Research on student retention and engagement shows that creating a strong sense of belonging in higher education is one of the most important factors for student success (Thomas, 2012; Quinn et al., 2005). Moreover, this sense of belonging is most effectively instilled by establishing meaningful and predictable interactions between academic staff and students. Students’ engagement in mainstream activities that all students participate in is also particularly effective.The aims of the new PASS system are to:
- Create a strong sense of belonging in higher education for all UL students
- Establish meaningful interactions between staff and students, on an individual basis
- Build students’ sense of identity as part of a community of successful higher education students
- Increase students’ awareness of academic advising and of its importance
- Provide support and promote success for all advisees (at-risk and non-risk students)
- Provide a non-judgemental, supportive environment to help students come to specific solutions/strategies that work for them
- Provide academic support
- Offer some pastoral support, and refer on to other supports, where appropriate
- Help students to discern how they can succeed on their programme of study
PASS Configuration and Structure
Themes and Focus
Although having access to individualized academic advice is important throughout the duration of a student’s experience, it is particularly important during the transitionary period in first and second years (up to co-operative education/ERASMUS placements). For that reason PASS needs to be particularly active and vibrant for students in their first three semesters. To stay focused and provide relevant support, PASS has a theme-based approach in these semesters, each relating to important issues students typical encounter as they move through their learning experience. The themes for each semester are:
Semester 1: Successful Transitions (Finding your place, independent and collaborative learning and living, making academic choices, becoming part of the successful UL student community)
Semester 2: Making Progress (Interpreting your progress and strategies for improvement)
Semester 3: Year 2 is up to You! (Applying your learning from Year 1. Preparing for co-op. Expectations and how to handle the work load. Focus on your degree and your future)
Structure of PASS Interactions
In order to provide timely support and intervention for all students, but especially those at risk, it is proposed that a series of points of contact be established by PASS advisors during the first three-semester period. The following is the suggested framework, although alternatives may be preferable based on key points of time in the semester for students, for example, making elective choices etc:
No later than Week 3: Individual or small group informal meet-and-greet meetings (2-3 students) Week 3 of F7Ws = Meet your advisor
Week 5/6: Group activity session 1 (all advisees with their advisor)
Week 8/9: Group activity session 2 (all advisees with their advisor)
Week 10: Individual meetings pre-exams
Individual meetings are important but should be relevant for students and have some specific outcome, which is clearly communicated to the student in advance.
Group meetings are proposed as a way of fostering a sense of belonging and community. It is proposed that they be designed around collaborative tasks to build that sense of community within specific disciplines, faculties and the university at large. To manage potential scheduling difficulties, it is suggested that scheduled tutorial times be used for this purpose, particularly during weeks when tutorials may not be running. The Graduate Attributes Hub is also available to book for this purpose.
Quinn, J. et al (2005) Falling down ladders and charming snakes. The meanings and implications of working class student drop-out. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Thomas, L. (2012) Building student engagement and belonging at a time of change in higher education. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.