When developing topics for first year students, or working with them in tutorials, laboratories and other situations where they learn it's important to remember while they arrive at university with a range of skills and experience, most have no prior knowledge of how to learn at university. Many
In addition, students' expectations, goals, motivations and backgrounds are much more varied than ever before and many will not have friends at university. Unfortunately, most are under greater personal, time and financial pressures than students were in the past and there has been a growth in mental health difficulties among university students in recent years. These issues mean there's greater emphasis on staff to support students as they develop the requisite skills to learn and flourish at university. To find out more about student wellbeing visit the enhancing student wellbeing website.
You don’t need to do everything suggested here, a few small changes can make a big difference to your students. The Academic Developers can support you in designing or updating your topics and are available to discuss ideas about different approaches to supporting student learning in first year.
The transition pedagogy provides a useful theoretical framework on which to base your first year topics and what you do in them. It provides six curriculum principles to help you support students to learn at university:
All of these elements are developed within the curriculum and help students do well in your topics.
Transition pedagogy principles recommend including opportunities for your students to engage in activities that support their learning of the concepts you are teaching as well as help them learn how to learn at university. Develop your teaching and activities and/or curriculum in ways which encourage students to use resources provided by the Student Learning Support Service (SLSS), the Library and explore other services available through the Student Support Network (SSN). Explain what each service provides ensure you are explicit about the resources they need to use from the SLSS and Library and why and how they need to use them, also ensure they are aware they can access a mentor. Ideally, incorporate these services by including tasks which encourage students to set learning goals and support them to develop:
Scaffolding both how to learn and what students need to learn in your topics are essential. It’s important to ensure enough space and time are set aside to provide students with guidance and support to help them learn (Star and McDonald, 2007). Scaffolding involves building new learning on what is already known and continually developing knowledge and skills until learning outcomes can be achieved. There are a number of approaches to scaffolding, these include:
Please contact the Academic Developers in the Learning and Teaching Services team to discuss other methods for scaffolding.
In order to address the diversity of your students, its important to find out how many students you'll most likely be teaching and as much as you can about them (are they directly from school, mature age, in a diversity group, have they been to university before are the first member in their family to attend university, what are their aspirations etc.). Having some insight into the makeup of your classes will better prepare you for teaching.
Students also need to know about you, so briefly introduce yourself and the topic on FLO, you can do this by providing a short video about yourself and the topic. Regardless of what you know and have told the students it is useful to set aside time in the first session to get to know them, support them to get to know each other and provide opportunities for them to learn more about both you, and the topic. Let students know why you are interested in finding out about them and use the information to help you help them learn. Simple examples of ‘getting to know you’ exercises include:
Don't make any assumptions about what students know and where you need to start teaching. There are a range of ways to find out what they know, for example:
Leave time to contextualise the topic and how you teach it, by:
For further information on how to embed these into curriculum talk to an Academic Developer. Remember, you do not need to do everything suggested here, but one or two changes can make a big difference.
Kift, S. (2008). Articulating a Transition Pedagogy, First Year Curriculum Principles. Retrieved from Brisbane: http://transitionpedagogy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/KiftTransitonPedagogySixPrinciples_16Nov09-1.pdf
Kift, S. (2015). A decade of Transition Pedagogy: A quantum leap in conceptualising the first year experience. In Vol. 2. HERDSA Review of Higher Education. Retrieved from www.herdsa.org.au/herdsa-review-higher-education-vol-2/51-86
Kift, S., Nelson, K. J., & Clarke, J. A. (2010). Transition pedagogy: a third generation approach to FYE : a case study of policy and practice for the higher education sector. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 1(1), 1-20. Retrieved from https://fyhejournal.com/article/view/13/60
Lizzio, A., & Wilson, K. (2004). First-year students' perceptions of capability. Studies in Higher Education, 29(1), 109-128.
Star, C., & McDonald, J. (2007). Embedding Successful Pedagogical Practices: Assessment Strategies for a Large, Diverse, First Year Student Cohort. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 3(2), 18-30.
Stewart, M. (2012). Understanding learning: theories and critique. In L. Hunt & D. Chalmers (Eds.), University teaching in focus: A learner-centred approach (pp. 3 - 20). Camberwell, Victoria: ACER Press.
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