Almost one in five Higher Education students is disabled (Office for Students, 2022a) and disabled students are statistically less likely than non-disabled students to complete their course or to graduate with first or upper second class degrees (Office for Students, 2022b).
The general perception of disabilities may steer towards physical conditions, such as mobility issues, visual or hearing impairments. However, disability is far more diverse and includes mental health conditions, such as anxiety, and specific learning differences such as dyslexia, processing disorders and ADHD (HESA, 2022). Thus, ensuring that Higher Education is accessible to all is vital to support the complex and often hidden nature of the challenges many students face.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, disabled students reported that shifts in practice, such as an increase in the availability of lecture recordings, remote access to teaching sessions, and flexible assessments and extension policies were of significant benefit to them. However, less than a quarter of disabled students felt that they had received the support they required to fully access their studies (Disabled Students UK, 2022).
Furthermore, the Disabled Students’ Commission (2022) noted that while beneficial adjustments such as the provision of captions, have been implemented in some areas of the sector, these are often limited to ‘pockets of good practice’. The Commission have opened a consultation to produce a Disabled Student Commitment. This Commitment will create a sector-wide standard for inclusive provision Disabled Student Commitment Consultation.
This unique LTHE chat is a co-created partnership between students, academic and professional staff. It includes voices of disabled individuals and disability allies. This is an opportunity to explore the challenges in transforming attitudes, processes and provision, as well as to share innovative and equitable practices that support disabled students to fully realise their potential.
Dr Ellie Davison (NTF) has a background in molecular genetics research and is a qualified teacher, with extensive experience developing and delivering science curricular in secondary schools. She is currently Director of Teaching and Learning for the University of Lincoln’s CATE winning Foundation Studies Centre, providing an alternative entry route into the College of Science, where she supports a diverse student cohort to thrive in Higher Education.
Jo Copson is the Widening Participation Officer at the University of Lincoln Careers and Employability centre. They are currently completing a Masters’ degree focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the experiences of disabled university students and has recently spoken at TEDxYouth@BrayfordPool about their experience as a disabled individual.
It’s been a bit of a rush to get this blog out this week as it’s that busy time of the semester, when teaching duties run up against administrative and research deadlines. Thanks to Tim Fawns for kindly swapping with me and giving me some extra time to prepare! My own experience in the past few years, and more especially since the sudden pandemic pivot has been one of accelerated digitalization and heavier workloads to accommodate the switch to online and digital working. There was an even more sudden return to in-person teaching in September 2021 and an official end put to hybrid provisions in September 2022, which felt brutally regressive and uncaring. The pandemic has been terrible and it is still ongoing, but there is no longer any public mention of the toll of death and illness on people everywhere. COVID-19 placed a magnifying glass on inequalities, injustices, needs and deprivations. The pandemic teaching pivot offered digital possibilities to foster more creativity and flexibility amongst both academics and students. Terrible as the pandemic has been, it has opened up potential for inclusiveness, commonsense, kindness and care, but what are we doing with that increased awareness now?
My educator experiences have in fact been more exhausting, more frustrating and more inequitable. The intensification of digitalization has increased work, and also brought a rising sense of dread and cynicism, that conditions for academic work and study are not going in the right direction. There is an infodemic about the plague of academic cheating, resulting in panicked official responses in the form of statements, trainings and products to detect and control breaches of ‘academic integrity’, but there is little conversation about what academic integrity is for. I can’t help feeling, both for academics and students, that we are not keeping up with being the necessary persons, capable of doing the right things.
The topic of this LTHE tweetchat ‘Digital Capabilities’ comes up at point when our digital tweetchat platform might well be melting down. But what are the alternatives? Most of us have some reservations about most social media platforms, but have carried on using them anyway because of the ways that social media enables us to exist in the digital world and allows us to find information, connect with people and do things. As many flee or prepare to flee a platform in disarray, others do not want to leave, or do not want to be forced to leave, even if they can see their connections and communities going elsewhere.
