Mind the gap: supporting students to have a successful transition from school to university. Current practice and future possibilities.

Authors: Devis-Rozental, C.

Start date: 26 June 2018

Background: Over the past three years there has been an increase on students arriving to university with complex barriers to learning. This is something that is a growing concern within the UK higher university sector [1]. With a particular interest in the students’ overall wellbeing, within my role in the learning development team I apply strategies related socio-emotional intelligence, an area within the umbrella of positive psychology [2]. The rationale for doing so is to ensure students settle and develop their academic and personal skills in order to succeed. This is particularly important within their first year as students arrive to university with a set of expectations that may be quite different to the reality. Consequently developing an induction process that takes into account their needs and expectations is important. Most students arrive to university without an understanding of the specific requirements regarding academic writing, marking criterion or referencing for example. This on top of having to get acquainted in most cases with a new city, a new set of friends and for some living for the first time away from home. This combination of things can exacerbate their barriers and block their ability to learn effectively, therefore, opportunities to improve our induction process can further support students in developing a sense of belonging to settle and thrive whilst at university whilst developing their socio-emotional intelligence.

Aim: To evaluate our current practice and explore the expectations of prospective university students and academic staff within the university regarding the induction process at university and to seek which socio-emotional intelligence attributes are needed or can be developed to succeed.

Method: A thematic analysis [3] following a survey with staff and prospective students in a UK university in the south of England.

Results: An evaluation of our current induction process revealed that international students settle better following a targeted induction. Within our previous induction programme students were introduce to a set of titles that they should explored based on the premise that knowledge gives confidence [4]. Exploring areas such as resilience, motivation and cultural differences students were able to apply some of its principles to their own experience. These students felt they settled better and managed to develop meaningful relationships. They reported feeling motivated and positive about their university experience. Findings from the survey to prospective students and current academic staff exploring how to further bridge this gap will be fully presented at the 2018 ECPP conference. Conclusions: Preliminary findings suggest that students settle better when there is a targeted induction process which takes into account their current knowledge and understanding and also the development of their socio-emotional intelligence. This supports them in feeling a sense of belonging and settling better which helps them to thrive. More research in the topic should be conducted to further ascertain what areas of socio-emotional intelligence are most needed within this time and which develop due to the support given to students.

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