staffRecommendation 4…………………………………………………. Page 22Help students make more-informed decisions about choosing the right course in the first placeRecommendation 5…………………………………………………. Page 25Improve social integrationRecommendation 6…………………………………………………. Page 30Improve a sense of belonging to the programmeRecommendation 7…………………………………………………. Page 34Foster motivation and help students understand how the programme can help them achievetheir future goalsRecommendation 8…………………………………………………. Page 39Encourage students‘ active engagement with the curriculumRecommendation 9…………………………………………………. Page 44Ensure that there is good communication about and access to additional student supportHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 8
  • 9. Recommendation 1Identify and respond to students at riskThe 2007 National Audit Office report may be at a disadvantage when making‗Staying the Course‘ found that some stu- that transition.dent groups were more likely to leave The evidence appears to suggest thatthan others. These included: whilst some groups are more at risk of Students with lower entry qualifica- withdrawing early, there is much that can tions be done to support students to stay by creating a learning experience appropri- Part-time students ate to their needs. One practice common Students on some STEM subjects to many of the programmes in the HERE Male students Project study was that they had a good understanding of the issues that affected Students from low participation their students‘ retention, they knew their postcodes/ lower socio-economic students personally and had put in place classifications strategies to respond to students‘ needs Students with disabilities by using this data.These factors increase the risk, but clearly We therefore recommend that programmedo not provide the whole picture. For ex- teams identify and respond to students atample, one US study, (Kuh et al. 2008) risk by:found that the strongest influence onpersistence was prior academic attain-ment. However, the second factor wasstudent engagement: the extent to whichstudents were engaged in academically 1.1 Understandingpurposeful activities. Tinto (1997) in a more about students atsmaller study found that student engage- risk of withdrawingment was actually a stronger predictor of earlypersistence than prior attainment. USstudies such as Tinto (1993) argue that 1.2 Monitoring ‗at risk‘retention is a consequence of students timesbecoming integrated (later described as‗engaged‘ (Tinto, 2006)) into the institu-tion. This integration comes about 1.3 Monitoringthrough the interplay of students‘ prior engagement, not justexperiences, their goals and the institu- attendancetional environment (also see Pascarella,1985 and Astin, 1993). In the UK, Thomas 1.4 Responding to(2002) and Quinn et al. (2005) both sug- students at riskgest that some student groups may find itharder to interpret the institution‘s un-derlying environment (habitus) and thusHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 9
  • 10. 1.1 Understanding more  If not what else needs to take place?about students at risk of  Ensuring that the whole pro-withdrawing early gramme team understands the current position with regards toThere are broadly two sources of data student retention.on student withdrawals: formal and  Considering gathering data atinformal. We suggest programme faculty/school level, even if onlyteams ensure that they learn from to provide greater details whenboth. discussing institutional with- drawals data.Formal dataWhilst all institutions dedicate time and Informal dataenergy to gathering and reviewing data In our programme audits, it was veryabout students‘ experiences at univer- apparent that even in large pro-sity, Yorke notes that ―Experience sug- grammes, the staff team made a realgests that data gathered to fulfil quality effort to know the students personally.assurance obligations are not always Furthermore, student feedback sug-exploited optimally for the purposes of gested that being known was an im-quality enhancement: in other words, portant factor for retention, for exam-the ‗quality loop‘ is not always closed‖ ple one doubter reported being reas-Yorke (2006, p208) . Institutional data sured when "My lecturer for the previ-can be difficult to use effectively, Bu- ous module, she approached me at theglear (2009) notes that there are often end of one class when she thought Idifferences between the date a student looked worried and concerned‖. (NTUinforms the university that they have programme student survey). In ourwithdrawn and their last log-ins to case studies, better personal relation-university IT systems. In two of the ships with students also helped staff tocase studies, the programme teams spot students at risk, or provide a val-were part of an initiative developed to uable perspective on institutional databetter exploit student records for re- for the purposes of reviewing data andtention management purposes. Fur- planning subsequent strategies. One ofthermore one programme also kept our case study programmes specificallyadditional information about student built discussions about retention &withdrawal gathered within the team to progression into their team meetingsgive a more complete picture when and this was felt to provide a usefulretention was discussed periodically opportunity to share observationsthroughout the year. about students and plan appropriateWe recommend: interventions. Reviewing how institutional re- We recommend: tention data is processed.  Placing more emphasis on build-  Does it provide data useful for ing personal relationships with programme level retention first year students. In most insti- management purposes? tutions this is likely to requireHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 10
  • 11. allocating more resources into before and after Christmas. We would the first year (Yorke & Thomas suggest that this time period is at the 2003). point where students tend to have their first significant block of assessment Making sure that there is com- and also potentially suffer from the munication within the team re- ‗January blues‘. The reasons for doubt- garding students at risk of with- ing also changed over time: student drawing. lifestyle anxieties were more prevalent Allocating time to review both early in the academic year and the the formal and informal with- prevalence of academic reasons for drawals data. doubting became overwhelming as the  Were there warning signs? year progressed. Does the team know why the For the case studies, we asked students particular student withdrew? to report when they felt most commit- Was there anything practical ted to their course. At NTU, the two that could have been done to programmes we used as case studies prevent withdrawal? were in the same academic school. Students on one programme reported being most committed at the time of the survey, (Summer term) as they were preparing for exams and completing the final assignments for the year, they1.2 Monitoring ‗at risk‘ reported enjoying the fact that theytimes were drawing together the different threads they had been studying. Stu-In the UK, student withdrawal tends to dents on the other programme, howev-be highest in the first year. At this time er, were more likely to be committed atstudents face all the anxieties of the the very start of the year, seeminglynew experience, but haven‘t yet devel- reflecting real anxieties about copingoped the support structures or really as the year progressed.begun to engage with the new learning We would suggest that although thereexperience. Fitzgibbon & Prior (2007) are likely to be patterns and sharednoted that students‘ needs changed experiences, there will be considerableover the course of the first year. For variation and that programme teamsexample early on, students need help will often be the best placed to knoworienting themselves to the campus, and respond to these issues.later on orientating to their assess-ments and sources of support. We recommend:Roberts et al. (2003) noted that the  Programme teams consider thetimes students were most likely to con- at risk times for their coursessider leaving were the first term and in and plan appropriate strategiesthe summer prior to starting the se- to ease the transition or helpcond year. However, the HERE Project new students to cope.noted that students were most likely tohave doubts in the period immediatelyHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 11
  • 12. 1.3 Monitoring engage- 1.4 Responding to stu-ment, not just attend- dents at riskance If we are to follow the logic of Yorke‘s (2006) quote about using data to bringOne effective strategy used by pro- about quality enhancement, it‘s im-grammes audited by the HERE Project portant that any process looking atwas a comprehensive attendance poli- students at risk also includes an actioncy. Its aim was ―picking people up who plan to respond to students‘ immediatemight have problems who wouldn‘t needs and subsequently plans to pre-necessarily have come forward‖ (UoB vent or mitigate against future prob-staff interview). It was coordinated by a lems as far as possible. In the HEREteam member who reported that ―we Project case studies, different pro-keep a tight record of attendance … it‘s grammes adopted different strategiesdifficult for them to disappear … we for moving students on to additionalare looking out for issues‖ (UoB staff support such as writing and mathsinterview). Students were aware of this specialists or dyslexia experts. Onepolicy and, in the programme surveys, case study programme used a Directorpositive comments included: very use- of Studies/ integrated pastoral role whoful, a motivator‘. was not only a resource to students,A second strategy used elsewhere was but also provided feedback for the pro-to review non-submission and contact gramme and made recommendationsthe student immediately, rather than for future developments.waiting for exam boards at the end of We recommend:the year.We recommend:  As part of the normal quality control process, programme Programme teams monitor en- teams ensure that they monitor gagement as well as attendance and review student retention, but and respond quickly to students also use resources such as the who appear to be disengaging. HERE Project toolkit to consider strategies for improving student Clearly this is resource intensive retention. and needs balancing against other priorities, it also raises  Working with a different pro- philosophical issues about the gramme to exchange ideas about nature of independent learning. improving retention and having a We would therefore suggest that ‗safe‘ partner to discuss ap- the programme team is explicit proaches. with students about following up disengagement. For example, it may be that disengagement is  Looking for patterns and re- sponding quickly. For example, pursued until the end of the first is there a particular module that term, or first year only. is problematic? Is maths a par- ticular problem?HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 12
  • 13. Recommendation 2Help students to make the transition to being effective learners atuniversityIn 2009, the HERE Project team asked UCAS points expressed doubts. We willstudents to identify their priorities at however review these findings com-university. As might be expected, bined with progression data (2012).‗academic studies‘ was the highest pri- Doubters also reported that they wereority. In this light it is understandable more likely to have struggled with as-that the most frequently-cited reason pects of their course and were lessfor considering withdrawing also relat- confident about asking for help fromed to ‗academic studies‘. It appears tutors. Throughout our study, doubterswhilst other factors did cause students tended to report feeling more distantto doubt, having doubts about the pro- from their tutors and less likely to feelgramme of study was an altogether known by the teaching team.more significant problem. We therefore recommend that pro-There were also a number of differ- gramme teams help students to makeences between doubters and their non- the transition to HE by considering thedoubting peers about their academic following:experience. For example, doubterswere less likely to report feeling confi-dent about their ability to cope withtheir studies. When tested against 17student experience factors, the factormost closely associated with confi-dence was whether or not students re- 2.1 Improving students‘ported that their feedback was useful. understanding about howThose who found feedback useful were HE is different to priorless likely to doubt than those who didnot. It may be that doubters had tutors learningwho provided genuinely less usefulfeedback, however, it is our argument 2.2 Creating anthat doubters had less successfullyadapted to higher education and so environment conducive towere struggling to understand the dif- peer supportferent nature of feedback in HE. Thereare other instances in which doubtersappeared less aware of these differ- 2.3 Improving students‘ences between further and higher edu- understanding ofcation. For example, doubters reported assessmentbeing less aware of the differences be-tween FE and HE and that it was lesslikely that anyone had actually ex- 2.4 Making better use ofplained what these differences were. formative feedbackWhen academic achievement was testedin one of the partner institutions,doubters achieved lower grades at the 2.5 Consideringend of the first year. In 2011, we tested differentiationthe relationship between UCAS pointsand doubting. The evidence was incon-clusive and many students with highHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 13
