Stories from sidelines: Transition from Foundation Degree to Honours Year
Stories from the Sidelines: Transition fromFoundation degree to Honours YearDiscourses of Inclusion in Higher EducationOpen University Widening Participation Conference 201224-25 April 2012Kate ThomasUniversity of the West of England
this session will:• outline the aims, methodology of a longitudinal research project investigating the process of transition from Foundation degree to Honours year• draw on individual narratives of transition to highlight key findings and themes• show how research findings are being utilised to support the transition process
Working on Transition• longitudinal research project (March 2010-May 2011)• tracked student narratives of transition from a Foundation degree (Fd) at a Further Education College to an Honours year at a Higher Education Institution• investigated how the process of transition impacts upon students’ experience of HE and their identities as ‘work- connected’ learners?• investigated the role of institutional mechanisms and interventions in supporting/hindering transition?
context: Foundation degrees• introduced in 2001• two-year, higher education qualifications aiming to ‘give people the intermediate technical and professional skills...in demand from employers’ (HEFCE 2010)• some Fds highly sector- or employer-specific; others more generic (work-connected)• Fd students more likely to be: – older – from lower socio-economic backgrounds – have vocational, lower-achieving or interrupted histories of participation in education in comparison with students on ‘traditional’ Honours degrees.
the research context• ‘validating’ post-1992 university with multiple FE College partners• 25 Foundation degrees• 850 students, 600 FTE• project built on previous research into the ‘first year Fd experience’ (Part of the Bigger Picture, 2008)
transition• inherent differences between the foundation degree and the honours degree...mean the transition for many students will inevitably be difficult’ (Greenbank, 2010:100).• more than ‘discernible events, experienced in a linear sequence of progression’ (Ecclestone, 2009: p27)• ‘transitions become problematic when a viable identity in one context does not transfer to another’ (Ecclestone, 2010:12)• role of the environment in shaping the impact of transition?
data collectionPhase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3March-July 2010 Sept-December 2010 January-May 20116 Fd cohorts 113 students contacted 113 students contacted30 participants 11 Fd programmes 11 Fd programmes4 Fd programmes•paper questionnaire (100%) •individual interviews (x4) •individual interviews (x5)•group interviews (x6) •online questionnaire (32%) •online questionnaire (33%)•visits to university campus •students’ online diaries •students’ online diaries•online feedback after visits
story/narrative• four ‘stories from the sidelines’• trajectories of transition, threads of work-connectedness, agency and belonging across diverse experiences and different disciplines• ‘the rich accounts of the complexities of real life and and emphasis on the particular’ (Bathmaker, 2010:3)• ‘foreground the relationship between the individual and wider structures’ (ibid 4).
informationpre-transition Some of us who are considering going don’t really know what is• programme content actually going to happen next year• learning environment about what modules we’re going to take.• logistics (I need to know)..where you’re goingpost-transition to park and if you can get something to eat because I tend to be at work in• academic procedures a morning any time from 7.30am• how to use equipment onwards and if I’ve got to keep going until 8.30pm...it’s good to know all• jargon that in advance.
interactiontutor/student It’s been quite cool having J (HE tutor) because she obviously knows• context more about the academic side...she• perceptions bridged the gap very well.• ‘not being known’ my main concern is that we are going to go into a third year and thestudent/student tutors won’t know us and know our work• social integration• role modelling You’re put in your place, definitely. They don’t really know anything about us but they make these assumptions...
induction You see all these possibilities, all the equipment andfacilities and you think ‘Wow, this is amazing!’ but then at this stage in your degree you can’t just go and mess about...so I haven’t used anything really.
intervention – campus visitswe went for a day in Freshers’ Week…we satthrough the lectures and everything was goneby the time we got outwe haven’t been to see where we’re going inthe third year, so it’s all our imagination...it’slike this mystery, behind locked doors...youvisualise all sorts of madness reallyoverall it was good to be able to visit as it hasmade me feel more confident about going. Inow know there is someone I can contact
interventionThe different groups have beenmixed up…for me, it’s completelyout of my comfort zone…butactually it’s broadened our horizonsWhat would really work is there wasone person all the FdA people couldgo to if we had questions
stories from the sidelines• Pauline• Phoebe• Tom• Maria
Pauline’s story It was an easy transition really...I don’t feel I’ve finished one course and started another one, it’s just been a completely natural, smooth transition from my second to third year. I think that people who have come from colleges will see it very differently.
Phoebe’s storyIt’s almost like (the college) was playing atbeing a university and this is actually theuniversity and this is how it happensI do feel more confident in the workplaceand I’m quite happy now to go and speakto parents in the playground(the tutor) still struggles with my name…itseems’ like there are obvious favouritesbecause they’ve been here for the last twoyears. I don’t feel positive anymore
Tom’s storyCollege was just like doing two more yearsof A level studies…then the 3rd year was abig step up really.It would be nice to come here and live oncampus but my girlfriend lives in Swindon.I felt new at the beginning…now I just feellike one of the crowd.
Maria’s storyYou’re put in your place, definitely. Theydon’t really know anything about us butthey make these assumptions.I think I had to come here to understandwhere I fit into the creative world.The Fd was a gentler way of coming into itwhich is the one advantage of doing it theway we did.
utilising findings to support transitioninteractive Transition Workshop for second year Fd students• consider transitions already made• resources and coping mechanisms• use individual ‘stories’ to elicit students’ own concerns re: transition to Honours year• create a preparation checklist for further research/discussion
your transition to a Foundation degree• when did you start thinking about Fd study?• when did you make the decision to study the Fd?• how did you prepare?• who or what supported you?• how did you feel – on the first day? – at the end of the first term? – at the end of the first year?
your transition to an Honours year• up to 3 things you are looking forward to?• up to 3 things you have concerns/anxieties about?• up to 3 things you need to find out/by when/from whom?