Retention Issues in Higher Education
Pre-Induction and on arrival
- Is the tone of you communications with students supportive and accessible?
- Do students have a named contact re queries pre-arrival?
- Do you encourage students to communicate pre-arrival via social networking sites e.g. Facebook?
- Are your induction events / Freshers’ events inclusive and setting a professional tone?
- Is there a help desk facility for puzzled students?
- Is your signage of building comprehensive and comprehensible (and do you supply helpful maps?).
Retention of international students: some important considerations
- Is recruitment undertaken to ensure students have the potential to succeed?
- Is induction framed appropriately to welcome international students?
- Are steps taken proactively to ensure international students have a good chance of integrating with their study cohorts?
- Is the right kind of support offered (language, crisis support, befriending etc?).
Enhancements to curriculum design and delivery: have you:
- Explored how to best use the first half of the first semester to induct students into good study patterns and practices to enhance learning and improve retention (Yorke 2009)?
- Reconsidered the kinds of activities students engage with the maximum ‘learning by doing’?
- Rethought the way in which lecture periods are used to include activity as well as delivery?
- Considered how to make best use of technologies to support learning and engagement?
What can we do in the first six weeks? How do you:
- Enable students to feel part of a cohort rather than a number of a list?
- Help students acclimatise to the new learning context in which they find themselves?
- Familiarise them with the language and culture of the subject area they are studying (Northedge, 2003)?
- Foster the information literacy and other skills that students will need to succeed?
- Guide them on where to go for help as necessary?
Mapping out the programme as a whole: some questions
- Are you ensuring that students are immersed in the subject they have come to study from the outset?
- Is induction a valuable and productive introduction to the course?
- Do students have a positive and balanced experience across the programme?
- Are there points in the academic year when there doesn’t seem to be much going on (e.g. an extended Christmas break) when going home (and not coming back) seems like a good option?
- Are summative assessments undertaken throughout the course, or is everything ‘sudden death’ end-point?
- Is there excessive bunching of assignments in different modules that is highly stressful for students and unmanageable staff?
- Are there plenty of opportunities for formative assessment, especially early on?
- Are students over-assessed?
- When you have introduced innovative assignments, have they been as well or instead of existing ones?
- Is there a coherent model of progression across the student life-cycle from induction to ‘outduction’?
- Do you manage transitions from year one to year two and year two to year three to ensure students remain committed and engaged?
- Is there some continuity in the sources of student support throughout the course (e.g. personal tutors)?
- Are students offered support and guidance in relation to personal development and employability?
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