Successful Student Transitions – a resource for staff

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For the past three years, the Scottish Higher Education sector has been exploring student transitions in, through and out of university as part of the national Enhancement Themes.  I was a member of the University’s Institutional Team which was responsible for developing and coordinating a programme of work and, from an early stage, it was agreed that it would be useful to provide a resource for staff on important transitions and what good transitions look like.

My roles as Senior Tutor, Director of Programmes and now Director of Teaching have provided me with countless opportunities to share first-hand the challenges that moving into and through Higher Education present to students. More than ever, the increasing diversity of our student population reminds me to continuously reflect on our responsibility to develop and enhance the student learning environment and the support we provide for our students.

Students come to Edinburgh filled with excitement, enthusiasm and often a little anxiety, particularly about what this new environment might expect of them. We need to foster the excitement, recognising that these individuals have the potential to shape our future. We also need to alleviate the anxieties – we need to be welcoming and inclusive, demonstrating that the opportunities and support provided are available to enable every individual to fulfil their potential and that our learning community is open to all.

While progression through our degree programmes has a clearly defined chronology and is characterised by a number of defined periods of transition, it is important to recognise that students make their own individual journeys facing these points of transition in their own way and at their own pace. The dialogue we share with our students needs to be able to recognise the individual experiences of students and have the flexibility to provide support and guidance where and when it is needed.

Supporting the transformation of our students into active, autonomous learners, equipped with the skills and attributes for successful transition into the next stages of their careers, is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling aspects of my role in higher education – one that is continuously renewed with each new intake of students and reaffirmed with each cohort of graduates.

In early 2017, the Institute for Academic Development funded a PhD Student Intern post to review the many case studies and associated resources gathered through the University’s work on the Theme.  The result is the student transitions staff leaflet, which outlines why student transitions are important and what makes a student transition easier.  This is a very useful resource for all staff and I would encourage you to take the time to read the leaflet which also provides ideas for action and links to examples of how we can support our students through their transitions.

Next steps:

Download the Student Transitions leaflet from the IAD website.

Browse the Academic Transitions Toolkit.

Read more Teaching Matters posts on transitions.

Philip Larkman

Philip Larkman is Director of Teaching in the Biomedical Teaching Organisation (BMTO).

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