2015 Student Transitions Symposium Presentations

Afternoon Staff Transitions Workshops


No Entry, Side Winds, No Through Road, Soft Verges, Turn Left Ahead, No Overtaking, Stop and Give Way, Steep Hill Upwards: Are students prepared for navigating transitions in HE?

Professor Veronica Bamber

Are we giving students the support they need to navigate into, through and out of HE successfully? This presentation will consider some of the difficult questions we face when thinking about student transitions – what do we do to help our students move into HE from a diversity of backgrounds? Are there particular student groups who require greater support than others? How can we nurture in new students a sense of belonging to our academic communities? Do their needs change at different stages of their learning journey? Which interventions are effective, for whom, and when?

In the current Enhancement Theme ‘Student Transitions’, Scottish institutions are working together in trying to answer these questions. The presentation will draw on empirical data from across the sector, and research on student transitions.

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Fresh approaches to persistent problems: innovative case studies in transition management

Dr Steve Tucker and Dr John Barrow

The breadth and variety of transitions faced by students dictates there is no single fix measure to support students through these challenges. In fact, the ever more diverse and ever growing student body requires a greater variety of strategies and mechanisms to account for individual student preferences and needs. This has essentially swamped many existing transition management approaches leaving the modern academic in need of new, innovative, efficient and effective methods that are user and time friendly to cope with these challenges.

This workshop aims to describe recently successful developments in transition management as a means of generating discussion and practice sharing across the Institution.

The strategies discussed will include: Students 4 Students, the use of Blackboard Retention Centre, development of online skills support packages and students as partners in developing curricular resources.

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Differentiated teaching and learning: crucial for successful transitions?

Dr Martin Barker

The student population appears to be increasingly diverse, across a wide range of indicators. These include academic ability, socio-economic background, motivation, and aspiration. The workshop will focus on the challenge and rewards of teaching heterogeneous classes, which can include both very able students and those who are struggling. Ideally, teaching should help all students to reach their full potential. Failing to deliver this experience at crucial transitional stages may have implications for progression and retention.

We will discuss a range of themes, such as: Is differentiated learning necessary, practical, or ethical? Are knowledge and skills learned differently within cohorts? Can differentiated learning be fairly assessed? Can student diversity drive innovative teaching? We will also share good practise.

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Experience, Expertise and Enthusiasm - how to best utilise alumni and employer engagement to aid student transitions

Mrs Julie Bakewell and Dr Zac Hickman

Over the last 4 years, Julie Bakewell (Alumni Volunteer Coordinator) and Dr Zac Hickman (Employer Engagement Coordinator) have worked with academic and academic-related colleagues across the University to support and measure existing engagement with alumni and external organisations (including businesses, charities, and individuals). This is with a view to further developing such input to the University, and to also enhance the ‘student experience’. Such activities include curriculum based input, work-related learning, Career Mentoring, case studies and guest speakers.

These impact positively on all facets of ‘student transitions’, add value to staff and curriculum activities, and provide numerous benefits to alumni and organisations. Julie and Zac will discuss key aspects of their work, and guest speakers will join them to offer first hand feedback. Join them to share your own experiences of utilising alumni and external organisations at the University of Aberdeen, and to discover examples of how they are currently being utilised.

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Helping international students make academic and cultural transitions

Ms Julie Bray, Director, The Language Centre

This session will explore some of the particular challenges that international students face when embarking on their studies. In order to help students overcome these challenges it is necessary to make explicit some of the hidden processes and assumptions underlying academic and discipline specific practices. Additionally, ensuring that internationals students have opportunities to build social networks can significantly ease the transition process.

This session will consist of  short presentation followed by opportunity for discussion.

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From Theory to Reality: intern and employer perspectives on transitions

Dr Deborah O'Neill and Nika Ivanovova

This session will examine some of the realities of ‘transitions’ through a case study approach.  Two different perspectives will be offered; one from a student who took part in an internship scheme with NovaBiotics, and the other from the Chief Executive of the same company.

Nika Ivanovova, an MSc Microbiology student, will talk about her experience about becoming employed by NovaBiotics through the Santander Internship Scheme in 2014.  Taking part in this internship scheme aims to provide organisations with access to talented individuals for a 3-month period, whilst receiving a significant contribution to salary costs. 

Nika will talk about what she gained from her time with NovaBiotics, and the transition back to study following the end of her internship.

Dr Deborah O’Neil, Chief Executive of NovaBiotics, will explore how her business benefitted from its investment in this internship, and will discuss the issues around helping students to manage the transition into the workplace and back into study upon completion.

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The Digital Future: MOOCs – online delivery – looking further ahead

Ms Sarah Cornelius, School of Education and Chair of FutureLearn MOOCs Project Board and Dr Sara Preston and Mr Phil Marston, Centre for Academic Development

Content to follow

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An Evolving Journey – transitions of the teaching fellow

Dr John Barrow and Dr Steve Tucker

The teaching and learning journey is a disparate and challenging path to follow, distinct in so many ways from that of a traditional academic career profile.  Conventional academic staff profiles are often heavily research-based with a bit of teaching on the side, therefore making the main criteria of academic career progression success in research with less consideration for teaching, learning and student engagement.  This is at odds with the funding model of most universities, were on average, 80% or more of university turnover is generated from students attending classes and paying fees.  Over recent years there has been a shift in this traditional paradigm, to develop a new breed of teaching-focussed academic staff member – the Teaching Fellow.

This interactive workshop will be hosted by two members of staff who have made the transition from a purely research-based career profile to one that is immersed in the world of teaching and learning.

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The Everest Challenge: a web-based simulation for exploring team leadership and team dynamics

Dr Ian Heywood, Senior Teaching Fellow, Business School

Dr Heywood will review how funding from the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Programme  in 2012 allowed him to evaluate ‘The Everest Challenge’ a web-based computer simulation developed by Harvard University. The simulation provides an opportunity to explore leadership, teamwork and decision-making in an engaging and challenging environment.

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“Writing essays – how do we help students to improve?”

Dr Clare Trinder, School of Biological Sciences

Like many of us, I spend a lot of time marking essays and I’ve found that you can very quickly produce a list of the things that students find difficult.  However, do students agree with us or do they have a different perception of the issues with which they struggle?  For my PGCert project, I wanted to find out what students think they find difficult with essay writing, what sorts of activities they find useful and whether there are additional interventions we could run that would help them.  I sent out an online questionnaire to Biology students in all years, with a series of questions and opportunities to elaborate on the answers students had given.  I deliberately didn’t focus on feedback, as this is such a huge topic in its own right, but naturally this came up in some of the answers.  Some of the results are as I would have anticipated, but there were also some surprising answers. This workshop offers the opportunity to share experiences of helping students write essays across disciplines and to look for new approaches that might be valuable to our own students.

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From A to Bee : Career Development through Public Engagement with Research

Dr Ewan Campbell

Ewan’s outstanding contribution to engagement was recognised by the University of Aberdeen when he was awarded the Principal’s Prize for Engagement in 2013.  His engagement portfolio was also a contributing factor to his successful application to Scottish Crucible 2014, a highly competitive leadership development programme for Scotland’s future research leaders.  Through this unique programme Ewan has established a new and varied network of interdisciplinary collaborators to further his research on honeybees.  During this session Ewan will highlight some of the activities he has undertaken and how they have supported and enhanced his career development to date.

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