  • 14. 2.1 Improving students‘ issues associated with becoming mem- bers of a community of practice withinunderstanding about their discipline and consider their own academic performance and expecta-how HE is different to tions in that light. The structure explic-prior learning itly draws upon models defined by Tin- to (1993), Fitzgibbon & Prior (2007), Cook & Rushton (2008) and stressesTransitions from college to university the importance of gradually developingcan be particularly challenging based awareness and capability to learn ef-on a range of factors, for example Ban- fectively over the course of the firstning (1989) noted that the greater the year in a safe friendly environment.difference between the sending collegeand receiving university, there is agreater potential for personal develop- We recommend:ment, but also a higher risk of the  Programme teams review theirtransition being difficult. Foster, Bell & induction practice.Salzano (2008) and Foster, Lawther &McNeil (2011) reported that there are  Do inductions start to bothsignificant differences between stu- explain and provide an oppor-dents‘ experiences of college and the tunity for students to practicefirst year at university. These studies the skills and approachesfound major differences between the needed to cope with learninguse of feedback, deadlines, relation- at university? See NTU‘s Induc-ships with staff, approaches to taking tion Guide for one example.notes and independent learning.Moreover, students often have vague  Do inductions have an inputexpectations about what to expect. from existing students to helpThere appeared to be an appreciation newcomers understand thethat there will be more independent differences between FE & HE?learning, but there was little under-standing about what that means. Both  Periodically including discussionTahir (2008) and Jessen & Elander about appropriate approaches to(2009) reported that students at col- study whilst students are actuallylege over-estimated their preparedness practising that skill. For exam-for studying at university. Cook and ple, reviewing approaches toLeckey (1999) and Bryson & Hardy note making in lectures.(forthcoming) report that students of-ten continue to utilise approaches to  Use of tutorials to formally dis-study learnt in school and college and cuss and practise appropriatefail to adapt them to learning at univer- academic strategies.sity. Students may experience confu-sion as the practices in HE appear to be―the same game‖, but with ―differentrules‖ (Leask, 2006, p. 191).The findings from the HERE Project di-rectly contributed to the developmentof a more comprehensive tutorial pro-gramme at NTU. The focus of the tuto-rials has been to help students to man-age both the social and academic tran-sition to university. The tutorials arespecifically intended to create opportu-nities for students to reflect upon theHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 14
  • 15. 2.2 Creating an environ- 2.3 Improving students‘ment conducive to peer understanding of assess-support mentIn 2009, the most important reason In 2009, we asked students whethercited by doubters at all three institu- their assessment was as they expectedtions for staying at university was sup- it to be. Only one third of doubtingport from friends and family. At Not- students felt that this was the case; twotingham Trent University when ‗support thirds of non-doubters felt the samefrom family and friends‘ was further way. It appears that just as doubterssubdivided, ‗friends made at university‘ have a less clear understanding of thewas the most important single group. nature of higher education, they alsoIn the 2011 survey, student doubters have a less clear understanding of as-were also less likely to report that their sessment practices within it.course is friendly. We recommend that:Bournemouth University makes exten-  Programmes use activities thatsive use of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) explicitly explore expectationsprogrammes. These were felt to help about assessment in higher edu-create a supportive environment in cation. These might include:which students could ask for help. Forexample, one student commented ―I  Analysis of elements of previ-understand the topics I have to do my ous students‘ assignmentscoursework on and I know that if Idont, I can ask for guidance from my  Staged construction of assign-lecturers and PAL leader‖ (BU Student ments, for example writing aTransition Survey). literature review, discussing itWe recommend that: in class and then using the feedback to shape the full as- Programme teams build small signment group activity to the curriculum, particularly in the first term, and ensure that ice breakers and  Discussions about assessment criteria and disciplinary lan- other structured social activities guage/ phrases (for example are built into the induction and what does ‗be more critical‘ early transition period (Cook & actually mean). Rushton, 2008). Programmes explore using stu- dent buddies or peer mentors to support students, particularly early in the academic year. Of the two, peer mentoring is a more formal process that follows the curriculum, and buddying tends to be less formal. Howev- er, if you are using buddies, we would strongly suggest that they deliver timetabled activities such as campus tours to create a rea- son to speak to students in the first place.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 15
  • 16. 2.4 Making better use of likely to be doubters. Similarly, when asked about how hard they were work-formative feedback ing, those at the extreme ends were more likely to have doubts. Working ‗not much at all‘ or ‗very hard‘ appearedAs we have already suggested, there to make students more likely to doubt.appears to be a strong association be- Higher education ought to offer oppor-tween confidence and the perceived tunities to challenge and stretch stu-usefulness of feedback. In addition to dents (Chickering & Gamson, 1987).offering developmental advice, feedback However with over 40% of all youngcan also offer reassurance to students people entering HE in the UK, is there athat they are coping: ―At the beginning need to consider structuring learning,of the course I was a bit overwhelmed teaching and support around differingby the amount of people who were levels of ability? Of course, if studentsclearly very smart and I found myself feel that they are in the remedial group,questioning my own academic abilities. this may have a negative impact on theirAfter completing my first few assign- performance, nonetheless we feel this isments I convinced myself I hadnt done a valuable mental exercise for teams tovery well but I got good marks through- consider.out the year as well as very detailed We recommend:feedback so I was able to improve mywork‖ (NTU Student Transition Survey).  At least discussing options for structuring groups around theirYorke (2003) argues that formative academic performance. It may befeedback can play a crucial role in help- that this is useful for certain sub-ing new students form a greater under- jects that students can find diffi-standing about their learning environ- cult.ment. However, Foster, McNeil & Law-ther (forthcoming) note that whilst stu-dents appear to understand the role of  Programmes devise ways to en- courage students throughout theformative feedback and make sense of year. One programme, for exam-feedback at the point they receive it, ple, highlighted student achieve-they are often not good at subsequently ments in the university magazineusing it. and promoted this to first years; another sent letters of commen-We recommend: dation to students who do well in Using formative feedback, partic- the first year. A programme at ularly early in the first year to NTU publishes all dissertations offer diagnostic advice to stu- that receive a first in the depart- dents. mental internet journal. Where possible tying discussion  One example suggested to the and action planning from forma- HERE Project researchers is tive feedback into tutorials that all students on a pro- throughout the year. gramme are required to attend a timetabled weekly maths session unless they can com- plete and pass an online as- sessment on the VLE. This way,2.5 Considering differen- those who don‘t need the ad-tiation ditional support can focus elsewhere and those who need it can participate in smallerWe note that those students who were groups.finding their work difficult were moreHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 16
  • 17. Recommendation 3Relationship and communication with staffA recurring theme throughout the HERE relationship with staff are that studentsProject was that students wanted to are more likely to develop an under-feel known by an academic member of standing of the institutional habitus,staff. In the focus groups, student and that a close relationship betweendoubters were less likely to report hav- students and staff minimizes ―the so-ing a member of staff to go to than non cial and academic distance between-doubters. Importantly, for some stu- them…[which]…enable[s] students todents, contact with a member of aca- feel valued and sufficiently confident todemic staff was cited as a reason to seek guidance when they requirestay. For example, this student doubter it‖ (ibid, p. 439). They are more likelywho subsequently described, ―This pe- ―..to take problems to staff, and thusriod of crisis where I didnt really know sort them out‖ (ibid, p. 432). Analysiswhat to do and if I was managing with of the 2009 Nottingham Trent Univer-my studies, I guess getting that tutor sity Student Transition Survey supportssupport… that kind of broke some bar- this link between feeling valued by staffriers that I had in my head‖ (University and increased confidence about copingof Bradford Student Interview). Re- with studies. The HERE Project qualita-search by Yorke and Longden suggests tive findings also suggest that havingthat this is becoming increasingly im- an individual academic who is person-portant. In their large multi– ally interested in students can make ainstitutional studies of the first year, profound difference to their confidencethey found that the fifth strongest rea- about seeking help.son for withdrawal was the amount of For example, one student doubter ex-personal contact time with academic plained that being able to access a tu-staff (Yorke & Longden, 2008, p. 41), tor had helped them to stay. ―I see himand that ―there were some hints that quite often even if I just bump into himthe issue of contact with academic staff and he asks me if everything is goingwas becoming more significant for OK. If I‘ve got any problems I always gocontinuation‖ (Yorke and Longden, and see him … so it‘s been good‖ (NTU2008, p. 2). Students who had had Student Focus Group).doubts about being at university werealso more likely to rate ‗feeling valued Interviews with students revealed theby teaching staff‘, ‗lecturers being ac- importance of a relationship with atcessible‘ and ‗knowing where to go if least one member of staff. A strongthey had a problem‘ as more important theme among non-doubters and stu-than non-doubters. Student doubters dents who had previously doubted butwere, however, less likely to report that now felt positive about staying was thatthey had had a positive experience of they could describe a member of staffthese factors. that they could go to if needed. In con- trast, doubters who were staying, butSo what is it that makes students feel somewhat reluctantly, were unable tovalued? Thomas reports that students report having such a relationship. Alt-―seem more likely to feel that they are hough previous research has suggestedaccepted and valued by staff if lectur- the personal tutor fulfils this role, sup-ers and tutors know their names and porting integration with the institution,exhibit other signs of friendship, are acting as ―one of the stable points ofinterested in their work and treat stu- contact between student and institu-dents as equals‖ (2002, p. 432). Thom- tion‖ (Yorke and Thomas, 2003, p. 70),as suggests that the benefits of a closeHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 17
