Student Transitions to Science Undergraduate Education

Richard Waller, Julie Hulme, Angie Turner


Academic transitions between different stages of learning can pose significant challenges to some learners with potential detrimental impacts on their retention, progression and academic performance. An explicit consideration of these challenges is needed to ensure that all students have the opportunity to realise their potential. This talk presents the key findings of a Teaching Innovation Project that sought to bring the “student voice” to the fore in identifying both the transitions issues of most concern to 2018 entrants within the Faculty of Natural Sciences and the potential differences between subject areas.

Online questionnaire surveys of 182 student participants distributed across the Faculty revealed that over 80% of respondents had found their transition to HE to be ‘challenging’ or ‘somewhat challenging’ with key causes including a change in learning style, an increased workload and the more challenging curriculum content. There were however significant differences in both the perceived level and nature of the challenge and the awareness of the institutional support available between the academic programmes. A follow up focus group session and a series of end-of-year reflective diaries provided additional insights into students’ transitions experiences, the challenges encountered, the specific initiatives they found most helpful and the advice they’d give to new entrants.

This project identifies areas of concern, and factors that support successful transitions, within the Faculty of Natural Sciences. In drawing upon student voice data and recognising students’ prior learning, this understanding can inform the development of sustainable curricula that support transitions, promote student inclusion and wellbeing and thereby facilitate the success of all students within Higher Education.