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“Teach me with patience”: Supporting student transitions to university in 2021

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A new ‘Transitions Toolkit’ is being developed to support colleagues in the academic transition of students in the 2021-22 academic year.

The toolkit is based on the work of the Student Academic Transitions (SAT) working group, and will be shared with colleagues by the end of August.

The working group comprises colleagues from across our University, who have put considerable effort into understanding the challenges that new and returning students face.

They have used a range of resources – including surveys of current Reading students and Year 13 school students, conferences on supporting student academic transition and ‘good practice’ examples from our own institution – in identifying the key areas of support.

Understanding the challenges

In its research, SAT has found that the impact of COVID-19 on students’ educational experiences has been significant and diverse. Year 13 students, for example, have had to deal with condensed learning and assessment, restricted access to learning resources, and in some cases broken morale and reduced enjoyment of learning.

The limited group work opportunities have also affected students’ perception of their own social skills, and some even doubt their academic abilities or study skills.

The increased use of technology in learning has had an impact too. While many students have adapted well to online, blended and independent learning, others have suffered from a lack of access to technology – which has exacerbated the adverse impacts on those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Year 13 students felt that online taster lectures, before the start of the academic year, would be helpful for them. Such lectures could help us deliver key knowledge or content and make subsequent sessions easier to follow. Introductory lectures to outline pre-requisite knowledge/skills, as well as informal learning opportunities could also help to re-engage students and stimulate excitement for learning.

A lot of good work is already happening at our University, and SAT has sought to build upon this. It received over 130 contributions of ‘good practice’ examples in supporting student academic transitions. These have been collated into a variety of themes, such as teaching and assessment approaches, connectedness and belonging, wellbeing and welfare.

All this insight and learning is helping to shape the ‘Transitions Toolkit’, where colleagues will also find examples of good practices.

Positive tone

A key objective of the work is to strike a positive and optimistic tone in our Welcome, both at an institutional level and in different Schools.

Incoming students should feel that we not only understand how their educational experiences have been impacted over the past year, but will be working hard to support them to achieve their full academic potential.

Specific guidance and good practice will be disseminated by CQSD to academic colleagues in early September through CPD workshops, top tips and a showcase.

Study Smart’, our key central academic transition resource for incoming students, will also be updated. If you are an Academic Tutor, we will be asking for your help in encouraging the new tutees to complete it.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please contact Professor Clare Furneaux (Teaching & Learning Dean) or Dr Jo Cordy (CQSD).

 

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