The following post is from Emily Bell who started her BILT Associate role in supporting students transition to University in August 2021.
I first joined the university back in 2012 as a PhD student studying social wasps in Central America. My research background is the study of the evolution of social behaviour, asking how and why animals form social groups. A few years ago, I moved over to Pathway 3 at the university as a Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences and started to develop my pedagogic research interests in and round the area of student experience, transitions, and wellbeing throughout their university journeys.
My interests in student transitions arose during my first few years as one of the Senior Tutors in the School. I became increasingly aware of the dramatic rise in mental health issues within the higher education student community and realised the importance of a successful induction both into, throughout, and out of university to promote confidence and provide support to those who need it most (Tinto, 2004; Turner et al. 2017). Perhaps now, more than ever before, we are aware of just how important transitions are as we look at moving towards the ‘new normal’ in Higher Education. Over the last year the impact of Covid19 has left a clear mark on a generation of students (Hewitt, 2021). For those newly arrived (and coming soon) they have suffered school disruptions, missed out on the sense of pride of completing their final exams, missed the chance to visit campuses before selecting universities, and had limited chances to socialise with others (McVitty, 2021). For those already within our community they have missed key interactions with their staff and peers whilst studying remotely. Together these have all taken their toll on the mental health and wellbeing of our students. Consequently, working toward bringing our community back together and helping support staff and students to transition back to university campus in a blended way is a vital area in need of research.
Along with my fellow Transition BILT Associates we will be looking at ways to help support both our students and staff in making transitions into university as successful as possible considering disruptions caused by the pandemic. We aim to share best practice from across a wide range of institutions, run training for staff, and disseminate key research. By doing this we hope to be able to empower our colleagues to help their student communities and bring back the excitement of a well-rounded university experience to our students.
Hewitt, R. (2021) Students’ views on the impact of Coronavirus on their higher education experience in 2021. Higher Education Policy Institute Policy Note 29.
McVitty, D. (2021) “I just want to know the vibe, miss” – supporting student transition. WonkeHE. https://wonkhe.com/blogs/i-just-want-to-know-the-vibe-miss-supporting-student-transition/
Tinto, V. (2004). Student Retention and Graduation: Facing the Truth, Living with the Consequences. Occasional Paper 1. Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.
Turner, R., Morrison, D., Cotton, D., Child, S., Stevens, S., Nash, P., & Kneale, P. (2017). Easing the transition of first year undergraduates through an immersive induction module. Teaching in Higher Education, 22(7): 805-821.