University transition – a holistic and inclusive approach
Number of student partners: 6 undergraduate students (from 2nd year-4th year)
Number of staff partners: 4 staff
Length of project: Four weeks plus one week during term-time
Weekly time commitment for student: Summer break, full-time, then during Induction week.
Department of Mathematics
Lead Staff partner: Inkeri Hibbins
Other staff partners: Kevin Buzzard, Marie-Amelie Lawn, Thibault Bertrand
Additional support from Sai Yoghananthan, FoNS AV team: Michael Edwards and Charles Aigbokhai
Student partners: Austin Hubbard, Ekaterina Akulova, Iris-Ioana Roatis, Enrico Ancilotto, Jack Kennedy, Chia-Chun Lo
Project area: Curriculum DevelopmentBackground for the project
A major focus of the Curriculum Review led in the Department of Mathematics has been to ease the transition from school to university. With a highly international (50% overseas, high EU %) student body, it is a challenge to ensure that all students have the right basic knowledge to support their studies.
As part of the Curriculum Review, we surveyed our Year 1 students to identify pre-knowledge and familiarity on core topics. Doing so, we were able to identify topics which may better be taught differently than is currently done; to do so, we identified strategies, one of which was covering these topics in introductory videos and material sent to students as pre-learning material prior to the start of University. The pre-learning strategy will be based on short videos (around 10-15 minutes in length), taught by staff and students jointly. The reason for the collaboration is to increase the interaction between students and staff and to showcase the idea of “students as partners” to incoming students prior to their arrival. Current students also provide an important “reality check” for the project to ensure that topics identified are correct and covered in the best way.Outputs
The project members collaborated on creating pre-arrival academic material and social-transition focused induction week events.
The team created eight academic videos (10-15 minutes each) focusing on material incoming students were expected to know upon arrival. From a selection of topics, the StudentShapers identified ideas to concentrate on, wrote their scripts, and created animations, audio and filmed sections. Videos were edited by the FoNS team, reviewed, and revised through an iterative process. A general welcome and “day-in-the-life-of” video were made to help with the social transition. Videos with accompanying problem sheets were sent to incoming students over the summer.
The StudentShapers also planned and ran induction week events - a treasure hunt, a “not-in-the-halls” get together, as well as a Student Panel Q&A to maintain the continuity for new students. Their focus was to support the social transition, help students create networks and gain advice on university from older students, providing vertical integration and improved sense of community.
Incoming students received pre-arrival revision material to ease the transition from school to university, allowing retrospection and consolidation of knowledge. The material provided them with confidence to start the year and focus on university material – with the same expectations of foundational material, students from diverse backgrounds were placed on an equal footing. Peer leaders were shown as role models, placing a focus on community. The videos provided topics of discussion for the first problems sessions which encouraged students to work together from the start.
One Student partner reflected on how helpful participation was personally, allowing him to improve on their own experience.”"
Undergraduate Liaison Officer
The StudentShapers student partners benefited from the project via: (1) thinking about foundational mathematics forcing them to delve in the material more deeply and identify educational strategies to present in a clear and concise manner, (2) being part of a logistically heavy project providing them with transferable skills from project management, communication and team work, as well as audio-visual technical skills.
The department benefited from improved vertical integration and sense of community – building friendship and support networks and demystifying university by putting a familiar face on a hard transition period.
The staff also benefited from this project, learning from the students’ ideas and experience of the material. Much of the material will be re-usable in future years although the focus might shift from pre-arrival material to support material for Year 1 modules.