  • 18. it was found that different programmes gramme teams enhance relationshipused different roles to achieve this end, and communication with staff by:including year tutors and admissionstutors. What appeared to be importantwas that students met this named per-son in the first week of starting univer-sity and had easy access to this personduring the year, for example, as one oftheir module tutors. 3.1 Enhancing theFurthermore, the first of Chickering & staff/studentGamson‘s (1987) principles of good relationshippractice in undergraduate education isthat it encourages contact betweenstudents and faculty. Being known in 3.2 Communicatingthe faculty not only supports students with students aboutto stay, but also helps stretch them the programmeacademically. Thus we would recom-mend that programmes are structuredto allow students the opportunity to 3.3 Communicating‗feel known‘ by at least one member of within the programmestaff and that this contact is continuedthroughout the first year to support team about studentsstudents through transition and tosupport attachment to their new learn- 3.4 Adopting a wholeing environment (Percy, 2002, p. 97).This may be more challenging for larg- team approach toer cohorts, whose size when coupled communicatingwith traditional methods of teaching changes to studentssuch as large lectures, can leave stu-dents feeling isolated (Yorke and Long-den, 2008, p. 26). The challenge is to―encourage a perception of small-ness‖ (ibid, 2008, p. 50). Programmesdevised different ways to encourage aperception of ‗smallness‘ and intimacy.For example, using tutor groups andweekly workshop sessions in whichstudents were expected to work to-gether in teams.Programme interviewees described theimportance of helping students to un-derstand the structure and roles of thecourse team. They also emphasised thebenefit of clear communication withinthe team about individual students thatmay be having problems with thecourse. In addition, both staff and stu-dents reported on the importance ofallowing clear communication fromstudents to the course team about anyissues that may arise.We therefore recommend that pro-HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 18
  • 19. 3.1 Enhancing the staff/ establish a partnership with the students. The studentsstudent relationship (as a group) design a learning contract during a study skillsStudents may need support to make session with the support ofthe transition to a different kind of their Year Tutor and this isstaff/student relationship in higher then circulated to the courseeducation. Foster, Lawther and McNeil team.(2010) found that students had oftencome from an environment in college  Students have early communica-where they had experienced a close tion from a member of thepersonal relationship with a supportivetutor in which often support with their course team, prior to arrival ifwork was initiated by the tutor or the possible, and a face to faceresponsibility was shared. Students meeting during the first weekappear to have had less practice active- with a member of staff that theyly seeking help than many university will have regular contact withtutors may expect. Programme inter- during the first year.viewees appeared to be aware of thisand were making strong efforts to alert  At Bournemouth University,students to differences in approach and for example, a dedicatedto support them in doing so. Students online pre-arrival resource,were also supported to understand theroles of the course team, the role of the Stepping Stones 2HE, providesstudents and the communication be- a set of pre-entry tasks, sometween the team and the students. Stu- online discussion prior to arri-dents were also encouraged to ask val and then forms part of thequestions. programme inductionProgramme interviewees also described (Keenan, 2008).the importance of building the rela-tionship with students as early as pos-  Large cohorts are designed tosible. This was done through commu- feel small.nications prior to the first week, earlyface to face meetings during induction  At NTU, for example, a tutorialand opportunities for both formal and system is being implemented.informal contact with students The system is designed tothroughout the year. These actions help students manage thesupported the feeling of being transition to HE, develop ap-―welcomed‖, that has been found to beone of the factors that is ―crucial to propriate strategies and im-successful transition‖ (Pargetter et al., portantly build a close rela-1998). tionship between a tutor and aWe would recommend that: tutor group of 8 – 12 stu- dents. Students are given the oppor- tunity to understand how the  Students have the opportunity to relationship with University staff contact staff other than their may differ from their previous personal tutor. A well-publicised experience and supported with open door policy allows students this new way of learning. to contact staff they feel com- fortable with, if not their allocat-  One programme, for exam- ed tutor. ple, use a learning contract toHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 19
  • 20. 3.2 Communicating with transition which includes roles for academic, administrative and sup-students about the pro- port staff.gramme  The structure of the course team and outlying support is communi-Doubters were more likely to report feel- cated clearly to the students earlying that the course was disorganised than in the year. In our study examplestheir non-doubting peers. This included included:communication about the course as a  Explaining the roles of thewhole as well as information about course team during an induc-changes during the first year, such as tion session.timetable changes, placements and mod-ule choices. Comments from student  Putting up photos of the coursedoubters appear to suggest that whilst team to help personalise theelectronic communication is valuable, team.personal contact is much more important.  Directing students to a webpageProgramme teams highlighted the im- outlining the course team, theirportance of using a number of different roles and further sources ofmethods of communication. One pro- supportgramme for example, with a high number  Using a ‗hierarchy of support‘of widening participation students de- document that explains what toscribed the importance of communication do/where to go with a problem.by letter during the summer about resitdates because some students may have  Programme social events.limited access to email.  Course systems are communicatedIt appeared important to students that to students, for example, the examthey understood how the programme board process and the referralsteam worked together, their different process.roles and the systems they use. Pro-  Students in one programme, forgramme interviewees also described the example, had access to a Direc-importance of clear communication with- tor of Studies Stage 1/first yearin the team, that systems are made tutor role. A core part of thistransparent both within the team but also role is to act as a focal point formade transparent to the students. students, to support them withDoubters in particular appear to need day to day issues and to lookingmore assistance to understand the nature out for individual problems. Stu-of higher education and their relationship dents are explicitly told of theirwith staff. Therefore it is particularly im- role from the start and directedportant that the whole team communi- to see them with appropriatecates to them consistently and effectively. issues, or they can act as a firstProgramme interviewees also described port of call for any issues.the importance of a whole team approach  Changes that take place within theto supporting student transition to the course, for example to the timeta-first year. It is, as Pargetter et al (1998), ble or information about place-argue, important that ―transition is ments are communicated to stu-‗owned‘ as an issue and a challenge with- dents clearly and in a variety ofin departments, centres and faculties, ways.and not just by the institution as awhole‖.  Programmes used a regular news bulletin, the VLE, departmentWe recommend that: website, emails and social media The programme adopts a whole for other ‗just in time‘ infor- team approach to retention and mation. HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 20
  • 21. 3.3 Communicating 3.4 Adopting a wholewithin the programme team approach to com-team about students municating changes to studentsThe HERE Programme research foundthat communication within the course Students surveyed during the pro-team about individual students was gramme research described the im-useful to identify students ‗at risk‘. portance of staff being responsive toThis allowed the team to discuss their suggestions about improvementswhether a particular student‘s non- to the course and taking the time toattendance or poor engagement for report back about any changes that hadexample was an issue for one module been made. Staff reported that thisor a pattern across the course. helped to build relationships with the―…a feature of the team and the way in students and was most effective whenwhich the team supports the student is students were given time within thean intimacy so ... we make the efforts curriculum to do this.to get to know the students. Conversa-tions will take place amongst the teamabout the students and their progress We recommend that:and that is a regular part of what wedo‖ (NTU Staff Interview).  Programme teams reinforce the importance to students of usingWe recommend that: the opportunities provided for Time is set aside for formal student feedback. communication about retention  Notes and actions are well publi- and engagement issues and to cised and that students are discuss any student‘s issues with aware of any outcomes or each other confidentially and in- changes to illustrate that their depth. views are being acknowledged, Staff time is allocated to support valued and acted upon. Pro- this, for example, to check per- grammes also found it useful to formance and progress across explain why some issues could the programme. not be addressed if this was the case. Regular informal opportunities are used to discuss students, for  Students are encouraged to give informal feedback to staff during example, at the beginning and the year and that this feedback is end of meetings. communicated to the course team.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 21
  • 22. Recommendation 4Help students make more informed decisions about choosing theright course in the first placeWe would argue that there is an inher- thought that information received froment tension at the heart of the recruit- the university was accurate had consid-ment process. Universities and aca- ered withdrawing; whereas 37.5% (3demic programmes need to promote a out of 8) of students who did not thinkvibrant, positive environment full of that the information was accurate hadopportunities for students to thrive. doubts. Whilst some of this informationThe reality of learning at university may have been inaccurate, it also ap-does of course contain many such op- pears likely that, for whatever reason,portunities, but also many hours spent student doubters had more difficultywith challenging or frustrating texts, interpreting it. Quinn et al (2005) re-difficult assignments and group pro- ported that some students may lack thejects with sometimes difficult peers cultural capital to interpret university(Purnell & Foster, 2008). Furthermore, messages about what the learning ex-how does one explain what a lecture, perience will be like. One participant inor independent learning will be like to a the 2008 UK National Student Forumstudent who has only very limited ex- reported that ―I needed more detail onperiences of such learning? As we have how I would be taught and the coursereported earlier, students are often un- content. And also the learning supportclear about how university will be dif- that would be available. What are theferent and are over-confident about expectations around essay writing forhow well prepared they are for studying example? It‘s a big cultural shift‖ (NSF,independently. 2008, p. 12).Course related issues were the most Yorke and Longden (2008, p. 13) referfrequently cited reasons for doubting. to the importance of articulating ‗theThe further analysis of academic deal‘ between the institution and thedoubts cited by Nottingham Trent Uni- student so that students have a greaterversity students (2009) showed that chance to understand what to expect‗course not as expected‘ was the se- from their course/university along withcond most frequently cited reason after any limitations. From 2012 onwards UK‗anxiety about coping‘. Interviews with universities will be required to providedoubters at Bournemouth University Key Information Sets (KIS) to potentialand the University of Bradford suggest- students, but even if these provideed that some doubters felt that they succinct and clear information abouthad chosen their course badly. They the learning experience, it is far fromhad struggled to meaningfully interpret clear that students will be able to de-the course marketing material sent to velop a meaningful understanding ofthem. One doubter who had entered what the experience will be like.through clearing felt that they had nev- One BU student doubter felt that theyer fully committed to their course as it had not sufficiently prepared for thewas not their first choice. process of applying for university and had therefore not been able to fullyDoubters found the material provided comprehend the information madeby the institution prior to arrival less available to them. They offered the fol-accurate than their non-doubting lowing advice to potential students: ―Ipeers. For example at UoB in 2009, think do as much research as you can24.7% (24 out of 97) of students whoHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 22
  • 23. … Try to get as much information as 4.1 Considering the useyou can about your actual course. Tryto visit the uni … Try to find out infor- of open days and othermation from them to determine wheth- communication channelser it‘s the right course and university The National Audit Office recommend-for you … because if you feel like ed that student achievement could beyou‘re not going to do as well as you improved through the use of Opencould do, or you feel like it‘s not the days. ―Open days, including lecturesright place or the right time to go to and opportunities to talk to currentuniversity, then you‘re not going to do students, are critical in helping stu-as well as you could do … if your dents understand what the course isheart‘s not in it you‘ll probably find about, and what they could expect toyourself struggling or dropping do during the course‖ (NAO, 2002, p.out‖ (BU Student Interview). 24). Non-doubters talked extremely positively about the welcome they re-We therefore recommend that pro- ceived at open days and how this hadgramme teams help students to make helped them start to feel that they be-more informed decisions by: longed to the university. As this non- doubter describes, ―From when I came to the open day I felt really happy at Bradford University, and since coming here I have met some wonderful people and have come to feel like Bradford is 4.1 Considering the my home‖ (UoB Student Interview). use of open days and However, the evidence about this as- other communication pect was often contradictory. Tutors channels and non-doubting students felt very strongly that open days and marketing materials had a powerfully beneficial 4.2 Providing a range impact upon helping students choose of information to the right course. One NTU tutor com- mented that ―I would say seven out of students prior to ten who want to withdraw… are the starting their people who didn‘t come to open programme days‖ (NTU Staff Interview). However in our study, those students who attended open days were just as likely to be doubters as those who had not. Clearly, we are not suggesting that open days have no value, but that there is a difficult balance to strike in such promotional events and some students appear to have difficulty meaningfully interpreting the event. We recommend:  Reviewing the extent to which marketing messages are moder- ated by information about the actual learning and teaching ex- perience. Open days are promo- tional events, so naturally most institutions will use the oppor-HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 23
  • 24. tunity to promote the positive 4.2 Providing a range of and the exciting. This may not be the correct environment to information to students talk about the more challenging prior to starting their aspects of the course, or even more mundane matters such as programme the reality of independent learn- ing. Open days are probably not the right Checking the content of market- environment to start a discussion about ing materials with first year stu- the more challenging aspects of study- dents. Were there any aspects ing at university. We would however they felt were unclear, or even suggest that this discussion starts be- misleading about the learning fore students arrive at university experience? If so, explore ways through programmes such as Stepping of better balancing the promo- Stones 2HE (Keenan, 2008). In 2011, tional messages with the reality NTU ensured that all programmes had of actually being a student. an online presence so that students could find out more about their learn- ing and teaching before they arrived on campus. These pages included infor- mation about learning and teaching and pre-induction activities. In 2011, the University of Leeds launched an online resource for stu- dents to visit in the weeks between the release of the A level results and the start of university. Flying Start featured a succession of videos of structured conversations between students about different aspects of studying and fur- ther support resources tied to the dis- ciplines. We would suggest that pre- entry communication about learning at university plays an important part of the starting at university process. We recommend:  Making information more gener- ally available about what learning is actually like at each institu- tion/ on your particular pro- gramme so that students can access it whilst thinking about university.  Providing more targeted com- munication about what to expect in the period between a final of- fer being made and students starting university. Tie this work into the early part of the first year curriculum.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 24
  • 25. Recommendation 5Improve social integrationSocial integration appears to be an im- portant. At NTU, friends made at uni-portant factor in retention. Yorke & versity was still the second most fre-Longden (2008, p. 4) recommend quently mentioned reason to remain.‗treating the curriculum as an academic However, when we asked about themilieu, and also one in which social most important reasons to stay, friend-engagement is fostered‘. In Tinto‘s re- ships scarcely featured at all.tention model (1993) engagement It is our experience of investigating thiswithin the social environment is treated area that providing course ‗socials‘ isequally to engagement within the aca- not usually a good solution to improv-demic environment. In the 2011 HERE ing social integration, particularly ifProject surveys, those students who they are run by staff and especially ifhad never considered leaving reported used during induction. There will, ofa larger circle of friends than their course, always be exceptions, and wedoubting peers. They also reported that would not wish to discourage pro-their course was friendlier. gramme teams from trying differentThe HERE Project found in the 2009 approaches, but our experience sug-surveys, that the most frequently re- gests that there are better ways to en-ported reason for staying cited by courage social engagement.doubters was ‗friends and family‘. For We suggest that programme teamsexample ―my new friends have been consider the following:able to help me get through manyhardships, so they are part of the rea-son why I have been able tostay‖ (University of Bradford StudentTransition Survey). At Nottingham Trent 5.1 Enhancing pre-University when ‗support from family arrival activitiesand friends‘ was further subdivided, including social‗friends made at university‘ was themost important single group. networkingHowever, the role of friendship appearsto be a complex one. Despite being the 5.2 Enhancingmost frequently cited reason for stay- programme inductioning in the qualitative responses, friend-ship appeared very undervalued by stu-dents. For example, students only rated 5.3 Extending the usethe actual importance of friendships of group work13th of the 17 Student Experience Fac-tors. Only 68% of all students at NTU (particularly field trips)reported that it was important; inter-estingly, 70% of NTU respondents re- 5.4 Considering theported that their peers actually weresupportive. In 2011, students were in- use of peer supportvited to report which Student Experi- (Buddies &ence Factors had helped them to stay Supplementalfrom a range of options based on re-sponses to the 2009 survey. In addition Instruction)they were also asked to report onwhich of these factors was most im-HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 25
  • 26. 5.1 Enhancing pre-arrival tutional page.activities including social  Providing students with infor- mation and academically-networking oriented activities prior to arrival similar to the Stepping StonesWe imagine that most universities will 2HE model (Keenan, 2008). Goodbe using Facebook and other social examples of these types of activ-networking sites to communicate with ity include:students prior to their arrival at univer-sity. Most students do appear to want  Starting at NTU, Nottinghamto start talking to others on the pro- Trent Universitygramme or in their accommodation in  Flying Start, University ofthe weeks before they arrive on cam- Leedspus. However, we would suggest thatjust encouraging students to talk toone another via Facebook may not beenough. For example in the 2011 sur-vey, Bournemouth University studentslogged into a range of social network-ing sites prior to starting university.The majority of students logged intothose sites that might be expected(Facebook, yougofurther, etc) and thereappeared to be fewer doubtersamongst those who had done so. Forexample, 33% of students who loggedinto Facebook were doubters, just un-der 10% lower than the whole cohort.However BU also provided a dedicatedonline pre-arrival resource: SteppingStones 2HE. Stepping Stones 2HE pro-vides a set of pre-entry tasks includingsome online discussion prior to arrivalwhich then forms part of the pro-gramme induction (Keenan, 2008). On-ly 17% of students who had logged on-to Stepping Stones 2HE were doubters(albeit from a small sample). This ap-pears to suggest that there are somebenefits from social networking, butconsiderably more from providing ded-icated pre-arrival activities embeddedwithin online social interactions.We recommend: Using social networking to pro- vide an arena for students to start to build up friendships pri- or to arrival. Where possible, we would suggest making it as easy as possible for students to talk to peers in virtual spaces specific to their courses or accommoda- tion rather than on a single insti-HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 26
  • 27. examples of activities.  Small group tasks with a5.2 Enhancing pro- course related purpose. Ed- ward (2001) provides an ex-gramme induction cellent example of a week- long integrated induction ac-Between 2006 & 2008, NTU students tivity, but it doesn‘t need towere asked to prioritise those features be that complex. Short re-that they felt were most important to search tasks can be just asbe contained within programme induc- useful. For example, Art &tions. The single most important fea- Design programmes at NTUture was that students wanted the op- will often set students teamportunity to make friends. In the 2010 tasks during the first week.NTU Welcome Week Survey, the most They are expected to gatherfrequently-mentioned place for making data relevant to the disci-friends was in the course (87% of re- pline, for example ‗Streetspondents), the second most common Fashion‘ and students arelocation was accommodation (74%). expected to interview andProgramme inductions clearly can pro- photograph people in thevide an opportunity to create a social city, and then produce aclimate. This is a particularly important group presentation from it.finding, as NTU also provides a diversesocial programme in the first week  Reducing the amount of time(Welcome Week) designed to provide students spend sat passivelystudents (particularly those not in halls) listening during induction. Aswith opportunities to develop friend- a student interviewed by Ed-ships and start to feel part of the uni- ward (2001) puts it ―when youversity community. Feedback for Wel- feel lost and bewildered, thecome Week is highly positive, but even last thing you want is longso, students found that the place they lectures‖ (p. 438). Inductionwere most likely to make friends was talks from a wide range ofwithin the course. programme staff and special- ists is clearly time efficient,We recommend: but these ‗circus talks‘, un- Delivering programme induc- fortunately, often feel like a tions that maximise opportuni- rite of passage to be endured. ties for students to socialise. Furthermore student recall of However, we would argue that the details of any individual the best way to do this is to talk is often practically zero. build social and team building Lectures in induction week functions into normal course may be a necessary evil, but interactions, not by creating we strongly recommend ‗socials‘. avoiding them where possible and instead creating smallThese include: group activities and discus- sions that offer more oppor-  Ice breakers – whilst lecturers tunities for students to start and students can be uncom- to build support networks fortable with icebreakers, and feel part of the course many students will benefit community. from the opportunities creat- ed by ice breakers to learn other students‘ names and talk to one another. See the NTU Icebreakers Guide forHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 27
