Herdsa 2011

HERDSA 2011 program: Concurrent sessions

An exploratory investigation into first year student transition to university

Angela Bowles, Alexandra Dobson, Ron Fisher, Ruth McPhail

Research into students’ first-year university experiences suggests that student perceptions during the transition period in the first semester at university may be critical in their decision to continue or discontinue tertiary studies. Despite extensive research into student transition to university, what have not been considered adequately in previous research are students’ perceptions of what factors enable successful transition. Understanding students’ perceptions of enabling factors is important, for both students and institutions. In this study we consider students’ perceptions of successful enablers to transition from the perspective of students themselves. Understanding what enables successful transition informs and provides insights into student experiences, expectations and outcomes.

The research uses a pragmatic approach with mixed methods. Firstly, through qualitative research, students’ perceptions are obtained by in-depth interviews and focus groups that capture the first and second-order perspectives of existing students during first-year studies. The second stage uses the themes emerging from interviews and focus groups to develop and inform an 80-item questionnaire. The instrument developed is used to collect data from students (n=771) in a large first-year core business course during the first few weeks of students’ university life. Key findings from the research are the identification of seven enabling factors that fall into two main groups, intrinsic or student-centred and extrinsic or university-led. Identifying enablers of transition as multi-dimensional provides universities with the opportunity to concentrate on extrinsic elements in order to assist successful transition to higher education.

Exploring the parallel universes of staff and student transitions in higher education

Helen Corkill, Sam Elkington, Lesley Lawrence

Following the publication of the Browne Review (2010), Higher Education (HE) in England is 'on the edge’, being plunged once more into a significant state of transition. From 2012, the teaching grant paid to publically-funded universities will be cut and a tripling of tuition fees permitted. The implications of these changes are highly significant for new academic staff and students. Much has been written about student transitions into HE but far less is known about the transitional experiences of academic staff who themselves support transitional students. As changes impact, new academic appointments are increasingly drawn from a widening variety of employment backgrounds, with many staff working in HE for the first time. The University of Bedfordshire runs a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PgCAP) for staff new to HE. In undertaking this programme, new staff also take on the additional persona of first-year student. Feedback from the PgCAP therefore informs an understanding of the challenges facing new staff and new students. We also acknowledge a further group of 'new' staff required to move into radically new types of work-roles and who also transition into an alien world. Situated within the context of government and institutional imperatives, this paper explores the differing transitional experiences of academic staff entering a university and draws parallels with institutional approaches employed to support first-year students. An holistic model depicting the parallel universes of these staff and student transitions is presented.

Building leadership capacity for community of practice facilitators: Edgy professional development

Jacquelin McDonald, Ari Palani

Communities of practice (CoPs) are often cited in higher education literature as a successful way of building and sharing a scholarly approach to enhancing learning and teaching practice. However, CoPs operate differently from institutionalised work groups and the leadership, or facilitator role, differs from the familiar chairperson, or unit/course leader, so this role requires in-depth exploration, articulation and capacity building. The 2010-11 ALTC Teaching Fellowship uses an action research approach to identify key aspects of the facilitator role, explore issue around the role and develop resources to build the leadership capacity of CoP facilitators.

The facilitators engaged in an interactive theatre workshop to identify and act out critical incidents they face in their CoP facilitator role. Activities are based on Augusto Boal’s (2002) ‘Theatre of The Oppressed’ approach, where participants are engaged in a theatrical game in which a problem is shown in an unsolved form, to which the audience of facilitators is invited to suggest and enact solutions. Participants are guided through the physical process of creating structures of power, examining roles within the community, identifying problems and sharing solutions. Many different solutions are enacted in a single forum – resulting in the pooling of knowledge, tactics and experience – what Boal calls a ‘rehearsal for reality’. The authors will explore the leadership role of CoP facilitators and the transformation, growth and emergence of ideas generated by cross-boundary, or ‘on the edge’ activities, by bringing two groups (CoP Facilitators and Theatre Arts) together in a creative and innovative progression.


*Please note that this program is indicative only and subject to change. Pre-conference workshops incur additional fees and require registration. If you have already registered to attend the conference and would now like to register to attend pre-conference workshops please download and complete the pre-conference workshop registration form.

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