I come to the topic of digital capabilities from my subject matter – I am a human development and capabilities person and many of my people are members of the Human Development and Capabilities Association (HDCA). There are two distinct sectors interested in ‘capabilities’ –
the HDCA’s (humanistic) human development
and capabilities approach and a largely unrelated, business-focused field of organizational capabilities.
The two should not be confused. In the business and management space, there are those who work on ‘dynamic capabilities’ which are about harnessing resources and competences in order to generate higher than expected profits for a commercial organization. The human development and capabilities approach is an ethically focused, humanistic perspective which focuses on the expansion of people’s beings and doings, taking ‘people as the real wealth of a nation’. Digital capabilities take on different meanings, depending on whether you are situating your education within a business-focused approach or within a human-centred approach. This distinction is relevant for the SOTL community, underpinning deeper questions of what, and whom we are educating for. We are often confused and ambivalent about the critical purposes of higher education, especially within the contexts of business schools and business-oriented education.
The human development and capabilities approach sees education in terms of an open ended and pluralistic process – different people have different reasons for valuing different ways of being and different types of doings. In an educational world that is both increasingly narrow and more strictly instrumentalized, humanized digital capabilities ought to concern the development of a variety of ways of being and doing. They should remain open-ended and treat people always as an end and never as a means. Students and educators are in the space of higher education to develop as human beings with a plurality of values and reasons, they must never be treated merely instrumentally – as merely a means for generating profits.
Su-ming is an Associate Professor and Head of Sociology at the University of Galway, Ireland and Visiting Professor at CriSHET, Critical Studies in Higher Education and Transformation at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. She is Principal Investigator in the Irish Research Council funded project, BCAUSE (Building Collaborative Approaches to University Strategies against Exclusion in Ireland and Africa: pedagogies for quality Higher Education and inclusive global citizenship).
“Entangled pedagogy” is a way of thinking about complexity in education, and how different elements combine to in emergent activity.
In the diagram above (which is more fully explained in the Entangled Pedagogy OER and journal paper), I try to show how putting technology or pedagogy first or last is an illusion. One reason is because both technology and pedagogy are always already there when we begin the design process. Pedagogy is already there, in the form of established practices, traditions, cultures and institutional structures. New technologies cannot steamroller over all of this; they must be integrated into what is already there and will quickly become entangled in the combination of elements. Technology is also always already there, in the form of entrenched systems, ubiquitous software (think of MS Word or Powerpoint, or email), security and ID protocols, the devices and apps that students use outside the classroom, and more. I would also count pens, paper, desks, chairs, and buildings among the technologies that are already present or available before any given educational activity is designed.
Trying to put technology or pedagogy first is also indicative of technological or pedagogical determinism (the idea that either technologies or educators drive social change independently of other contributing factors). From an entangled view, outcomes and agency are negotiated between various stakeholders and elements. I suggest that, rather than thinking of a technology / pedagogy dichotomy (or of technology or pedagogy as driving education), we think of a mutual shaping of methods, technologies, purposes, values, and contexts. This gives more clarity around what to keep in mind as we iteratively attend to different aspects of design. The last column in the diagram above shows an aspirational view of how educational stakeholders can work together (through openness, honesty and an acceptance of uncertainty and imperfection) to generate distributed, responsive and ethical educational knowledge. I hope that this gives us a basis for an interesting and helpful chat about how these ideas might apply across a range of different educational setting. You may wish to try this activity before joining the chat on Wednesday evening:
Think of a specific educational activity where you are (e.g. an undergraduate lecture, a postgraduate seminar, PhD supervision, etc.). Make a list (the longer the better) of relevant people, methods, technologies, contextual factors, purposes, and values involved.
Note from organising team: this chat leads us on from #LTHEchat 245 Teaching Teams. See the tweets here.
Tim Fawns is a Senior Lecturer in the Edinburgh Medical School at the University of Edinburgh, and Co-Director of the MSc Clinical Education. His research interests are in clinical, digital, higher and postgraduate education. Tim is moving to the Monash Education Academy at Monash University in January 2023.
In LTHEchat 246: Podcasting in Higher Education, we’d like to talk about the role that podcasts take in supporting your professional development. Do you just listen to them for fun, or is there an aspect of them that you find informative? What things make you want to listen more, and what makes you switch off?