  • 28. 5.3 Extending the use of We recommend:  Programme teams seriously con-group work (particularly sider the use of field trips as partfield trips) of the process of building com- munities. We would also recom- mend that participation is inte-Students interviewed by the HERE Pro- grated into the curriculum withject researchers reported that group preparatory team activities be-projects had been valuable for making fore and assessed elements af-friends. Most teaching staff in HE will terwards.have experience of students who havefound groups stressful and difficult attimes, usually when one student is seenas not doing their fair share. Nonethe-less, group work does appear to offer avaluable opportunity for students todevelop friendships and build supportnetworks.Interestingly, fieldwork activities werefelt to be particularly effective environ-ments for developing social ties. ―I‘venever been so homesick as I was thatweekend … but what it did do was re-ally pulled [together] our friendships …because we were feeling a bit out ofour depth … then when you came backafter, then you really felt that you knewpeople‖ (BU Student Interview). As thequote describes, weekend and over-night trips appear to offer a more in-tense experience. McLaughlin, Southall& Rushton (2006) report using a 3-dayfield trip as part of the early inductionprocess. Students reported a dramaticchange in how well students knew oneanother, before and after the trip. Be-fore the trip, the majority of studentsknew between 2-5 of their peers. Afterthe trip, 72% knew ten or more.However, Palmer, O‘Kane and Owens(2009) suggest that whilst shared ex-periences can function as shared ritesof passage, they can have an excludingeffect on those unwilling or unable toparticipate. Despite a large improve-ment in the social bonding for the ma-jority of students, McLaughlin, Southall& Rushton (2006) reported that for onestudent, this was a significant contrib-uting factor to their withdrawal. Wetherefore recommend that part of thepreparation for field trips includes teambuilding beforehand.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 28
  • 29. 5.4 Considering the use a greater sense of social cohesion within the programme.of peer support We recommend:(buddying & supple-  Using second and final year stu-mental instruction) dents to offer peer support to new students.Some of the BU students interviewed  Supplemental Instructionreported that one environment they The two major centres of sup-found particularly useful for making plemental instruction type peerfriends was in PAL sessions. PAL (Peer support in the UK are:Assisted Learning) is a programme inwhich second and final year students  Bournemouth University Peerare trained to facilitate workshops for Assisted Learningfirst years. These have a social element,but are fundamentally academic in na-  The University of Manchesterture and reinforce learning taking place PASS National Centrein the curriculum. The students choosewhat they‘d like to work on from the  One of the other Whatcurriculum and the PAL leaders facili- Works? Studies explored thetate discussion around the topic, es- impact of mentoring. Astonsentially creating a facilitated study University Peer Mentoringgroup. The PAL leaders are trained in Programme.facilitation techniques such as usingicebreakers and the sessions are infor-  Buddyingmal in nature. It appears that the stu- Buddying can be a good way ofdents feel that this informality helps testing out the use of studentengender a sense of community in the peer support by experimentinggroup. ―In a PAL session, we had to say with a small number of activitiesour names, where we are from and during your induction. We wouldsomething unique about ourselves. I generally suggest that you ex-found that everyone let their guards periment with buddying activitiesdown, so we could start getting to during programme induction.know each other‖ (BU Student Transi- Activities might include:tion Survey). The model for PAL wasoriginally developed in the USA and  Campus tourstends to be known internationally as  Library toursSupplemental Instruction. In the UK  Small group discussions, forthere is an accredited centre at Man- example what did the buddieschester University. find challenging or enjoyableBuddying is a less-structured technique about their first year, or whatfor using more experienced students to advice would they offer to newsupport first years. Although buddies students?can help new students with a wide  Although we have some reser-range of needs, they tend to work pri- vations, buddies might bemarily in social/pastoral support. Ac- precisely the right people totivities tend to include making contact organise course ‗socials‘.with students via email prior to start-ing, showing students around the cam-pus during induction week, hostinginformal discussions, offering emailadvice, or even organising course socialevents. All of which can help engenderHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 29
  • 30. Recommendation 6Improve a sense of belonging to the programmeDoubters appeared to feel less like they university environment and far lessfitted in to their programme than non- firmly fixed to the institution than theirdoubters. In interviews, student doubt- non-doubting peers. In 2011, we askeders described feeling that they were all students whether they felt that theystruggling to adjust to the new reality fitted in or not. 75% of non-doubtersas a university student, felt that social felt that they did so, whereas only 45%opportunities were limited and felt less of doubters felt the same way.at ease in the course and on the cam-pus. Some recognised that although Palmer, O‘Kane & Owens suggest that athere were social activities taking place sense of belonging (or not) can be re-around them, they did not feel com- versed. They argue that the process offortable taking part. belonging is not a gradual linear one, that there is a ‗betwixt space‘ in-In the 2009 Nottingham Trent Universi- between home and university (2009, p.ty focus group interviews, it was very 38). They suggest that a ‗turning point‘striking that the non-doubting stu- in the first 6-8 weeks of term may af-dents could all recall a moment in time fect students sense of belonging atwhen they had started to feel that they university (or not) and that these maybelonged to the university. For some, be ―subject to reversals and changes ofthis was joining clubs and societies, for direction‖ (ibid, p. 51). This suggestsothers it was starting to recognise peo- that institutions may be able to supportple on campus as their peers. As this students with belonging to the coursestudent non-doubter describes, ―I think and the university during the first year.it starts when you walk down the streetand you see someone and you say ―hey Our evidence appears to suggest that… I know them from university… that‘s the students‘ sense of belonging is de-what made me feel like I be- veloped through good relationshipslonged‖ (NTU Student Focus Group). with their peers and tutors, a sense ofAlthough not all doubters were able to cohort identity and a sense of belong-express a time when they felt they be- ing to their particular university cam-longed, those who did similarly de- pus.scribed the importance of feeling com-fortable with people and the physicalenvironment. This student doubter whohad decided to stay described what hadhelped them to stay, ―I feel better nowbecause now I feel like I know whereeverything is and [if I] see someonewalking around that I know I want tostop and talk to them‖ (NTU StudentFocus Group).Earlier in this toolkit, we describe howdoubters reported feeling less clearabout university processes and lesscertain about their relationships withpeers and tutors. It appears that thatdoubters are semi-detached from theHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 30
  • 31. We suggest that course teams offer the 6.1 Developing good re-following to help boost a sense of be-longing to the course: lationships with peers See Recommendation 5 Improve social integration for further information 6.1 Developing good relationships with peers 6.2 Developing a good 6.2 Developing a good working relationship working relationship with with tutors tutors 6.3 Developing a Developing good relationships between sense of community tutors and peers has been shown to increase a sense of belonging. Yorke within the programme and Thomas, for example, found that as students became known as individu- als, this ―..intimacy led to a sense of 6.4 Developing a ‗belonging‘ in the institution (or, in the larger institutions, in the relevant part sense of belonging to of the institution)‖ (2003, p. 67). the wider university See Recommendation 3 Relationship community and communication with staffHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 31
  • 32. 6.3 Developing a sense 6.4 Developing a senseof community within the of belonging to the widerprogramme university communityOne staff member interviewed during Although Kember, Lee & Li (2001) sug-the programme audits explained that ―I gest that the primary sense of identitywould like to … mention the issue of students have is with the course, aidentity… students have often come number of our respondents explainedfrom educational settings where they that they felt an association with thehave had a really clear identity … when broader university. Some students de-they come to university it can be very scribe that this develops through mem-difficult [as] they are not scheduled 9-5 bership of clubs and societies andeach day to attend lectures to develop through using university sports andthat identity. I think HE can overesti- social facilities. One explained that amate the opportunities students have sense of belonging came from ―reallyto feel a sense of belonging. Not every- simple things like … finding some-one wants to join the football where I could sit down and have lunchteam‖ (NTU Staff Interview). They em- and feel comfortable like I could sitphasised the importance of timetabling there…‖ (NTU Student Focus Group).group activities and long lunch breaks One of the Bradford student interview-during Welcome Week to create oppor- ees described the importance of feelingtunities for students to feel part of a connected to the rest of the universitycourse community. through simple activities such as ― …We recommend: taking an interest in what‘s going on, you know like reading different posters Many of the actions in earlier and stuff dotted around‖ (University of sections will help develop a Bradford Student Interview). sense of identity, for example In 2011, researchers at Bournemouth  Ice breakers and small group University and University of Bradford activity early in the year asked students what additional social  Small group tutorials activities they would like their universi-  Group work & off site visits ties to offer. Students wanted to be offered a range of activities such as day Some students may value oppor- trips, film nights, course socials and tunities to engage in electronic comedy events. At the start of each discussions, but these need academic year, NTU provides a pro- managing carefully as students gramme of social, cultural, academic can be ambivalent about how and sporting activities known as Wel- they use institutional social me- come Week. The Week provides ap- dia, particularly if there is a lec- proximately 350 opportunities for stu- turer in the discussion. dents to start to construct social sup- port networks. These range from small scale cultural activities such as partici- Where possible, developing space for students to feel they pating in a reading group to a large belong. Lecturers interviewed felt scale ‗It‘s a Knockout‘ competition that students valued having an known as Saturday Antics. In 2011, identifiable space that they be- researchers at NTU asked students longed to. At NTU, timetabling is whether or not Welcome Week had being redesigned partly to ena- helped them to make friends. It ap- ble more defined course spaces. peared that doubters were slightly less likely to have found Welcome WeekHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 32
  • 33. useful for making friends: only 57% ofdoubters reported that the week hadbeen ‗useful‘ or ‗very useful‘ for mak-ing friends whereas, 65% of non-doubters felt the same way. It appearsthat even when a rich range of activitiesis offered, doubters may be more hesi-tant to participate than their non-doubting peers. There may still besome reassurance from the existenceof these activities, but just providingthem may not be enough.We recommend that: Course teams find out about and promote institutional events (for example varsity sports, lecture series, exhibitions and signifi- cant social events such as balls) to their students. There may be strong benefits from taking part in these events as a whole course group. If there are opportunities to shape estates strategy, pro- gramme teams ought to press for spaces in which students can feel they belong. These venues may be strictly social such as lounges or cafés. However we would suggest that there may be more benefit from considering mixed use space where students feel they have a sense of belong- ing and could work as well as relax. These might include li- brary spaces or spaces more akin to common rooms associated with particular programmes or schools/ faculties.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 33
