The First Year: Engagement and Empowerment

‘What do we really want students to gain from their first year in higher education?’ was the main question that this Theme focussed on. For the purpose of this Theme the first year was defined as year one entry into a higher education programme – usually a student’s first experience of higher education.

The first year steering committee decided that it was important for students to gain empowerment and engagement from their first year, overall with the aim of making the first year a transformational experience:

  • Student engagement: this is seen as a challenging area, its scope including strategies to raise the level of student engagement within the first year, improving personal development and student life more generally.
  • Student empowerment: this concerns equipping students to take control of their learning and to become autonomous learners. Two key ideas here are the personalisation of taught provision and the development of an extended transition process.

Enhancement Theme outcomes:

Further resources, including a report on international experiences and initiatives can be found on the Enhancement Themes website.

Further resources

Using resource-based learning in teaching first year economics

This case study looks at how resource-based learning can be used to teach an ever increasing amount of first year students. Using resource-based learning allows tutors to cover the same amount of material for students without increasing staff teaching time.

Published: Economics Network (Les Simpson, Heriot Watt University)

Introducing problem-based learning to a first year curriculum

Problem-based learning (PBL) requires students to research, enquire and determine the answer to questions in different ways. This learning and teaching project funded by the Economics Network describes how PBL was embedded into a first year curriculum at the University of Ulster, how well it worked and what students gained.

Published: Economics Network (Frank Forsythe)

Improving the performance of first year experience by means of an innovative summer school programme

This presentation made at the Developments in Economics Education (DEE) conference in 2007 provides an insight into how first year performance can be improved with a summer school. Whilst concluding that discipline along with mandatory attendance was a key part in the success of the summer school, it showed students what was necessary to be successful at degree level therefore both engaging and empowering them.

Publishers: Economics Network (PM Horn and AI Jansen, Stellenbosch University, South Africa)

Availability: www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/dee2007/programme.htm (day two, parallel session four)

Student transition and retention (STAR)

The STAR project is based at the University of Ulster with the aim of increasing student retention. It focuses on the identification, analysis, dissemination and uptake of good practice in supporting students during periods of rapid transition from one learning environment to another. The project aims to address student needs at a variety of stages from pre-entry and induction to curriculum and staff development. The web pages provide a variety of resources, papers and case studies.

Publisher: student transition and retention (STAR) project, University of Ulster

The first year experience: a literature review

This literature review aims to consider the research literature and institutional ‘grey material’ exploring the undergraduate and postgraduate first-year experience and to identify key emerging issues to inform university policy makers, practitioners, researchers and other interested parties. In this review ‘first year’ refers to the first year of an undergraduate or postgraduate student in a higher education institution, however almost all of the published literature refers to students in their first year of undergraduate study.

Published: Higher Education Academy