We’re hoping that this will be an opportunity for sharing with others the podcasts you like and also a chance to reflect on what actually it is that draws you to podcasts as a support for your work in HE. We’re also interested in the information literacy angle; is there something about the nature of podcasts that meets a need which isn’t being fulfilled by the alternative ways of accessing information?
And maybe you’ll be inspired to start a podcast of your own.
Mark Childs is a Senior Learning Designer at Durham University. Previous universities he’s worked at include Wolverhampton, Warwick, Coventry, Loughborough, Worcester, KCL, Leicester, Oxford Brookes and Open, the plan being that if he keeps moving on quickly enough, he’ll never be found out. In 2021 he was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship for his research in virtual reality and videoconferencing. Mark is one of the two creators behind Pedagodzilla with Mike “@Pedagodzilla” Collins and has started Pedagogy Podium, a platform for people who just want to do one or two episodes of a podcast rather than start a whole series.
Jane Secker is Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City, University of London. She leads the modules related to digital education and digital literacies and is Programme Director of the Masters in Academic Practice. She is Chair of the CILIP Information Literacy Group and a member of the Copyright Advisory Panel which is a governance group of the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. Along with Chris Morrison, Jane runs the website copyrightliteracy.org and the podcast Copyright Waffle, which is an archive of amazing chats with people whose lives have been touched by copyright!
Traditionally most courses in Higher Education institutions are devised predominantly by academic staff who are the experts on the subject that is going to be taught. It has long been recognised, however, that academics are not necessarily professionally trained in how students best learn. Much is left to the academic’s intuition and ‘what feels right’ when doing the teaching.
A better way forward is to include teaching teams in the process of course design, so that different perspectives and expertise are brought into the designing of learning experiences. The academic is still front and centre, of course, but the inclusion of other voices ensure that the learning for students takes full advantage of the resources available and the best approaches for learning to take place.
In #LTHEchat 245: Teaching Teams, we take a look at the complexities of the relationships between the academic teachers, developers (such as learning designers and technologists), librarians, careers, health and wellbeing, and other services that can (or perhaps should) be part of a course design process.
This is a subject that I considered alongside David Baume for a forthcoming chapter on course design. Here, we thought about the tensions between the separate roles that might occur in a teaching team situation. We considered how learning designers and technologists (myself included) can sometimes struggle to collaborate well with the academic teachers, because we have different priorities for how the teaching might occur. A good working relationship can take time to form but often there just isn’t time to do that. In the chapter we wrote:
The academic may retreat in apprehension back to the, perhaps relatively modest, range of learning and teaching methods with which they are familiar in in-person education. This may feel safe. However, not all methods used in in-person education have a natural, appropriate counterpart in the VLE. The long lecture is a good example, even when transcript and recording are provided. A long lecture can still be a somewhat pre-Gutenberg, let alone pre-worldwide web, experience, despite the use of PowerPoint. Also, not all of the methods used in in-person education may be particularly effective, or have a particularly sound educational rationale, even in person. These teaching methods may be familiar, even sometimes comfortable, to teacher and students, rather than being of proven effectiveness, so new and potentially valuable and appropriate teaching and learning methods may not be adopted online. The course, and the students, may be much poorer as a result. Alternatively, the academic may rush to embrace new methods, perhaps with mixed results in the absence of a sound rationale for choosing particular methods. A productive relationship between learning technologist or learning designer and lecturer may take some time and effort to develop and maintain. They cannot fully become members of each other’s world, but some mutual respect, preferably evidence-based respect, is essential for the development of good online education.
Mutual respect is important, but what else is needed? There are many questions here, and plenty of challenges. How do you already work with other roles in your institution? How might these collaborations become more effective and enjoyable? What would be the ideal?
Matthew Phillpott is a writer, educator, and historian with expertise in online, face-to-face, and hybrid training solutions and digital teaching practices. Matthew is currently working freelance, including at the University of the Arts London, and previously worked for the University of London. Matt is a Fellow of the University of London Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE). You can find out more about Matt on his website or connect via Twitter @mphillpott.
