New student induction
Cook and Rushton (2008) argue that new student induction ought to contain three elements:
- pre-arrival (the period prior to students arriving on campus)
- initial induction (the first few weeks of term)
- extended induction (the remainder of the first year).
We would also suggest that course teams ought to consider Tinto's (1993) work on engagement and retention. He argues that engagement has two dimensions: academic engagement and social engagement with the different institutional communities. We would argue that both are important, and numerous writers note that a sense of belonging within the university and particularly the course is vital (Thomas, 2012, Foster et al, 2012). In the 2011 Welcome Week survey, students reported that the course was the place they were most likely to make friends during their first week.
Clearly there are logistical problems with conducting induction activities once the first week has finished. However, where possible we would recommend course teams consider Cook and Rushton's JEEJIT model (Just Enough Education Just In Time) and communicate key messages at a time when students need to be aware of them.
Induction at NTU
Pre-arrival: In 2011, NTU brought together a range of pre-arrival resources. Students can now complete their online enrolment and find out more about the University at the Starting at NTU pages. Importantly, students also now have the chance to find out about their course through the course induction microsites. Each course provides information including a welcome from the course team, a copy of the initial induction timetable, and information about the support available.
Importantly, all courses are required to provide their students with a pre-arrival task. This task must be used as part of the initial induction. For example, if the pre-entry task is a short research piece about how learning is different at university, the course team must ensure that during induction week there is an opportunity to discuss the task in small groups. It is extremely important that students learn from the very outset of their course the importance of preparing for taught sessions.
As a minimum, all courses ought to offer new students a week of initial induction activities. Please note the emphasis on initial – almost no students will be fully inducted by the end of the first week.
Surveys and interviews with students suggest that the five features they valued most as part of induction are:
- to have opportunities to start making friends and building support networks
- to understand what learning is like at university
- to experience authentic learning and have some reassurance that they can cope
- to be reminded how their course will benefit their future plans
- to have a course induction that allows time for other commitments (although students accepted that this was a lower priority than the other themes).
We would strongly suggest that course teams consider the whole of the first year as the period of extended induction. In essence, this means that as students encounter each new learning, teaching or assessment activity, the course team considers ways of helping them to focus upon and engage with it. In other words, don't assume students understand how to engage with lectures, independent learning, or writing for higher education; instead, take time to explicitly explore your (and their) expectations about how they are expected to engage. The academic tutorials were introduced at least partially to create opportunities for students to explore these themes in small groups.
It would also be useful to highlight here the alignment with UK Professional Standards (UKPSF), defined in NTU’s own framework as follows:
"Supporting student learning is a key part of the national professional standards for teaching and learning in HE. You can find these defined in NTU’s own Teaching Development Framework known as the NTU TDF. See the Guide to the NTU Professional Standards for Teaching and Supporting Learning on the CPLD website."
These are the standards you evidence when applying for HEA professional recognition. When applying, you could use your examples of your student induction practice when evidencing Area of Activity A2: (Teach / Support Learning) or A4 (Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance).
COOK, A. and RUSHTON, B., 2008. Student Transition: Practices & policies to promote Retention. UK: Staff & Educational Development Association.
FOSTER, E., LAWTHER, S., LEFEVER, R., BATES, N., KEENAN, C. and COLLEY, B., 2012. HERE to stay? An exploration of student doubting, engagement and retention in three UK universities. In: I. SOLOMONIDES, A. REID and P. PETOCZ, eds, Engaging with Learning in Higher Education. UK: Libri Publishing, pp. 95-114.
TINTO, V., 1993. Leaving college : rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago ; London: University of Chicago Press.
THOMAS, L., 2012. Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: final report from the What Works? Student Retention & Success programme. UK: PHF, HEFCE, HEA & AonA