  • 34. Recommendation 7Foster motivation and help students understand how the pro-gramme can help them achieve their future goalsThe HERE Project found that future always) these factors appeared inter-goals, in particular, the goal of coming linked. For example, ―I enjoy educationto university, had been an important and wanted to spend more time devel-motivator for students to stay in further oping and improving myself … I wantededucation. The most commonly cited to get better skills that would make mereason in the October 2008 Pilot Study more attractive to employers and ena-for staying related to the future goal of ble me to get the job I want‖wanting to go to university: ―I didn‘t (Bournemouth University Student Tran-want to prolong coming to sition Survey).Uni‖ (Nottingham Trent University PilotStudy). The second most common rea- These reasons to stay appear to reflectson was ‗future goals, particularly em- the reasons that many students had forployment‘. The joint fourth reason re- initially coming to university, whichlated to ‗determination and internal were revealed as part of the Studentfactors‘, for example ―I hate quitters! I Transition Survey. At Bournemouthwill always continue until the University and the University of Brad-end…‖ (NTU Pilot Study). ford the most common reason for coming to university related to futureIn the 2009 Student Transition Survey, goals, careers or jobs. In addition, fac-the primary reason given by students tors such as wanting to do the course,to stay at university (when asked as an gaining an academic qualification, de-open question) at all three institutions veloping further or learning more werewas ‗friends and family‘. The themes common.‗future goals and employment‘ and‗determination/ internal factors‘ still The 2009 and 2011 Student Transitionhad an important place in motivating Surveys found that a small number ofstudents: they were amongst the top students were motivated to stay at uni-three reasons to stay at all partner in- versity as they felt that they had ‗nostitutions. Students who had had other choice‘: they described that theirdoubts about being at university were age, finances or module choices so faralso less likely to report that their meant that they couldn‘t leave. Thecourse was helping them to achieve qualitative findings found some linktheir future goals than non-doubters. here between these students and aIn the 2011 Student Transition Survey, poor relationship with staff on theirstudents were asked to choose from a programme (see Recommendations 3 &list of possible reasons why they had 4).stayed at university. In all three institu-tions ‗personal determination‘ was themost commonly cited response and‗future goals‘, the second most com-mon.The qualitative research indicated thatstudents were motivated by internalfactors (such as a love of the subject)and external factors (such as futurecareer, employment). Often (but notHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 34
  • 35. We suggest that programme teamsconsider the following approaches: 7.1 Supporting students to find their own internal 7.1 Supporting motivation students to find their own internal Motivation is largely an internal factor and essentially the responsibility of the motivation individual. However in our study we found that there were a number of ways that the programme teams could create an environment conducive to 7.2 Connecting students motivating themselves. students to Firstly, it may be particularly valuable possible external to help students see ‗possible selves‘ (Plimmer & Schmidt, 2007). Ste- motivators venson et al. (2010) highlight how in- stitutions can impact on possible selves – both in terms of offering advice/ mentoring and giving a context for 7.3 Providing these selves to develop. They argue that it is important that staff are known opportunities to to students and that there are opportu- nities for interaction and reflection. sample work- Stevenson & Clegg (2010) also suggest related experiences that valuing students in the present can play a positive role looking forward. It ought also to be possible to help stu- dents see how they can be agents with- in their own learning experience and how by engaging with it can shape it. As Mann (2008) states: ―Agency arises in the capacity of the individual to make sense of their own particular cir- cumstances in their own way and in the individual‘s capacity to transform the- se. Such action can be both individual and collective‖ (Mann, 2008, p12). We would therefore suggest that stu- dent engagement is a dynamic process dependent upon the individual student, their peers and the systems and pro- cesses the university uses to deliver learning and teaching to them.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 35
  • 36. We recommend that: 7.2 Connecting students Programme teams support stu- to possible external mo- dents internal motivation through encouraging students to tivators consider their own motivations for being at university, rewarding the positive and fostering a good Students appear to want reassurance relationship with students. that their degree will help them to achieve their future goals. Student  One programme for example doubters appeared to respond posi- used a ‗Wall of Success‘ activi- tively to activities that help them to ty during induction week understand how actions in the first year whereby students write a note will help them prepare for future em- on the wall about what they ployability. For example ―The lecturers consider success to be at uni- are very good and all have lots of ex- versity. This was aimed at en- perience in industry. The assignments gaging students with the de- are relevant to tasks you would typical- gree and motivating them for ly be set in the work place‖ (BU Pro- the future. gramme Student Survey).  Programmes used various Students responded positively to activi- ways to celebrate student ties within the curriculum that enabled achievements such as letters them to glimpse the opportunities that of commendation to students their course provided. Clearly this is who do well in the first year, important in courses with a vocational commendations in the univer- perspective ―I know what I want out of sity or department magazine. it and it will be better for my future career‖ (BU Programme Student Survey).  Current and past students However, it also appeared important to were used to discuss their students who were not on vocational experiences. A ‗Speed-up da- courses: ―There is a brilliant variety of ting event‘, for example, saw modules within my course and I like former students come in to this as it gives me an idea of what op- talk about what they‘ve been tions I can do in the future as I‘m not doing since they left the sure what I would like to do as a ca- course to help motivate the reer‖ (BU Programme Student Survey). students on their academic journey. Support can also be gained from pro- fessional advisers outside the curricu- See also Recommendation 3 Re- lum, for example ―Through guidance lationship and communication from a careers adviser, I know the steps with staff. I need to take to achieve my future goals‖ (NTU Programme Student Sur- vey). We recommend that:  Where possible and relevant, learning & teaching is related to career prospects and employ- ment from early on in the course.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 36
  • 37.  For example in the HERE Pro- 7.3 Providing opportuni- ject study, one course used teacher practitioners to give ties to sample work- perspective in the real world, another held a careers day to related experiences meet local employers. Students are involved in staff Placements appear to be valuable moti- projects. vators as they help students to both develop skills and knowledge relevant  At NTU, for example, the SPUR to possible future roles, but also to scheme (Scholarship Projects allow students to imagine themselves for Undergraduate Research- in these new roles, ―I am starting to ers) awards bursaries to staff believe that I can become a social worker‖ (Bournemouth University, Pro- to involve second year stu- gramme Survey ). At Bournemouth Uni- dents in research projects. versity, for example, one of the pro-  At UoB, one course runs a stu- grammes sampled provided students dent led research project on with an opportunity to participate in evaluating induction week. fieldwork during their first week at uni- The programme reports that versity. ―We make a point of … making this allows students to exam- sure that students can see how their ine aspects of the student ex- interest could be developed into work perience so they feel they are skills through engagement in field- impacting on how their pro- work .. I think that is a big part of mak- gramme operates and being ing students feel that they‘re able to acknowledged for their input. put their enjoyment into action that will actually get them work…‖ (BU Staff In- Where possible, employability is terview). One programme introduced formalised as part of the curricu- placement opportunities into the first lum. This was done in different year in response to some students ways by programmes and in var- leaving after their placement in the se- ious degrees, for example, cond year when they realised that this through professional practice career ‗wasn‘t for them‘. modules or embedded activities such as careers and information One of the BU programmes also pro- sessions within modules. vides a ‗placement and international fieldwork fair‘ in which first year stu- dents can see poster presentations by, and interact with, second and final year students describing their placement and fieldwork experience. This activity was felt by staff to help build cohesion within programmes and also help first year students to see how ―students just one year ahead of them have already really got involved … I think that‘s real- ly important … giving them the push to get involved and also the confidence to see it‘s something they can do‖ (BU Staff Interview).HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 37
  • 38. We recommend that: Where possible, opportunities are provided for work based learning, placements, work ex- perience or fieldwork.  One programme offers a day of fieldwork during induction week to engage students ear- ly on, another offers a 20 day placement preceded by a unit that explores personal and professional development. Students are also encouraged to explore opportunities outside of their course that relate to their chosen career such as volunteer- ing and relevant paid work op- portunities Where possible these opportuni- ties are effectively promoted and advertised.  Programmes in our studies used emails, the VLE and posters, to advertise relevant paid and volunteering oppor- tunities.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 38
  • 39. Recommendation 8Encourage students‘ active engagement with the curriculumKuh (2001) describes student engage- 5. supportive campus environment.ment as ―the time and effort studentsinvest in educationally purposeful ac- However ―simply offering such pro-tivities and the effort institutions de- grams … does not guarantee … studentvote to using effective educational success. [they need to be] customizedpractices‖ (Kuh et al, 2008, p. 542). to meet the needs of students...‖ (KuhThis definition, whilst valuable, does et al, 2008, p. 556).not take into consideration the broaderenvironmental factors, motivations and In their large multi–institutional studiespersonal circumstances that shape each of the first year, Yorke & Longdenstudent‘s experience of higher educa- found that a major reason for with-tion. To explore these factors further drawal was ―a lack of personal engage-we would suggest turning to writers ment with the programme‖ (Yorke andsuch as Barnett (2007) and Hardy & Longden, 2008, p. 41). Barnett (2007)Bryson (2010). Bryson & Hand (2008) argues that the study of persistence isand Trowler (2010) describe engage- more than merely reversing the argu-ment taking place along a continuum. ments about why students depart early,Furthermore, Coates (2007) argues that but is instead a more ontological onestudent engagement is dynamic: previ- about the nature of being a student. Heously engaged students can become argues that the potentially transforma-disengaged and vice versa. tive nature of engaging with the disci- pline and tutors ought to be nurtured.Engaging students is likely to come Castles (2004) found that love of learn-about through a combination of ap- ing was a factor that seemed particu-proaches. Willis (1993) argues that stu- larly important to students who haddent engagement is dependent upon persisted (Castles, 2004, p. 176), albeitthe interplay between students‘ inten- from a small sample.tions and the learning context, themost powerful contextual factor is the The HERE Project asked students torole of the lecturer. Mann (2005) warns report on 17 factors associated withthat assessment processes that do not their experiences of being a student.meaningfully engage the learner can be Two factors were particularly associat-alienating. However, Hockings (2010) ed with student engagement:reports that a student centred ap-proach to learning appears to engage  my subject is interestingthe majority of students but around  I have enthusiastic lecturers30% of students were not engaged by teaching on my course.such an approach. The US-based Na-tional Survey of Student Engagement ‗Enthusiastic lecturers‘ and an(NSSE) suggests that engagement can ‗interesting subject‘ were ratedcome about through programmes of amongst the five most important of theactivity in five core fields: 17 factors. As was the case with most responses student doubters reported a1. academic challenge lower score than their non-doubting2. active & collaborative learning peers. In the 2011 Student Transition3. student interaction with faculty Survey, 60% of doubters reported that4. enriching educational experienc- their course was interesting, as did 84% es of non-doubters. Similarly 50% ofHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 39