When designing teaching, learning and/or training sessions and modules we all commence with learning outcomes, official or unofficial. These provide a good statement of what our learners at the end of a set time should be able to demonstrate. These are then translated into aligned learning materials and in due course summative assessments.
At certain points in the teaching cycle we will “gather information about the success of our teaching, assessment and feedback in enabling students to meet the intended outcomes” (UKPSF K5 dimension). Perhaps we find:
a) Time has moved on and the materials are now out of date
b) Feedback we gained for sessions and/or assessment let us know that we needed to make some adaptions to support engagement / motivation / active learning for our whole cohort or certain sub-groups.
Often, we are responsible for creating learning materials on our own as a module or session lead and may be the only one in our institution that teaches a specific subject. Whatever the situation, there will be times when we stare at a session or module and feel a little stuck or just need to chat through teaching or workshop ideas.
Community Co-creation Across Institutional Borders
I am programme lead for the Distance Learning Postgraduate Certificate of Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Birmingham as well as the designated Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) “expert” in the Educational Development team. Knowing that the TEL session (of 3 contact hours) was coming up in a few months I recently sat down to review and start planning. The TEL sessions have been very much influenced by the pandemic over the last few years and some themes, messaging and terminology needed to be updated.
What to do? Co-creation sprang to mind. A plan started to evolve:
1) I firstly pivoted to our wonderful HEFi Digital Education community, making a call for any that were interested and had the time and desire to join me in redesigning the TEL session. They are at the coal-face, working closely with academic and professional services colleagues and can bring a perspective I no longer have access to.
2) Secondly it is important to ask our learner participants on the PGCHE programme – I made a note in my calendar.
3) Thirdly, I’ve a wonderful national and international Higher Education community that I can reach out to via Twitter. What about cocreating a TEL session on a grander scale? If I’m considering how to redesign such a topical session, surely others are too or at least will have an opinion on its focus and themes.
On the 5th of October I put my first call out on Twitter (tagging as many colleagues as a tweet would allow) to help start and promote some co-creation beyond institutional borders. I asked:
The response was wonderful and beyond inspiring. Colleagues from around the UK, Europe and Australasia added their ideas to the thread which kept pinging for two solid days. One of the many themes that emerged was around TEL terminology. Reference was made to the epic “Different ‘modes’ of learning” diagram created by @suebecks which
Conversations then jokingly introduced a the newest term on the block – “hyblendoflexical”, coined by @mart_compton. This sparked my sense of humour and I subsequently started another community call for participation / co-creation of a mythical, co-delivered and cross institutional “MSc in Hyblendoflexical Teaching and Learning”. The thread called for module leads and module titles and sparked a whole host of allied conversations about programme structure, attendance, grading, workload allocation models and so much more led in part by @mart_compton, @Puiyin and myself.
💬 Co-creation of a PGCLTHE module titled “Becoming a Critically Reflective Educator”
My “call to arms” for the October 19th 22 LTHEchat revolves around the community co-creation of a PGCLTHE module called “Becoming a Critically Reflective Educator” inspired by the book: Brookfield, S.D., (2017) Becoming a critically reflective teacher. John Wiley & Sons.
Key Contextual Informationfor this Mythical Module:
Programme of Study: This course will be situated within a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE).
Level: Master’s level – 20 credit module which is assessed against a set of University quality assured Learning Outcomes and against the UKPSF D2 fellowship descriptors.
Length: The module runs over a six month period with five sessions, each of three student contact hours.
Teaching Team: team taught by a mixture of academic and third space professionals.
Learners: Our learners are a mixture of mostly early career academic and pracademic colleagues (probationary requirement) along with some third space and professional services staff that teach and/or support learning. Our learners’ disciplines range from the Social Sciences and Humanities (eg. Business, Social Work, Politics, International Development, Education, Languages, Law & Arts) to STEM (eg. Engineering, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Geography, Biosciences, Psychology & Dentistry). The exact disciplinary demographics change with every cohort. We recruit aprox. 35 participants per cohort.
Come along on the 19th October, 8-9pm BST (and anytime afterwards) to contribute to the 6 tweet trigger questions and help co-create themes / activities / readings that might be included in a range of 3hr PGCLTHE sessions.
