The following post is from Sean Lancastle who started his BILT Associate role in supporting students transition to University in August 2021.
Hi, I’m Sean and I’ve been the Academic Enhancement Manager in the School of Civil, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (CAME) since 2017. In this role I’m able to work on all kinds of enhancement projects supporting students and colleagues across the school. I have a particular interest in curriculum and assessment design and how this affects our students’ experiences throughout their time with us.
I guess I fell into this by accident! I started my career as an engineer at the BBC, progressing to technology management and eventually training. A lucky spot of an advert in the Guardian led me to a lecturing job at Solent University teaching broadcast engineering and over the next decade I worked my way up to Academic Leader with special responsibility for Enhancement. Leading the periodic review and validation of programmes across a diverse school in a rapidly expanding post-92 university, together with external reviewer roles at other universities and FE/HE colleges, spurred my interest in the many different approaches to curriculum design and the impacts they have of students’ experiences of university.
In the last decade there have been significant changes to post-16 education resulting in a wider than ever range of knowledge, skills and experience in our new starters. Our traditional assumptions of what a first year student can do are now some way off the mark, but overcoming the inertia of change processes at universities makes it a real challenge to keep up. I’m keen to see how we can develop curricula which are robust to these external changes, can cope with the unexpected (like Covid) and, most importantly, that help our students to transition into HE learning effectively.
In 2019, I project managed a comprehensive review of the first year of all of our undergraduate programmes in CAME and one of the key aims of that process was to enable a smoother transition into our courses for students from as wide a range of educational experiences as possible. I’m keen to see how this goes. Does a simplified curriculum and assessment structure help students move more quickly and easily to independent learning? Is it less confusing or intimidating? What are the effects of prior experiences and different entry qualifications? And, of course, what are some the more subtle things we don’t yet know about our students’ experiences as they transition onto our courses?