  • 40. doubters reported having enthusiastic We would suggest that the programmelecturers, as did 67% of non-doubters. team take the following approaches:In 2011, the team at Nottingham TrentUniversity analysed the responses pro-vided to the question ―What makes yoursubject personally interesting to you?‖ 8.1 Using activeDoubters and non-doubters provided learning approacheslargely the same types of answers,however there were differences. Non- throughout the firstdoubters appear more likely to find thesubject intrinsically interesting. This yearstudent, when asked, ‗What makes yoursubject personally interesting to you‘,explained ―I am fascinated by my sub- 8.2 Providing a rangeject, I cant explain why, but I love of rich learninglearning about organisms and how theywork‖ (NTU Student Transition Survey). experiences during theDoubters were more likely to cite as-pects of the learning and teaching ex- first yearperience as important reasons for gen-erating interest. For example ―The dis-cussions, the theories and arguments 8.3 Using formativepromoted … really open your mind up assessment in the firstto new ways in which to think aboutphotography‖ (NTU Student Transition yearSurvey). Whilst it appears that the fac-tors closely overlap, this does suggestthat even though doubters may be lessintrinsically interested in the subjectmatter, this can be amelioratedthrough the use of interesting learningand teaching techniques.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 40
  • 41. 8.1 Using active learning start of their university career (Healey & Jenkins, 2009).approaches throughout  Student-centred approaches thatthe first year are interactive and involve stu- dents in the learning process areMost students arriving at University adopted.each Autumn will have previously stud-ied in an environment in which they will  Teaching staff are absolutelyhave received high levels of guidance clear to their students about theand support to help them in their pre- value of discussion, debate andvious studies (Foster, Lawther & McNeil, the culture of asking questions.2011). There is a risk that if their earlyexperiences of HE are in large, poten-tially anonymous cohorts, engaged inseemingly passive tasks (lectures), theywill adopt strategies of minimal en-gagement. Therefore it appears im-portant to engage students with activeand interesting forms of learning fromthe very start of the course. It is im-portant that approaches are agreedacross the course, Hand & Bryson(2008) noted that students could behighly conservative in their responsesto different teaching practices. Theywere perceived as aberrant rather thaninnovative.Programme teams interviewed by theHERE researchers considered it funda-mental to recruit the most suitablepeople to teach first year students andencouraged their staff to evaluate andreview practice in order to continuallyimprove the learning experience forstudents. This reflects recommenda-tions from Yorke and Longden that―those teaching first-year studentsshould have a strong commitment toteaching and learning‖ (2008, p. 48).We would recommend that: Group work is introduced to stu- dents early to facilitate the de- velopment of learning communi- ties that encourage academic and social integration. Students are involved in practical work such as experiments, field- work and research from the veryHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 41
  • 42. 8.2 Providing a range of ence‘ project (for example helping the community), and arich learning experiences final group must arrange a fund-raising initiative. As wellduring the first year as helping students to bond, the tasks help students to ac-Too much variety of learning activities tively develop their projectand assessment introduced too quickly management, event organisa-runs the risk of overwhelming learners tion and team working skills.before they have fully mastered the To assess the tasks, studentscraft of being a learner in HE. However, are asked to record projectwe would suggest that there may be documentation online. Ratherbenefits from offering rich learning than a final report, studentsexperiences from the outset. have to provide documentary evidence of their event/projectWe would recommend: using multimedia to present it in an engaging way, such as Using projects in which students narrated auto-running Power- can see real world applications. Point presentations, video clips, YouTube and Facebook.  A programme at Bournemouth This practice example was University, for example, makes referred to by both staff and extensive use of real life pro- students as an initiative that jects ―Every year we have lots made the subject interesting of our students being involved as the ‗hands-on‘ element working with the National allowed students to unleash Trust, working with the RSPB their creativity. doing practical conservation work that‘s related to research work that we‘re doing here so I think they can see how it all joins up and I think that‘s re- ally important … it‘s about preparing them for their life and that they can take control of how they build that degree and the surrounding experi- ence to make it possible for them to live the career and the life they want to lead‖ (BU Staff Interview).  Another programme engages first year students in ‗Real Life Projects‘ whereby students work in small groups on one of four different tasks that help them to apply their learn- ing to the real world. One group is responsible for or- ganising a social activity, an- other responsible for inviting a guest speaker, one must en- gage in a ‗making a differ-HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 42
  • 43. 8.3 Using formative as-sessment in the first yearIn the 2009 Student Transition Survey,the factor at NTU with the strongestassociation with students‘ confidenceabout coping with their studies waswhether or not they found the feedbackto be as they expected. Confidencetherefore appeared to be associatedwith whether or not the student ap-peared to understand and be able touse the feedback provided. Foster,Lawther and McNeil (2011) note thatstudents‘ experience of feedback priorto university is far more frequent andoften more directive to that which theyencounter at university. As we haveidentified in Recommendation 1, it ap-pears that students would benefit fromhelp learning how to use feedback. Wewould also suggest that students willbenefit from receiving formative feed-back in the first year.We would recommend that: Students have the opportunity to receive some formative feedback in the first year (see Yorke, 2003) or explore other forms of feedback such as peer review or feedback from student mentors.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 43
  • 44. Recommendation 9Ensure that there is good communication about and access toadditional student supportWe define additional support as that support services or administrative staff.provided by specialists such as financial Overall, student doubters were less like-advisers, counsellors, careers advisers, ly to know where to go if they had achaplains, disability specialists etc. Sup- problem than non-doubters. Converselyport from these services was reported by they also appeared to place more im-relatively few doubters as a reason to portance on actually knowing where tostay. However, it was found in the stu- go. We would suggest that his perhapsdent interviews that for some students reflects an underlying anxiety.this additional support was instrumentalin their decision to persist. These stu- Whilst student doubters were less likelydent doubters describe their reason to to report feeling confident about askingstay: for support from their tutors than non- doubters. Doubters who had experi-―Without student support services I enced problems were more likely to havewould have left. Having dyslexia it has actually asked for help. Although thisbeen the most significant factor to may be because non-doubters hadchoosing and continuing at worked through the problems them-[University]‖ (Nottingham Trent Universi- selves. It is therefore of key importancety Student Transition Survey). that students have good communication with their tutor (in this toolkit we argue―[The International Student Office] saved for the importance of one named per-my life, [in] my first week...they showed son) and that programme staff are wellme everything I needed to know. Literal- informed about the support that stu-ly‖ (University of Bradford Student Tran- dents can access including how andsition Survey). when referral to other services should be made.One of the issues that arose from ourstudy was that of awareness about pro- We recommend that access to additionalfessional and support services. One of student support can be promotedthe subtexts of the HERE Project is the through:centrality of the course team in shapingthe students‘ understanding of the uni-versity environment. They are, for many 9.1 Ensuring thatstudents, gatekeepers to further profes-sional support and it is therefore crucial programme teamsthat they are aware of the services avail- know how to referable to students. students toBorland and James (1999) reporting spe- professional andcifically on the learning experience of specialist supportstudents with disabilities report that the―mainstay of student support‖; the firstport of call, is the academic tutor. The 9.2 Raising studentStudent Transition Survey 2011 also awareness of thefound that students were much more services availablelikely to have sought help from mem-bers of staff on the programme thanfrom friends, family, central studentHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 44
  • 45. 9.1 Ensuring that pro- 9.2 Raising studentgramme teams know awareness of the serviceshow to refer students to availableprofessional and special- Research has highlighted the role thatist support student services can play in supporting the social integration of students, byWe would recommend that: ―helping students to locate each other (for example, mature students, interna- All members of the programme tional students), by providing social team periodically remind them- spaces, by offering more flexible and selves of the services available and affordable accommodation options and how to contact these teams. by compensating for the informal sup- port usually provided by networks of friends‖ (Thomas et al., 2002, p. 5).  One of the programme teams, for example, circulates a Student Interviews with student doubters indi- Support Services guide, ‗the Stu- cated that students were not always dent Support Directory‘ amongst aware of the support available to them the team. ―We download it and from support services, such as mature send it to the programme team student events, and that part time stu- and point staff to it so they are dents in particular sometimes felt over- aware … it is important for us looked as information was often aimed not to think we can solve every- at full time students. thing. It is good to know there is support out there‖ (NTU Staff We recommend that: Interview).  Services available are promoted to students, preferably early in All staff are aware of how and where to refer students for further the first term. support as appropriate.  Students are reminded of sup- port available at key ‗at risk‘ times of the year and that stu- Programme staff are linked in to support services and work closely dents have a copy of support with them where appropriate. available to refer to as needed.  For example one NTU pro-  Examples from the pro- gramme introduces support gramme research include a available to students during in- spider diagram in induction duction. The School Learning week that identifies where Support Coordinator meets the students would go for sup- students in the first week and port for a specific problem students take part in an interac- and an ‗Unofficial Student tive session from Student Sup- Handbook‘. This is an alter- port Services which addresses native format of the infor- issues of resilience and being mation that will help students supportive as a group. An early during induction and the first formative writing assessment few weeks of term. The hand- also serves to highlight students book includes a timetable for who may have difficulties with the first week, what rooms writing and they are referred to the students need to find and Dyslexia Support Services if ap- pictures of staff. It is light propriate. hearted and contains only relevant information for theHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 45