📸 Chat Lead Biography: Danielle Hinton (SFHEA)
Danielle is a member of the Educational Development team and former Instructional Designer within the Higher Education Futures institute (HEFi) at the University of Birmingham. She is the programme lead for the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (Distance Learning) and leads the HEFi monthly Reading Group (https://twitter.com/HEFi_reading). She mentors and assesses on the HEFi Beacon HEA Fellowship scheme, contributes to educational enhancement projects and facilitates teaching related CPD. Her interests include Active Blended Learning, Lego Serious Play, teaching identity (including EDI from a faith-based perspective), academic transitions to HE teaching and the emotions of teaching and learning. She authored the “Curriculum Futures Situational Factors in Learning Design” framework.
In many respects this tweetchat follows on from the fantastic discussion #LTHEchat 238: Digital Inequality led by Puiyin Wong @Puiyin, 15th June 2022. During this discussion we discovered that the three of us had made the same worrying observation during the pandemic. When we had to go online quickly one of the reasons we found students were sometimes not engaging was due to equipment at home; but there appeared to be unwillingness to admit to this. Post-pandemic, we still see some students choosing to self-exclude from technology enhanced learning activities rather than declare digital inequality issues. After some discussion we realised that we didn’t know the answer (or even a partial solution) to addressing this and therefore we are interested in insights from the community. Is this a pattern seen elsewhere? What can we do?
During this week’s tweetchat we will try and explore why this behaviour arises. Is it driven by the assumption that all students have access to the equipment and workspace both on campus and at home (and is this assumption correct)? Why might students choose not to be open about their challenges caused by digital inequalities (e.g. doing everything on a phone or poor wifi) and how this may lead to self-exclusion from their learning? Is this going to get worse in the short-term due to the cost of living crisis and in the longer term due to new technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) being used in learning?
How do we avoid increasing the digital divide between those who can buy kits for home and those that can’t? What can we do to mitigate this? Do these technology based approaches throw up accessibility issues, not just digital inequality?
Finally, is there anything that can be learned from previous leaps in technologies introduced into teaching pedagogy, for example the introduction and use of the internet, VLEs and associated software applications?
Christina: Being a life-long avid fan of video games, I have found a natural home at Newcastle University developing game-based learning strategies to enhance learning and teaching in STEM education and how this can intersect with the application of digital technologies to enhance and scale-up these approaches.
Gareth: After a period of working in industry, he was awarded a MSc in Marketing with Distinction at Kent University. Gareth has worked in the education sector, both FE and HE, for over 15 years, as well as working self employed in digital marketing, and IT support for small local businesses. Now works at Canterbury Christ Church University.
Main focus has been on developing student’s problem-solving and programming skills, and it has spun off into engagement with schools and many other things I have been fortunate to be involved in. Now work at Canterbury Christ Church University.
How does social media help you to develop as an educator? My PhD research looks at how early career researchers use Twitter for identity development. Framed around the Identity-Trajectory framework (McAlpine et al, 2014) my research explores how early career researchers use Twitter to develop ‘communities of interest’ (or networks), and the extent of the influence of these ‘communities of interests’ on early career researchers’ scholarly and intellectual development. My research focuses on early career researchers, but I think that this framework is also applicable to other career stages (Jordan, 2019) and job families.
In this week’s tweet chat, we will consider together how social media has helped to shape our personal and professional identities, and how we might use social media in the future as educators. We will also look at potential barriers to using social media in learning and teaching.
Carrigan, M. (2019). Social media for academics. Sage.
Goffman, E. (1959) The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday.
Lenandlar Singh is a lecturer in the department of computer science at the University of Guyana and a PhD student at Lancaster University, England. Lenandlar has a background in Computer Science and Internet Computing with a focus on human computer interaction. His present research explores how social networks are used in higher education.
Time is a crucial element in planning teaching and learning. In the past 3 years we have been forced to pay more attention to it as teaching and learning have a different temporal dimension online. But this doesn’t always come easy.
