The first year experience in continuing education conference

The first year experience in continuing education conference

The first year experience in continuing education conference Stirling, April 2006 The effectiveness of embedded academic support in addressing retention. This presentation will consider embedded academic support as one of multiple support rafts for students in their first year. This will be done by: o Looking at two universities, University of Technology Sydney and Napier University (Edinburgh) and their students o Considering retention issues in HE and the two

universities o Look at existing models of support o Considering the embedded model as best practice o Reviewing case studies and looking at the way ahead But first, who are we? o Kendall Richards and Helen Godfrey are lecturers and Academic Support Advisers at Napier University, Edinburgh o Kerry Hunter is a lecturer and coordinator of University of Technology Sydneys Kurin-gai campus ELSSA centre o We all met at the ATLAANZ conference (2005) in New Zealand and

o We are all concerned about retention and progression and embedding academic support What words come to mind when you think of retention? o o o o o o Drop out

Attrition Wastage Failure Withdrawal Non-achievement Very much a deficit model view. This is something we are keen to do avoid in the academic support of students. Keynote Address: Professor Alex Radlof RMIT (ATLAANZ 2005) Century 21 student is: o Mature

o Diverse o Vocational o Has multiple commitments o A commuter o Cost and prestige sensitive Napier University Over 14000 students of which: o 70% are full time o 55% are female and 45% male o 73% are 21 years old up on entry Scotland and Napier

o 35% of all level 3 students are direct entrants (of which 16% overseas students and 19% from FE) o In the academic session 2003/2004, 66% of all Napiers new entrants were from families where neither parent went to university. (Johnston V; et al 2005:4) o This is in the light of Lewiss (2002) findings that state that 73% of young people in the UK in university were from Professional backgrounds o 13% were from Manual backgrounds 95.9% of Napiers students are from State schools (HESA 2005) Continuing Education?

o A significant number of Napier students follow a CE route as either direct entrants or Access students o For these students this would be a first year experience o The research shows that the focus of retention should not just be on students with issues, but programmes with issues (i.e. problem programme not problem student) Australian Universities o The traditional model of largely autonomous, predominately funded universities is in decline. o Government funding down, for example UTS, from 90%

in 1981 to 29% now (UTS Vice-Chancellor). o Universities becoming more market driven, commercial organisations largely dependent on funds from increasing numbers of international students, 25% of student body o International students provide 15% of all university revenue (Department of Employment 2005) University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) o Practice oriented teaching and learning preparing students for the workplace through links with industry o Equity policies in place to encourage students from non traditional groups o However, while government funding is decreasing,

student contribution is increasing o $ pushing out equity groups in favour of international students UTS profile Over 28,00 students: o 52% female o 55% under 25 o 39% language background other than English o 50% born outside Australia o 25% international o 1% aboriginal

Background A number of sources highlight gulfs between School/college and university because: o Lack of familiarity with conventions and discourse of discipline o Lack of familiarity to learning at Higher Education level o Discipline staff can not always articulate clearly tacit Knowledge This is something ASAs deal with on a regular basis. (Johnston, R. 2003 and Johnston, Knox & MacLeod 2005 among others.) Widening Participation

Napier has widened participation, however this does not mean it is not a risky business. Non-traditional entrants may also have other problems including: o Debt o Changing relationships o Cultural adjustment issues o Economic and cultural changes Direct entrants are from diverse backgrounds with more from postcard areas with greater educational disadvantage and from areas with manifest multiple deprivations. (Johnston, Macleod & Small, 2003:4) And yet, Veronique Johnstons work

has shown: o Students who withdraw are similar to those who stay o Research which only looks at backgrounds and experiences of drop-outs gives no insight into why some students persist and others do not o For example, mature students at Napier are highly successful some years and not in others o Long-term focus needed Retention UK Retention has become a major issue for Higher Education in the U.K (and other countries). This

is especially the case since Blunkett (the then Secretary of State for Education) in the year 2000 asked universities to do something about the drop out rate. (Christie, Munro & Fisher 2004, p618) Retention Australia o While data systems exist to measure and report retention rates, funding is based on commencement or engagement in study ( 2001 DEETYA study commissioned by Commonwealth Government) o In climate of fierce competition for students there is little incentive for open disclosure of retention rates (DEETYA,

2001) o Retention of concern only to individual faculties/faculty members o Much of the retention literature aimed at the first year experience, where attrition rates are highest Yorke & Thomas (2003): Six institutions successful in improving retention o Supportive institutional climate in various ways of student development- perceived as friendly o Emphasis on support leading up to, and during, the critically important first year o Formative assessment in early phase of programmes

o Importance of social dimension (NSA-perhaps more than a pub crawl?) o Recognition of change in student body Followed by further research into Universities with a high proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. o o o o o o

o o Academic integration Sense of belonging Social integration Pre-entry programme On-going, embedded support Identification of at risk students Giving feedback Peer mentoring Reasons for non-completion

Personal factors Gender Lack of support Financial issues Course/Institution Inadequate pre-course

information, guidance and preparation Gaps between HE and FE Integration/Settling in Academic difficulties

Lack of support Institutions that are not adult friendly Timetable issues Some research (Johnstone & McLeod 2004, Yorke 2003, Elliot 2004 and others) has criticised widening participation initiatives which focus on raising aspirations of nontraditional students without tackling the university culture and ensuring adequate support. If you have to give up something; out of relationship, family, children, paid work and study it is easier to give up study. We need to target: o Issues, not groups o At risk modules/programmes, not at risk

students Quinn, Thomas, Slack, Casey, Thexton and Noble (From life crisis to lifelong learning: Rethinking dropout from higher education 2005) recommend that universities: o develop more integrated and holistic approaches to student support o integrate learning support into the curriculum (p70) Support Models 1. Do nothing- sink or swim Model