  • 46. first week as staff believe that students don‘t look at the official university student handbook. It includes; the most essential regulations from the official university handbook summarised in twenty main points, a section on what a lecture is, what a seminar is, what the floor numbers mean and how to find a room and maps.  Information about support ser- vices from programmes is tai- lored to groups of students where appropriate.  Part time students, for exam- ple, suggested that their course material should con- tain information relevant to them such as fees, sponsor- ship, module credits and du- ration of course, to prevent them feeling ‗side-lined‘.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 46
  • 47. Evaluation—testing what worked for youThe nine recommendations in the want to improve? For example, next time?HERE Project toolkit are gathered from by the end of the academic  Did you uncover different im-our work with doubters and pro- year, do you want a percentage portant issues?gramme teams. However, as we out- increase in retention, or per-lined in the introduction, there is no haps a less-challenging initial  Are there any other themes thatmagic bullet, but a series of related goal such as creating a more you want to work on?interventions that have worked in a socially-integrated programme? The HERE toolkit has been designedparticular context. so that programme teams can engage  Are you looking to measureTherefore, we suggest that it is im- change over a short period or a with it quite informally. Nonetheless,portant for programme teams using longer period (or both?) if you are able to spare the time, wethe toolkit to consider how they test suggest writing an action plan for the  Who are you hoping to makethe impact of the recommendations following year. changes to? Is your focus, foronce implemented. example, on making changesOn page 7 (how to use the toolkit) we for particular student groups or Enabling others to learnsuggested that you plan times to re- the whole cohort?view the impact of implementing any from your findings  Are you also looking at therecommendations. We suggested two Finally, if you have learnt, or devel- process of making change topoints: oped your own, strategies to improve programme practice? In this within a few months of starting case you may also want to con- engagement and or retention, how to make changes, and also sider how change has been will you share that practice? Universi- taken up by the wider pro- ties are, of course, centres of learn- at the end of the academic gramme team. ing, but also very good at reinventing year. the wheel. If you have found some- Rather than create new evaluationWhilst one part of the review would be thing works, can you share it at meet- strategies, we would recommend,to discuss how implementation is ings, staff development events or where possible, using or adaptingworking, it would also be valuable to quality assurance processes? Perhaps existing data and evaluation opportu-evaluate the impact of any interven- your work can save a colleague else- nities such as module evaluation.tions. Your own institution may have a where in the institution a lot of time.policy for evaluating the impact of any And besides, they might be able to doeducational developments, therefore the same for you.we only offer some short pointers for Using your findingsyour consideration. We suggest that you take time to re- view the findings to inform pro-Evaluating impact is, of course, com- gramme planning for the followingplex in a field with as many variables year.as student retention. We have there-fore provided a brief outline of possi-  What changes were you able toble questions that may be helpful implement?when reviewing interventions.  What impact did they appear to What are you are seeking to have? measure? What is it that you  What would you do differentlyHERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 47
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  • 50. and Continuing Education 114, 61-74 pdf ment Themes: The First Year Experi- ence. Transition to and during thePurnell, S. and Foster, E., 2008. Tran- Tahir, T., 2008. Why we cant turn our first year, Final Report, Quality Assur-sition and Engagement. In: L. HAND backs on the league table generation. ance Agency (QAA), [online] availableand C. BRYSON, eds, Student Engage- Times Higher Educational Supple- at: http://ment: SEDA Special 22. England: Staff ment ,10 January 2008 www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/& Educational Development Associa- documents/firstyear/Transition%20-%tion, UK. The University of Manchester – PASS - 20Final.pdf, [accessed 25 July 2011] http://www.pass.manchester.ac.uk/Quinn, J., Thomas, L., Slack, K., Casey, Willis, D., 1993. Academic involve-L., Thexton, W., AND Noble, J., 2005. The National Survey of Student En- ment at university. Higher Educa-From life crisis to lifelong learning: gagement (NSSE) http://nsse.iub.edu/ tion, 25(2), pp. 133-150.rethinking working-class drop outfrom higher education. York: Joseph Thomas, L., 2002. Student retention Yorke, M., 2003. Formative assess-Rowntree Foundation. in Higher Education: the role of insti- ment in higher education: moves to- tutional habitus, Journal of Education- wards a theory and the enhancementRoberts, C., Watkin, M., Oakey, D., al Policy, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 423–32. of pedagogic practice. Higher Educa-and Fox, R., 2003. Supporting Student tion, 45(4), pp. 477-501Success: What can we Learn from the Thomas, L., Quinn, J., Slack, K. andPersisters? Education in a Changing Casey, L. (2002) Student Services: Ef- Yorke, M., 2006. ‗Gold in them thereEnvironment: Inaugural Learning and fective Approaches to Retaining Stu- hills? Extracting and using data fromTeaching Research Conference, 17-18 dents in Higher Education. Full Re- existing sources‘. Tertiary EducationSeptember 2003, University of Sal- search Report. Stoke on Trent: Insti- and Management, 12 (3) pp.201-213.ford, UK. tute for Access Studies, Staffordshire University. http://www.staffs.ac.uk/ Yorke and associates. 1997. Under-SPUR scheme NTU [online] http:// institutes/access/docs/SSReport.pdf graduate non-completion in England,www.ntu.ac.uk/cadq/spur/index.html Final report of a research project Tinto, V., 1993. Leaving college : re- commissioned by HEFCE, UK, HEFCEStarting at NTU/course inductions thinking the causes and cures of stu-[online], Nottingham Trent University dent attrition. Chicago: University of Yorke, M., and Longden, B., 2004.http://www.ntu.ac.uk/ Chicago Press. Retention & Student Success in Higherstarting_at_ntu/course_inductions/ Education. Bodmin: Open University Tinto, V., 1997. Classrooms as com- Press.Stevenson, J. and Clegg, S., 2010. munities: exploring the educationalPossible Selves: students orientating character of student persistence. The Yorke, M. and Longden, B., 2008. Thethemselves towards the future Ohio State University Press, 68(6), pp. First Year Experience of Higher Edu-through extracurricular activity, Brit- 599-623. cation in the UK. York: Higher Educa-ish Education Research Journal 37(2), tion Academy231-246 Tinto, V., 2006. Research and practice of student retention: what next? Col- Yorke, M., and Thomas, L., 2003. Im-Stevenson, J., Anderson, L. & Clegg, S. lege Student Retention, 8 (1), 1-19 proving the Retention of Students2010. The Leeds Met Book of Student from Lower Socio-economic GroupsFutures, [online] Leeds Metropolitan Trowler, V. 2010. Student Engage- Journal of Higher Education Policy andUniversity: Leeds Met Press. http:// ment Literature Review. York: The Management Vol. 25, No. 1, May 2003www.leedsmet.ac.uk/101109- Higher Education Academy7567_Student_futures_booklet_LoRes. Whittaker, R., 2008. Quality Enhance-HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 50
  • 51. The HERE Project Research Team (2008-2011)Nottingham Trent Bournemouth University ofUniversity University BradfordEd Foster Becka Colley Chris KeenanEd‘s work is all about helping stu- Becka is the Dean of Students at the Chris is a learning and teaching fellowdents to become effective learners in University of Bradford, she has creat- at Bournemouth University where herHE. This is done through a range of ed an innovative approach to sup- main role is as an education develop-practical outputs, he co-ordinates porting skills development at Brad- er. Her area of research is transitionNTU‘s Welcome Week programme and ford which includes the development into HE and she is currently leadingjointly leads the development of the of the SaPRA tool and the Develop on two projects looking at transitioninstitutional induction strategy. From Me! approach to skills activities. She to HE STEM programmes and the role2011, all course inductions had has a keen interest in student en- of Peer Assisted Learning on HE STEMonline content and pre-arrival activi- gagement and is active in researching programmes. Currently Chris is alsoties. Ed‘s research interests in US the student experience of e-learning, Chair of the Association of Learningmodels of the first year experience transition to University and initial en- Development in Higher Educationand the findings from the HERE Pro- gagement with Higher Education. Her (www.aldinhe.ac.uk).ject directly led to the creation of an current research is focusing on digitalextended academic tutorial pro- literacy. Becka was awarded a Nation-gramme for all new first years stu- al Teaching Fellowship in 2010.dents. Ed heads the learning develop-ment team in the library leading a Natalie Batesteam of staff & student mentors. Natalie is a Research and Knowledge Ruth Lefever Exchange Officer at Bournemouth Ruth joined the University of Bradford University. During the HERE! project as a Research Associate in 2009 hav-Sarah Lawther Natalie worked as a Research Assis- ing come from a welfare and reten-Sarah is part of the Learning Develop- tant at Bournemouth University and tion focused role. Her previous re-ment Team, based in Nottingham was involved in a number of external- search covered the first year experi-Trent University‘s library. She is a ly funded projects that explored the ence, withdrawals, student represen-trained researcher who has enjoyed first year experience of students at tation, widening participation, inter-working on the HERE Project. Prior to university and their transition to nationalisation and student resilience.this, she carried out research on stu- higher education, in particular the Ruth‘s current research at Bradforddent transition into the first year. This role of friendship in student transi- continues to focus on the studentresearch informs the work we do as a tion and its influence on students that experience and includes projects onteam to support staff and students at student retention and engagement, have doubts in their first year ofNTU. Sarah is also involved in the supporting transitions into and study. Natalie holds professional andpractical support we provide to staff through university as well as student academic qualifications in teachingand students such as Welcome Week, feedback and student experience pol- and lifelong learning and her researchour annual Student Writing and Tran- icy. Her particular interests include interests include the internationalsition Symposium, and the develop- qualitative research, student friend- transfer of learning and professionalment of resources and staff work- ships and community building, no- skills to the UK. tions of belonging and gender issues.shops in areas such as induction,transition and retention.HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 51
  • 52. The HERE Project was a research project funded by thePaul Hamlyn Foundation and Higher Education Fund-ing Council for England to explore retention and en-gagement as part of the ‗What Works? Student Reten-tion & Success programme. The work was conductedby colleagues from Nottingham Trent University,Bournemouth University and the University of Brad-ford.Most of the photographs were taken at the Notting-ham Goose Fair by NTU‘s photographer, DebbieWhitmore. They have been used because they‘re visu-ally interesting and as a metaphor for the ups anddowns that students starting university face. The pho-to on page 5 was by Paul Molineaux of the LearningDevelopment Team at NTU.HERE project researchers went on to explore transitionand retention to HE in STEM disciplines. Elements ofthe HERE project toolkit have therefore been devel-oped into a guide for an HE STEM Practice TransferProject in the Transition, Induction and Retentiontheme entitled "STEMming the flow: Enhanced transi-tion and induction to HE STEM programmes".ISBN 978-1-84233-154-5HERE Project toolkit www.HEREproject.org.uk 52