A student-centric culture

Current literature features professional development and training for staff to improve student retention and success, and providing good customer service. The literature features strategies for supporting student transition and the student lifecycle.

Staff professional development/training

Devlin, M. 2013. Effective university leadership and management

Devlin, M. (2013). Effective university leadership and management of learning and teaching in a widening participation context: Findings from two national Australian studies. Tertiary Education and Management, 19(3), 233-245. doi:10.1080/13583883.2013.793380

This formative paper will provide guidance to university leaders and managers who are committed to making operational institutional changes, to strategically support, retain, and provide a high-quality experience for LSES students.

Combined findings from two national research projects reveal four themes for effective leadership and management: alignment of improved teaching and learning with the university strategic direction, reward and recognition mechanisms for university staff, providing resources for institutional initiatives and to enable LSES students to minimize financial challenges, and, creating coordinated organizational support structures for teaching and learning enhancement.

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Graham, C. 2013. Professional staff contributions to positive student outcomes

Graham, C. (2013) Professional staff contributions to positive student outcomes: A case study [online]. The Australian Universities' Review, 55(1), 7-16.

This study argues that the contribution of professional staff to university strategic goals is fundamental for successful student outcomes. Semi structured interviews were conducted with 14 professional staff at UTS using the Prebble Propositions framework which identified significant contributions to student success as being welcoming and efficient behavior, environments and processes. Four key themes emerged: technology, knowledge, helpful and supportive colleagues, and job satisfaction.

Participants demonstrated an understanding of how their work relates to student outcomes and displayed an intrinsic motivation in supporting and relieving academic staff of heavy workloads. Universities may respond by encouraging this behavior and to recognize and value the contributions of all staff working together to achieve best student outcomes.

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Regan, J. et al. 2014. A comparative study of the perceptions

Regan, J., Dollard, E., & Banks, N. (2014). A comparative study of the perceptions of professional staff on their contribution to student outcomes. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 36(5), 533-545. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2014.936093

This UK study of faculty and non-faculty based staff seeks to examine the views held by professional staff on the impact of their work on student success.

Based on the assumption that the contribution of professional staff promotes positive student outcomes, this study found that non-faculty based staff may not understand the importance of their contribution to organizational culture. An underestimation in the value of their work may not contribute positively to student retention and success at an institutional level.

This study is limited by the lack of understanding of the propositions set out in the survey undertaken by the 39 participants and recommends further research.

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Student lifecycle

Kift, S. 2009. Articulating a transition pedagogy

Kift, S. (2009). Articulating a transition pedagogy: First year curriculum principles

This document is a two page statement of six broad guiding principles for curriculum design to support the first year experience. The principles aim to facilitate student success through mediating and supporting transition, recognising diversity, curriculum design, learning engagement, transition to assessment and evaluation of curriculum to improve student learning.

This is a useful resource to guide first year curriculum design to enable the successful transition to university study.

Read the full text article on Transition Pedagogy website (pdf, 825kb)

Transition programs

Barber, et al. 2015. Navigating VET to university

Barber, T., Netherton, C., Bettles, A., & Moors-Mailei, A. (2015). Navigating VET to university: Students' perceptions of their transition to university study. Student Success, 6(2), 33-41. doi:10.5204/ssj.v6i2.289

This paper reports on the findings of an online survey of university students who have transitioned to university study from a VET pathway. The wider UTS research project aims to capture the student voice to describe the longer term impacts of entering university through VET. UTS policy allows for an increased number of students accessing university via non-traditional pathways, widening access to diverse student cohorts.

The results of this initial survey of 124 students indicate that students transitioning from VET to university felt their VET studies prepared them well. Students who reported that their VET background was highly significant in their transition experience, also felt better adjusted and had fulfilled expectations of university.

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Barnes, et al. 2015. Track and Connect: Enhancing student retention and success

Barnes, S., Macalpine, G., & Munro, A. (2015). Track and connect: Enhancing student retention and success at the University of Sydney. A practice report. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 6(1), 195-202.

Track and Connect is an intervention program designed to address attrition rates of first year students through detection of 'at risk' students and a strategy of targeted communication. During the program trained student staff members make contact at key points in the semester. 'At risk' students are connected to academic support services, personal support services and faculty-based assistance. Additionally, feedback to faculty can identify skills and knowledge gaps that may be addressed in the delivery of a course.

An analysis of the data shows positive results in lower attrition rates since implementation of the program, however, most significantly, student feedback reveals the value of peer-to-peer support and connection to key service areas.

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Kift, S. 2015. Student success: Why first year at uni

Kift, S. (2015). Student success: why first year at uni is a make-or-break experience. Retrieved 3 September 2015, from The Conversation website: http://theconversation.com/student-success-why-first-year-at-uni-is-a-make-or-break-experience-21465

In this short news article from The Conversation, Kift argues that universities need to make student learning, retention and success for first year students their core business. Some alarming figures on the annual attrition costs are revealed, along with reasons for attrition.

Kift advocates for a "whole of institution" approach, where academics and non-academic staff work together to provide all students equal opportunity for success through anticipation of obstacles and mediation.

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Stirling, J., Rossetto. C., 2015. Are we there yet. Making sense of transition

Stirling, J., & Rossetto, C. (2015). "Are we there yet?": Making sense of transition in higher education. Student Success, 6(2), 9-20. doi:10.5204/ssj.v6i2.293

The authors in this paper discuss a transition program for first year students at a regional Australian university, with a diverse student cohort – mature age, first in family, LSES and Indigenous. The transition model program is aligned with curricula-specific 'academic language and learning' (ALL) requirements for undergraduate students in a blended learning environment.

This article suggests that there are unresolved tensions between the facilitation of the development of academic literacies and technology competencies, and the provision of multi-layered learning support encompassing equity policy and implementation.

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Zepke, N. 2013. Student engagement: A complex business

Zepke, N. (2013). Student engagement: A complex business supporting the first year experience in tertiary education. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 4(2). 1-14. doi: 10.5204/intjfyhe.v4i2.183

In this paper the author acknowledges complexity in student engagement and argues that emerging from conceptual engagement frameworks are a number of understandings and properties of engagement: student investment in learning, institutional and teaching support and an enabling external environment. 

Whilst recognizing the existing literature on the many practical ways to improve engagement, Zepke posits that discipline knowledge, student wellbeing and outside influences are key emerging properties in student engagement.

This article offers some practical insights into how teachers and institutions can interpret and shape generic ideas of engagement to their unique contexts of teaching and learning.

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Customer service

Graham, C. 2013. Professional staff contributions to positive student outcomes

Graham, C. (2013) Professional staff contributions to positive student outcomes: A case study [online]. The Australian Universities' Review, 55(1), 7-16.

This study argues that the contribution of professional staff to university strategic goals is fundamental for successful student outcomes. Semi structured interviews were conducted with 14 professional staff at UTS using the Prebble Propositions framework which identified significant contributions to student success as being welcoming and efficient behavior, environments and processes. Four key themes emerged: technology, knowledge, helpful and supportive colleagues, and job satisfaction.

Participants demonstrated an understanding of how their work relates to student outcomes and displayed an intrinsic motivation in supporting and relieving academic staff of heavy workloads. Universities may respond by encouraging this behavior and to recognize and value the contributions of all staff working together to achieve best student outcomes.

Read the full text article

Regan, J. et al. 2014. A comparative study of the perceptions

Regan, J., Dollard, E., & Banks, N. (2014). A comparative study of the perceptions of professional staff on their contribution to student outcomes. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 36(5), 533-545. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2014.936093

This UK study of faculty and non-faculty based staff seeks to examine the views held by professional staff on the impact of their work on student success.

Based on the assumption that the contribution of professional staff promotes positive student outcomes, this study found that non-faculty based staff may not understand the importance of their contribution to organizational culture. An underestimation in the value of their work may not contribute positively to student retention and success at an institutional level.

This study is limited by the lack of understanding of the propositions set out in the survey undertaken by the 39 participants and recommends further research.

Read the full text article

Evidence-based practice

Junco, R. et al. 2013. Putting Twitter to the test

Junco, R., Elavsky, C. M., & Heiberger, G. (2013). Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(2), 273.

This study of virtual engagement and collaboration through Twitter found that where faculty participation and integration based on a pedagogical model were utilized, there were improved learning outcomes. Data from 2 studies is presented in this report to show empirical evidence on the integration of Twitter in courses, and both qualitative and quantitative data assessing academic outcomes.

The implications from the research are that faculty should structure Twitter activities to be aligned with relevant educational criteria, for best results there should be a pedagogical basis for Twitter use, and that instructors should actively engage on Twitter by encouraging discussion and providing support.

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Northey, G. et al. 2015. Increasing student engagement

Northey, G., Bucic, T., Chylinski, M., & Govind, R. (2015). Increasing student engagement using asynchronous learning. Journal of Marketing Education. doi:10.1177/0273475315589814

In this report on a study of asynchronous online learning, the data revealed that student use of FaceBook to participate in an interactive learning space, positively impacted on perceived and actual student engagement and better academic outcomes. The social networking site was tested as a tool to complement face-to-face learning, and provide a shift from teacher-focused to a student-centered learning approach.

Crucial to its success is student familiarity with FaceBook, using established online behaviors and leveraging existing technology. The study contributes to existing theories on student engagement and to the shift in responsibility for learning from teacher to the student in an empowered learning ecosystem.

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Smallhorn, et al. 2015. Inquiry-based learning to improve student engagement

Smallhorn, M., Young, J., Hunter, N., & Burke da Silva, K. (2015). Inquiry-based learning to improve student engagement in a large first year topic. Student Success, 6(2), 65-71. doi:10.5204/ssj.v6i2.292

A research project at Flinders University was designed to assess the experience of first year biology students and the impact that redeveloped laboratories for inquiry-based learning had on student outcomes. Inquiry-based laboratories foster a deeper understanding of scientific content and strengthen independent learning.

The survey of 710 students revealed students perceived the laboratories improved their university experience, and more specifically, their understanding of content by providing hands-on, real-life experiences. A multiple choice exam showed significant improvement in scores after the redevelopment of the laboratories in 2014.

The authors suggest inquiry-based teaching methods, though grounded in science, can be used across disciplines to encourage discovery.

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Zepke, N. Leach, L. 2010. Improving student engagement

Zepke, N., & Leach, L. (2010). Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action. Active Learning in Higher Education, 11(3), 167-177. doi:10.1177/1469787410379680

This article is a report on a literature search on student engagement from a multifaceted research perspective. It synthesizes literature in two ways: to develop a conceptual organizer of four perspectives based on the literature, and in offering ten propositions to enhance student engagement emerging from the four perspectives.

The four main research perspectives are identified as: motivation and agency, transactional engagement, institutional support and active citizenship. The synthesis of the literature search supports ten well-founded proposals for action that teachers and institutions may potentially use to improve student engagement.

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West B. et al. 2015 Beyond the tweet: Using Twitter

West, B., Moore, H., & Barry, B. (2015). Beyond the tweet: Using twitter to enhance engagement, learning, and success among first-year students. Journal of Marketing Education, 37(3), 160-170. doi:10.1177/0273475315586061

This study of 411 first year students in marketing and fashion courses attempts to investigate the benefits of using Twitter for learning and student engagement. The authors posit that providing students with opportunities to use social media tools in formal study would result in applying them more effectively in a business context.

The study focused on whether Twitter use impacts on course engagement, satisfaction and final semester grades. An online questionnaire was developed to assess student perceptions of their experience including their classroom interactions, feelings of connectedness, the learning of course materials and their enjoyment of using Twitter. Overall, the results show Twitter has a positive impact, however it remains unclear as to whether Twitter use contributes to student success, or whether there are other more important factors such as motivation and learning styles.

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