2. Remedial/Generic Model 3. Integrated and Embedded Model Skillen, Merten, Trivett & Percy (1999, p1) Integrated and Embedded o Recognition that learning development is more effective within discipline-specific contexts o Dependant on recognition and support from Faculty, Quality and Teaching and Learning Committees Napier is successful in developing: o Toolkits o Support networks

o Full credit-bearing modules such as Professional Studies and Professional Skills o Online and paper resources o o o o o o

L.E.A.P.S SWAP EAST Think Again Write On Top-Up Other community projects All of this indicates a degree of concern and commitment to student support. But But

o Still removed from context of subject being studied o May not necessarily reflect subject-specific skills o Danger of remaining within generic framework Should be: o Seen by students as part of curriculum Academic staff are change agents (Chapple & Tolley 2000) we can: o Provide powerful instances of learning and teaching o Model and scaffold for students o Help initiate students into academic community Existing Programmes: Bridging

o A pre-entry, intensive module o It is well attended and perceived o Students, at best, are recommended to take this module o Research shows that students do well academically and tend to be more motivated/integrated and proceed after first year of study Orientation o o o o

Two day programme for direct entrants Student feedback suggests confidence and motivation is boosted Students feel better prepared and integrated Students have a better understanding of what is expected and what to expect o Anecdotal evidence According to research findings, the focus should be on all students. Other o One to one support o Workshops and lectures

o Embedded as part of a module giving timely support for assessment o Peer Tutors and Mentors Adopting an academic integration approach: UTS o 1997 move to integrating academic language development into the curriculum of mainstream subjects in faculties o ELSSA Centre collaborates with faculties to integrate academic literacy development o Rationale is taking into account the educational implications of changing student demographics o Taking into account the changing modes of knowledge and

types of literacy o Inducting students into the particular discourses of their discipline/profession Examples of systematised support: UTS Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Health o Academic literacy lectures embedded in core first year subject o Clinically Speaking program developing spoken language for the clinical environment (collaborative project targeting at risk students) Faculty of Information Technology o Advanced Communication for Information Technology (targeting NESB students identified through mass language testing)

o Information Technology Research Preparation (post graduate international students/first time researchers) Further examples UTS Faculty of Engineering o Engineering for Sustainability (language needs analysis, students directed to specific program) o Engineering Communication (team teaching) Faculty of Business/School of Leisure, Sport & Tourism o Sociocultural Foundations of Leisure, Sport & Tourism (core first year subject embedding academic skills aligned with assessments) o Research Methods for leisure & Tourism (second year subject embedding academic skills)

Sociocultural Foundations of Leisure, Sport & Tourism o Aims/Goals o To combine in an undergraduate year 1, semester 1 subject, the acquisition of academic skills by developing critical analysis and academic writing skills within the knowledge and understanding of the substantive content of the subject o Assessments o 1 trial short essay (no mark recorded) o 2 short essays (400 words) 15% x 2=30% o Major essay (2500 words) 40% o Final exam 30%

Academic Literacy Lectures Week 2 LECTURE Critical analysis Referencing (ELSSA Centre) Week 5 LECTURE Feedback on critical analysis trial assessment

Academic (longer) essay writing, process/structure (ELSSA Centre) TUTORIAL Application of critical analysis (Subject tutors) Assessment Short essay trial No marks recorded Feedback given

TUTORIAL Writing an argument paragraph Group work (Subject tutors) Assessment First of 3 marked short essays due in two weeks Outcomes: Lecturers comments o The program worked really well with the combination of lecture, tutorial and assessment. It was great practice. Student feedback

sheets indicated they had learned a lot about academic reading skills in this subject. o The lecture on how to go about the craft of academic essay writing resulted in much better first year essays than before. Previous to the program they were nowhere near the quality they are now. o Before the program the marking was burdensome in this subject. There was confusion about critical analysis. Reading critically was seen as criticising. After the program the assessments in following years have a more clear cut analytical approach Students comments o Focus group findings indicated that raising awareness of academic skills development and aligning that

development to subject assessment, helps the students understand and adopt the skills more effectively. o Gaining the skills increased confidence resulting in less stress, more comfort and control completing tasks o Motivation increased as a result. o Third year students indicated the greatest benefit of the workshops had been the collaboration encouraged. Students comments Ongoing embedded support Identification of at

risk students Formative assessment early phase Addressing retention Yorke & Thomas (2003) Ongoing academic supportsignificant attendance ELSSA/ASA workshops Giving feedback

Social integrationWorkshops/pre-entry Graph: Numbers of Leisure, Sport and Tourism students attending ELSSA Centre workshops 2001-2005. LS&T workshops 2001-2005 400 350 300 250 No. students 200

150 100 50 0 1 2 3 Year 4

5 Proposed Support o Extend and continue Embedded support and measure effectiveness through research o Diagnostic assessment in the crucial first few weeks of term and follow up with feedback and timely support o Extend Orientation and Bridging to more (all) students o Extend Peer Tutoring Next stage: Action research o To evaluate existing programmes o To use stake holders in the design of a

new/modified programme o To evaluate the effectiveness of this programme o And to change this if necessary Favourite quote from ATLAANZ 2005 conference: Learning support advisers should be the fence at the top of the hill rather than the ambulance at the bottom.

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