In January 2020, we published a SEDA Special exploring the themes of Transitions into, through and out of Higher Education. SEDA Special 44 contained a range of articles that explored the experiences of diverse student groups, including BTEC, mature, and first-in-family students. Each article, in its own way, highlighted the need for human contact and personal support in the transition process. Suggested solutions included summer schools, placement apps and on-campus job opportunities.
Two years later, the Community of Practice that this spawned is thriving and transition has become an increasing focus for many after lockdowns, grade inflation and issues of isolation and anxiety have had a noticeable impact. It seems timely therefore, to revisit some of the ideas first mentioned in that initial publication. The SEDA Transitions Community of Practice now meets monthly online to share ideas, projects and events that support practitioners to better support students in transition, no matter what stage of their learning journey. One of the unexpected joys of this CoP has been how it has enabled us to keep in contact with the contributing authors and see how their work has developed over the last two years, while also widening the conversation as new members have joined the group.
In a series of blog posts focused on transition, members of the SEDA Community of Practice will be sharing their thoughts and experiences of transition practice more recently. Rachelle O’Brien, Aisling Keane and Helena Knapton will each look through a different lens (transition into, through or out of HE) to give us an opportunity to reflect on changes, developments and considerations to the way we ease the passage of students through a new Higher Education landscape. Kelly Edmunds ends our series with a look to the future and how encouraging low stakes failure can be a way of building resilience.
We start with a blog from Rachelle O’Brien (Senior Digital Learning Designer, Durham Centre for Academic Development), who starts the series with an honest, thought-provoking piece in which she charts how her role in re-developing the Transition to Higher Education course at Durham University not only helped new students as they start their university journey but also helped her to settle into her new post.
Increasingly, transition is recognized not just as a turning point between further and higher education but as a continuous process (Tett, Cree and Cristie, 2016). The need to establish a sense of community and belonging in the initial stages of joining a Higher Education institution is only the first step in a sequence of transitions that students experience during their degree programmes. Transition embraces aspects such as learning to adapt to new approaches to teaching at different levels of their programme,
With this in mind, our second blog post focuses on transition through HE. Aisling Keene (Reader in Education, Queens’ University Belfast) revisits her work on ‘The Second Year Slump’ to assess its commonalities with the impact of COVID on students. She reminds us that learning (and teaching) always takes place in a wider context. Aisling argues that as we return to the ‘new normal’, we need evidence-based pedagogical frameworks to better support students in transition.
How about transition “out” of HE? Helena Knapton (Learning and Teaching Development Lead, Edge Hill University) shares her work mapping graduate attributes into assessment criteria. This work enables markers to provide additional feedback on the extent to which students have evidenced specified graduate attributes in their assessed work. Students can then use this feedback to help them prepare their professional portfolios and job applications.
Finally, Kelly Edminds (University of East Anglia) ends our series with a look to the future. As we build again from experience of low engagement during a pandemic, how can we prepare students for transition across HE, in a way that acknowledges the changing landscape? Rather than shielding students from failure, perhaps, Kelly argues, we should be helping them to manage their fear of failure in a way that builds resilience and confidence.
Each Blog reaffirms, in its own way, the importance of community-building and belonging to both students and faculty, but also the need for practitioners to embrace change as we support our students to navigate it.
If you wish to join the SEDA Transitions Community of Practice, please get in touch with Wendy Garnham (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Wendy Ashall (email@example.com), both at the University of Sussex.
Tett, L., Cree, V. E., & Christie, H. (2017). From further to higher education: transition as an on-going process. Higher Education, 73(3), 389-406.