Supporting first year students and their educators
How can the ANU support first-year students in a holistic way during their transition to University life? What can educators do to support students, and what support do educators need to fulfil their support roles more effectively? Check out the recording of our recent Lunch Vox to hear our panel talk about this topic, drawing on their diverse experiences and perspectives to discuss possible ways forward. If you’re short on time – you can skip to a summary of some of the ideas raised at the bottom and listen to the Q+A.
This vibrant discussion was hosted by Lucy Neave who, among her various roles at the ANU, is the co-chair of the Orientation and Transition Working Group. She set the scene by speaking to the value of “thinking about changes that other universities are making […] and what we might do at ANU to also ease the transition of students into the classroom”. She then introduced each of the panelists:
- Ruby Crandell, 2nd year ANU student (Bachelor of Arts and International Relations)
- Dr Claire Hansen, ANU academic in English, recently of James Cook University
- Dr Jeremy Smith, ANU academic in Engineering
- Dr Kathy Egea, First and Further Year Experience Coordinator from the University of Technology (UTS), Sydney
Ruby kicked off the session by discussing her lived experience studying at the ANU during the COVID-19 pandemic. She speaks about some of the biggest challenges first years face today, and some of things educators can do to support them.
Diversity and first year
Claire then spoke to some of the teaching approaches and student support services she found effective while teaching at James Cook University. There, she taught English courses to first-year cohorts with high levels of low socioeconomic status (SES), first-in-family, rural and remote students.
Journey to professional competence
Jeremy shared how the ANU College of Engineering currently supports the additional transition students make from student to practitioner in the context of an accredited degree with set graduate competencies.
How do others support their teaching staff?
Kathy then spoke about the First Year Experience program at UTS, where academics can apply for grants to support them in implementing transition pedagogy.
Short and longer term plans
What can be done in the short term to better support first-year students?
- invest time in establishing safe spaces in the classroom
- build belonging and connection from the first class
- ask students where they want to go and why they are taking the course, and have this inform the framing of activities and communications
- invest time in establishing expectations and explaining your chosen approach
- don’t underestimate the power of modelling passion
- design courses with flexibility and compassion
- introduce students to available support services
- use low-stakes, early assessments with many opportunities for feedback
- use diverse and authentic assessments which focus on building transferrable skills (e.g. teamwork, critical thinking)
- incorporate student reflection early on.
What could be done in the long term?
- work towards embedding transition pedagogy into curriculums
- create more education support and student support roles
- build more high-quality on-campus learning spaces for each college
- provide more support, training and dedicated in-class time for teaching staff to build connection with and among students
- provide funding that explicitly supports academics to implement transition pedagogy
- run more events that connect teaching and professional staff on the topic of transition pedagogy and teaching first years
- clarify how to support students to get allowances and accommodations for work or financial pressures
- provide more support services, resources and/or events for first years that teach life skills (eg financial literacy, time-management).
See upcoming ANU Lunch Vox Session here and catch up in previous session below:
- Lunch Vox #7: Teaching First Year Students at ANU
- Lunch Vox #6: In Your Students Shoes: Remote Student Experience
- Lunch Vox #5: Productive Partnerships: Collaboration in Education
- Lunch Vox #4: Promoting Academics: Where does teaching Fit?
- Lunch Vox #3: Testing Times: Exploring Assessment
- Lunch Vox #2: Remote or Isolated: The Student Experience
- Lunch Vox #1: Radical Shifts: Teaching in a time of transition
Angela Stoddard is a member of the Education Design team at the Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT)