Fresh agenda conference in colleges and universities: the student perspective

By Sidonie Ecochard, Research Assistant, DLTE

On Friday 22nd April, we attended the innovative and interactive conference ‘Fresh Agenda in Colleges and Universities: the Student Perspective’, which proposed to explore articulating students’ feedback and discuss issues surrounding learning, teaching and transition support priorities. The event was held at West Lothian College and organised collaboratively by the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement and the Widening Access Team of Edinburgh Napier University.

Upon arrival, Liz Gunn and Carole Mooney welcomed us and assigned us to our respective round table. Indeed, the table seating chart was arranged so as to gather staff members from colleges and from universities, as well as students, at each table. Our Master of Ceremony, Julia Fotheringham, shared a few welcome words and presented the conversation guidelines of the day to yield democratic and productive discussions – based on the World Café – before introducing our student panel.

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An engaging conference for all attending

The student panel patiently answered our various questions, highlighting some positive aspects of their transition experience and acknowledging the efforts of colleges and universities to smooth their transition process. They mentioned the curriculum alignment, the student preparation pre-transition (with university lecturers and articulation officers coming to meet them in college) and the support received from university staff after articulation.

The panel also stressed some aspects still needing further improvements. They described their perceived lack of knowledge of the college curriculum and experience, on the part of the lecturing staff at university, often leading to miscommunications and lack of clarity in terms of assessment and feedbacks.

As a result, the dialogue between staff and students yielded interesting suggestions:

  • To prepare college students to university style assessments pre-articulation, for instance by having to complete one such assignment on a weekly or monthly basis,
  • To make university subject material available pre-articulation, to further smooth the transition,
  • For college students to have a university buddy – a college student who has articulated to university and can give advice on how to successfully prepare the transition.

The student panel reinforced the importance of:

  • Preparation and anticipation in transition, rather than ‘waiting for something bad to happen’,
  • Clarity in giving guidelines and assessments to articulating students or referring to previously studied material…
  • Mutual effort. The students explained the necessity for university lecturers to be available to answer questions, communicate clearly, avoid assumptions, and know about colleges. However, students also need to look for the information by themselves and develop their independent study skills.

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Edinburgh Napier University staff working on the dialogue sheets

Once the members of the student panel returned to their table, students and staff reflected together on transition questions using the dialogue sheets method.

Finally, each table was invited to discuss on recommendations from the Widening Access Commission before sharing their comments with the rest of the attendees. After such discussions, the participants were invited to stay for a networking lunch. Julia Fotheringham concluded the event by giving special thanks to all partners involved and to Sarah Murray for designing the dialogue sheets.

Overall, ‘The Fresh Agenda in Colleges and Universities: the Student Perspective’ was an inspiring event and great example of democratic and interactive educational event. Very interesting data was collected from the discussions and tweets which will be presented at the upcoming QAA conference.

Tweets surrounding the event - #ednapartic16
Tweets surrounding the event – #ednapartic16

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