Regardless of the modality and environment, in our rather troubled relation with time we run two risks:
to spend too little time both for planning and teaching, leaving students with little guidance and support;
to spend too much time, over-design the course, thus overwhelming students with a myriad of resources and often unrealistic tasks.
Finding the right balance.
Trying to get this balance right is crucial for our well-being and that of our students. Calculating time pragmatically can help us manage our workload and also manage student expectations. We might not get it right the first time around so we need to keep trying. This can only be an iterative process.
Here are some ideas on how to approach this:
First things first: we can only have a realistic time estimate if we have a clear idea about our teacher presence. How much time are we planning to spend interacting with students? In which way(s)? At which points in the course does the interaction need to be more intense? And how are we planning to provide feedback?
Consider the fine line between structure and flexibility. Clear task instructions and precise timelines are useful, but offering students a choice on how to tackle certain tasks is part of the flexibility that makes studying online attractive and helps them train their self-directed learning skills. Try to account for both structured time and unstructured time in your estimation.
It’s a matter of alternately zooming in and zooming out. We need to go granular and calculate time on task but at the same time we also need to maintain a holistic view of the learning process. Learning activities do not exist in a vacuum, they ideally build on each other and require preparation time as well as time for feedback and debriefing.
Don’t forget your students. Make sure you communicate your expectations in terms of time and outputs clearly. Ask them for feedback often (at least in the beginning) and try to adjust accordingly.
Some useful tools.
Estimating time is closely linked to the course design process. The Learning Designer is a tool that enables educators to design and plan their courses in detail, including various activity types, time on task, synchronous/ asynchronous ratio, activities that require teacher presence vs. independent learning, etc. It is also a useful platform to share course design with peers, an important element for creating a community of practice.
There are tools that can help estimate Time on Task (see list of resources below), but we still need to be mindful of generalising and try to remember who our students are and the diverse situations they are in. We need to take into account the various types of learning (passive/ active, individual/collaborative, etc) included in the course and the balance among them. Spelling out the activity instructions step by step, including expected outputs, can help clarify what the task really involves, enabling us to make a more precise time estimation.
Dr. Alexandra Mihai is Assistant Professor of Innovation in Higher Education in the Department of Educational Research and Development, School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. In the first half of 2022 she was a Fulbright- Schuman Scholar at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale University. Previously she worked as Learning Designer at University College London (UCL), Curriculum Designer at the Institute of European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and led the Centre for Teaching Innovations at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Alexandra has a strong background in e-learning, learning design and innovative teaching strategies. In her PhD she analysed in how far technology is used in teaching practices at European universities.
For the first #LTHEchat of the academic year, transition seems to be a fitting theme as we are all starting the new academic year. There may be excitement and nerves along the way – both for students and staff! Transition, however, is an ongoing aspect of university life and not just into Higher Education, and this can have an influence on the students’ sense of belonging, identities and community.
Transition can be a complex process that influences the sense of identity and relationships, particularly among students both individually and in context (O’Donnell, 2016). Students, regardless of whether they are just entering HE, progressed into the next year or returning from either suspension of study or repeating a level, will start their journey but the importance of a smooth transition can play a role in the outcome. The analogy of the Wizard of Oz’s yellow brick road (Palmer, 2020) can help illustrate this; Students are following the road to an outcome, whether it is their desired outcome or changes along the way e.g. reassessments; but there may be some barriers along the way that can affect the transition.
Transition is an opportunity to feed into the sense of belonging, supporting the student’s sense of identities as it evolves over time, and encouraging a caring and committed community at university. Pre-arrival and induction are, of course, starting points of the transition, but this is something to continue throughout the student’s studies and into the outcome of their journey, particularly as students will change and adapt depending on their experiences.
If a student were to have a bumpy transition, for example poor communication about their timetable or not having the opportunity to meet their peers, this may contribute to the outcome of their journey; either their engagement declines and are required to do reassessments, or they withdraw voluntarily from their studies. There can be alternative routes to support the student e.g., repeating the year; but transition for this should be smooth to allow them to make the most of the opportunity and be able to succeed in their studies. Should they have a positive experience, not only are they likely to help them develop in their resilience and confidence, then they are likely to feel that their institution is committed to the student and that they belong at university, therefore they are more likely to remain.
As an example, students progressing from Foundation Year at the University of Hull will be joining a cohort of new Year One students in September, which is a big change to what they have developed over the year in terms of their self-perception of their identities, sense of belonging to the programme cohort and progressing from the community of support from the Foundation Year team. To support them with this transition, students are allocated their new personal supervisors prior to them arriving back to University where they have the opportunity to meet and get to know them. This can be reassuring, particularly if they have had a difficult year and required support. This may include a handover from myself as their Foundation Year Tutor to the new personal supervisor, with the student’s involvement which can demonstrate a strong sense of belonging and person-centred support.
When considering the transition points throughout the students’ studies, consider the following questions and some of the comments I have included:
How can we create a smooth transition into and throughout higher education? This is where both barriers and good practice could be mapped out, and potentially explored with students in partnership to get their perspectives based on their experiences. Gale and Parker’s framework of Transition in Induction, Development and Becoming (2014) can be useful to consider transition across the student journey.
How can we encourage and develop students to recognise and embrace their evolving perspectives of their identities during their studies? Their identities are more complex and can change over time, such as a later diagnosis of a specific learning difference or changes in their family support network. Thomas and May’s four-pronged typology of a student (2010) can demonstrate that students identities vary depending on their educational experiences, their dispositional and circumstantial situations and their cultural experience.
How can we nurture a sense of belonging throughout their time with us, and beyond? Belonging can appear in various guises whether this is physical, socially or emotionally. Students may find this in different settings e.g. accommodation, societies or in the communal area before their class. But over time, it may change and this could influence the student’s decision to remain at university or not. In the What Work’s project (Thomas, 2012), core interventions throughout the student journey can play a role in sense of belonging; such as supportive peer relations and meaningful interactions between staff and students.
How can we establish and maintain purposeful and caring communities among students and staff? Boyer’s Six Principles of communities in Higher Education (1990) is still relevant to today. An inclusive community among staff and students can allow opportunities for us to be purposeful, caring, open, just, celebrative and disciplined. Whether communities are developed through academic or social interactions, these can play a role in how students interact with their studies and beyond; whether it is forming study groups or having the opportunity to feedback and develop practice with staff.
Regardless of whether we work in professional services or academia, we contribute to the transition of students into and throughout university. Whether it’s signposting to support, running social activities or working in partnership with students about their programme and student experience; these transition points can feed into how the student feels about themselves, their sense of belonging and their community. Transition into the following year may change this for the student, so it is important to consider how either to enhance or support the students in the changes they may encounter particularly with their identities, belonging and communities.
Emma is a Foundation Year Tutor at the University of Hull, working with the Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education (FACE) and Faculty of Business, Law and Politics (FBLP) to support and enhance the transition and retention of Foundation Year students. Prior to this, Emma was a Student Life Officer within Student Services on which she supported students through key transition points; from arrival to exploring options such as mitigating circumstances and repeat year. In 2019, Emma was recognised as one of Hull and Humber’s Top 30 Under 30’s for her work in student experience both in HE and FE. Emma is a member of the SEDA Transitions Community of Practice and has Fellow status.
Emma has a keen interest in student identity and their sense of belonging, and how this is influenced based on academia and social circumstances. This has fed into development of projects and resources, such as contributing to a Teaching Essentials toolkit for University of Hull staff for understanding student identities.
Resources and further reading.
Boyer, E. (1990) Campus Life: In search of Community. United States of America. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Gale, T., and Parker, S. (2014) Navigating Change: A typology of student transition in Higher Education. Studies in Higher Education. 39(5) pp. 734 – 753.
O’Donnell, V. L., Kean, M., and Stevens, G. (2016) Student Transition in Higher Education. Higher Education Academy.
Palmer, E. (2020) Somewhere where they Belong: Understanding the impact and influence on UK Undergraduate students’ Transitions, Identities, Sense of Belonging and Communities within a diverse and changing Higher Education sector. MA. University of Hull
Thomas, L., and May, H. (2010) Inclusive Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. York. Higher Education Academy.