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Bridging the Gap The Experiences of Students with 'Higher National' Qualifications at University.

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Presentation on theme: "Bridging the Gap The Experiences of Students with 'Higher National' Qualifications at University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Bridging the Gap The Experiences of Students with 'Higher National' Qualifications at University

2 Why the FE/HE Project? New admissions policy at University of Edinburgh introduced for 2004 entry designed to mainstream widening access Introduction of new minimum grades for school-leavers & also some offers made to those with HNC/HNDs Commitment to finding out how this new generation of students fared; decision to focus on those with HNC/HNDs

3 The research team Viviene Cree, The University of Edinburgh Vivien Edwards, The University of Edinburgh Hazel Christie, Edinburgh Napier University Jenny Hounsell, The University of Edinburgh Velda McCune, The University of Glasgow Lyn Tett, The University of Edinburgh plus part-time interviewers and transcribers

4 The context of transition from FE to HE Most students who make this move enter post-92 universities Less likely that ancient universities will admit students with alternative entry qualifications Sample of 45 students who came to Edinburgh University with HNC/HND qualifications directly from FE and studied a range of degrees in CHSS Two cohorts (2004 and 2005 entry)

5 The sample agefemalemale Under 2074 21-3064 31-4018 41-504 51-602 total378

6 Class & ethnicity Students were asked to self-identify in terms of class A number were unable to identify their social class Of those who did identify, around 1/3 rd said they were middle class & younger students were more likely to do so Most students (around 80%) were White

7 Degree programmes studied Childhood Studies13 Education degrees11 Social Work9 Other Social Science8 Law3 Arts2 Total45

8 Methodology of the study The study uses interviews in which students are invited to reflect on the whole of their learning experiences Two standardised questionnaires developed by the Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses (ETL) project ( examine the students perceptions of the teaching- learning environment on their courses in their main subject(s) Also questions about the demands made by their courses, and the knowledge and skills the students feel they have gained from their university studies

9 Data collection points 1 st yr2 nd yr3 rd yr4 th yr5 th yr6 th yr 2004/52005/62006/72007/82008/92009/10 xxxxxxx xxxx

10 Key messages from the research Transition to HE – what helps? Support once in HE – what helps? The role of teaching, learning and support The importance of good assessment & feedback

11 Transition to HE The transition from the supportive environment of FE where the teaching staff were always available and if anything was not clear theyd take time to explain it to you to the less hands on environment at university, where you have to be more self- motivated was difficult Some students said they had not enjoyed spoon- feeding at FE Theres not a lot of help here [compared to FE]. Staff are very approachable but you dont always get the answer youre looking for. So thats why I liked working in groups because you had all those other people to speak to

12 Continued… Many students found they had lost the secure learning identity built up at College, lacked knowledge about how the university operated and were insecure about the academic standards expected of them At the beginning it was like muscling in on the kids … [but] I think once I understood how things worked, where I was going, passing my exams, slotting in, [I felt] yeah, you should be here. I had felt overawed but now Ive started to get [good] feedback and passing exams and joining in, that made the difference

13 Support once in HE - learning Building on familiar methods of learning such as group work and encouraging study support groups of peers to provide support Taking responsibility for finding your own learning materials and moving closer to the model of the independent learner Receiving good marks on course work but those that struggled sometimes felt that they shouldnt be at university. Learning how to access academic support proactively as personal circumstances can have a big impact

14 Support once in HE - belonging Students got a sense of belonging from interactions with other students and staff so that you know them and they know you. Generally felt part of the course or programme rather than the wider university - I enjoy it and feel proud to be here but I dont feel part of the uni Mentoring helped people to stay on course because it gave you a feeling that you have a family away from home. The lives of non-traditional students meant it was difficult to take part in the non-academic life of the university - Its been difficult having to balance assessments, work and family and trying to get in and out of the university Some felt they were in the minority - I think the universitys quite divided [as] …theres a whole section of wealthy English people who are just in a world of their own

15 Teaching and learning The shift from the 1st to 2nd year can be challenging as you need to read around the subject much more Interesting and interested lecturers, guidance in finding information, relevant books, appropriate examples and good support all led to good quality learning Peer learning could be helpful as long as your peers were not so competent that you had no opportunity to develop your own skills If the course was seen as interesting and relevant then students were able to engage even if the subject was difficult.

16 Assessment and feedback Most students felt that they received good guidance overall on their assignments. Feedback was variable with a small minority finding that for the huge effort you have put in feedback that you cant really read isnt good enough. Most, however, were positive about the feedback they received although they would have prefered to have it sooner. Detailed, timely feedback was ideal. For example everyone was emailed a feedback sheet that not only gave us what was a good performance… but also gave comments on what you could improve on.

17 Transitions within HE – a sense of progression Students acknowledged the greater standard and depth of work expected in the later years. Many found 3 rd and 4 th year more intensive and demanding but noted that they had become 100% dedicated Many reflected on the importance of critical moments when they gained in personal and academic confidence. They described moments when it all just [...] clicked and when they felt that they deserved to be here Clear evidence of fitting in and being an insider. Students stressed the importance of participation in effecting that transition from initial feelings of being overwhelmed Many described their years in HE in powerful emotional terms. When you look back over the whole process of university I think it was quite a rollercoaster but a ride that we all enjoyed.

18 Developing critical thinking skills Becoming independent learners and critical thinkers By 3 rd and 4 th year students were thinking across the course: they saw the bigger picture in which individual modules were situated; and recognised the value of the grounding they had been given in years 1 and 2. Recognised need to critically evaluate arguments from different points of view. Realising that there is no clear answer, to be critical of the information you are finding and not to take everything at face value were major breakthroughs for most students. Had developed skills in making clear the articulation between theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence Have had time to discover, and reflect on, what learning strategies work best for them.

19 From confident learners to confident graduates Most students had a clear sense of confidence and purpose in going on to next stage, whether in employment, in further study or in taking time out to prioritise needs of children Respondents described how they used the skills developed at university especially at work and in supporting children in their learning. Some students were disappointed that their (Ord) degrees were not professionally accredited or recognised for entry to post-graduate courses.

20 Reflections: The value of the degree Its all been worth it. Im glad I did it […] – it was hard – but I wouldnt change it for the world. Now. Because I wouldnt be where I am just now and I wouldnt have the confidence to go for post graduate study – I probably wouldnt even have had the confidence to go for an undergraduate social work you know – and it kind of changed the way I worked, the way I thought – lots of things in my life (40) I loved it. I did. […] There wasnt a sense of relief when I got to the end – there was a little bit of sadness there [….] but I did have a huge sense of achievement. […] I felt really proud of what I was achieving and I was happy to tell people, and I wanted to tell people and I wanted people to know what I was going through because otherwise it could just disappear (39). but I think the course really prepared people to go out and not just take in what theyve been told. If you believe in something then you go and get the knowledge behind it, get facts and figures and things like that

21 What works and why in this study … Reported only on the successful students Reflected on how they became successful learners Analysed their comments on the teaching/learning environment Particular cohort, particular university

22 What works and why across higher education? Transition to HE – what helps? Support once in HE – what helps? The role of tutors and tutorials & peer support The importance of good assessment & feedback

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