18 Dec 2015

Learner Transitions Events Round-up

Taking in four cities in ten days, and bringing together over 70 students and 40 staff, sparqs’ and the HEA’s Learner Transitions events finished on 30th November at the University of Glasgow. Introduced by Frank Coton, Glasgow’s Vice Principal for Academic and Educational Innovation, and with the input of a number of students from the School of Education, it was a great way to bring an end to such an interesting series of events. Our aim was to bring together learners and staff from different educational institutions (secondary, further and higher) with a shared subject interest to encourage a dialogue on learner expectations of curriculum and learning style in the next stage of their education. We also supported cross-sector inter-disciplinary and widening access networks to consider best practice in supporting successful transitions.

These events proved very timely, with widening access and student transitions, evidencing and enhancing excellence and the increasing complexity of learner journeys informing the context of discussions.

We spoke to prospective Health & Social Care students and staff at Edinburgh Napier University, focused on Creative Industries at Abertay University, Engineering faculty and students in Aberdeen at RGU, and the Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow. Each of our events used group work that developed the student experience of learning in transition to explore student and staff perceptions of the challenges presented by moving from one stage of education to the next.

A full report of the events and the project will be going out to all attendees of the events, as well as being shared on the sparqs website and through other sector fora. We also heard a wide range of successful activities and thoughts on supporting widening access in particular, and will share a summary report with the Commission on Widening Access. To give a flavour of some of the discussions, we have outlined some of the emerging common themes below.

There was a lot of concern among students about the perceived step up in academic level that would be required of new first year students at university. While this was mixed with the excitement of having the kind of independence of learning that is associated with university education, there was a good deal of trepidation about leaving the comfortable learning environment provided by the school in terms of being able to access frequent, tailored feedback and support. The idea of the university as the ‘big city’ compared to the ‘village’ of the school was definitely at play.

Nevertheless, this view was not uniform. Especially in subject areas such as the Creative Industries, where there was a perception that a university or college education had enabled students to specialise further than the necessarily broad curriculum of secondary education could allow.

At the Glasgow event there was a fascinating discussion led by current University of Glasgow students in the School of Education, and a number of pupils looking to study Social Sciences. A lot of the discussion focused around the independence of learning required at university, but how instead of being something terrifying, this was such an opportunity to be able to grow your own academic voice and direct your own learning.

Our report, which will be published early in the new year, will draw out key themes that ran across each of the events before making recommendations for areas of further work and collaboration. Of particular interest is how we can utilise our own experiences of supporting these events to better shape our upcoming work on representation and pupil voice in schools. We will also be producing a toolkit drawing together our experience from these events to aid other institutions or organisations to host similar events in the future.

For further info please get in touch with Phil McGuinness, Development Consultant – phil.mcguinness@sparqs.ac.uk or 07469 354245.

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