This blog post is co-written by Kathy Egea and Jacqueline Melvold

For students new to university, the experience of transition is a variable one. Many adjust relatively easily, making friends and adapting quickly to a new learning environment. Others may find it overwhelming and consider leaving.

Australian government statistics reveal that 13-15% of commencing domestic undergraduate students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree leave their university studies in their first year. This is double the rate of attrition in later years of university study.  

In a post-pandemic context, with students either returning to campus or continuing to work online, creating an engaging and inclusive environment for students to thrive, engage, connect, feel safe and belong is even more important for students to realise their own success goals.

The importance of belonging  

Belonging is critical for student engagement and persistence. It also supports students to thrive, build relationships and feel safe in in their transition into university. A lack of belonging can leave students feeling uncomfortable, not valued or respected, and alienated.

Students thrive when the learning process is authentic, engaging, purposeful, explicit, relational and inclusive. The first-year curriculum, when designed intentionally, plays an integral part in assisting students’ development, belonging and engagement. It needs to:   

  • be foundational  
  • foster student identity and sense of belonging through involvement and connection in the university and its people (peers, educators and wider community)  
  • facilitate the delivery of just-in-time, just-for-me tailored support, unpacking the ‘hidden’ rules and expectations of the learning process

Our role as teachers and educators is to intentionally design a learning environment that enables and supports students to successfully manage and transition from their prior learning environment into their next learning environment. Transition Pedagogy provides us with a framework that we can use to guide this intentional practice. 

Transition pedagogy 

Transition Pedagogy builds from the notion that:  

In all their diversity, students come to higher education to learn and that it is within the first-year curriculum that students must be inspired, supported, and realise their sense of belonging; not only for early engagement and retention, but also as foundational for later year learning success and a lifetime of professional practice.” 

Sally Kift, 2009

The role of transition pedagogy in enabling smooth transition for first-year students is even more important in a post-pandemic environment. We need to consider:

the what, why, how and when of student learning and the value, sense of belonging, sociability and self-efficacy individuals find in that learning.

Sally Kift et al, 2021

This is a guiding philosophy for intentional first-year curriculum design and support that carefully scaffolds and mediates the first-year learning experience for contemporary heterogeneous cohorts. The integrated framework is a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated whole-of-institution approach that allows for student success not to be left for chance. 

The 6 principles 

There are six First-year Curriculum Principles (FYCPs) linked to Transition Pedagogy:

  1. Transition
  2. Diversity
  3. Design
  4. Engagement
  5. Assessment
  6. Evaluation and monitoring
The image shows a hexagon which has been sectioned into six equal sections. Each of these sections represents one of the six first year curriculum principles: transition, engagement, assessment, evaluation and monitoring, design, and diversity.
Infographic by Jacqueline Melvold

For more insight into these interconnected organising principles as originally proposed by Professor Sally Kift, read her Transition Pedagogy Report.

From next week…

Across October and November, we will be publishing a series of blogs that each focus on one of the six principles. These posts will include tangible classroom tips and case studies from UTS academics. The content has been drawn from resources and practices through the First and Further Year Experience (FYYE) program, which has been using transition pedagogy since 2011. These principles will be further fleshed out by Kathy Egea and Jaqueline Melvold in their upcoming contribution to CAULLT’s Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching MOOC (available in 2023).

Next week, we look at the first principle: transition…

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