Wednesday, April 01, 2009

University Challenge

SGM logo This week I'm at the SGM Spring 2009 Meeting, Harrogate, 30 March-2 April 2009. One of the sessions I'll attended yesterday was University challenge: managing the transition between school and higher education, organized by the SGM Education Division:

  • Tony Cook: Overview of general issues affecting successful transition to university. Tony suggested that the transition to HE was more like metaphophosis rather than growth. The majority of students were "surprised" by their degree courses when they actually experienced them - not what they expected. How do we manage expectations?

  • Sue Assinder, Lynne Lawrance & Emma James: Knowing what they know: Microbiology in the new A level curricula. Microbiology is no longer an option subject at A level - now more distributed throughout the curriculum, but still with big variation between the exam boards.

  • Jon Scott: Why do first year bioscience students fail? (and what can we do about it?) Jon discussed some of the outcomes of the UoL Student Experience Project.

  • James White, Stefan Trimble: The student perspective. James and Stefan are undergraduate microbiology students at Leeds. The discussion centred around facilitating staff-student communications.

  • Mark Huxham: Good practice in induction for bioscience students. A diagnostic questionnaire is used to determine student risk factors (from known predictors - student profiling), and the results used to focus resources in support tutorials. 50% attendance rate at tutorials, non-attenders still at risk. Non-assessed Bonus Questions to prevent disenfranchisement of high achievers - 14% participation. Peer support for note-taking (identified as an issue in our student ePortfolios) and as an antidote to large class sizes.

  • Maggy Fostier: PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions), a versatile and adaptable peer support scheme that helps 1st year bioscience students settle down at University. Voluntary peer support scheme at Manchester, 40-50% attendance in semester 1, 10-20% semester 2.

  • Sheryl Meskin: Sheryl described the (rebranded) UK Centre for Bioscience support of bioscience lecturers with student transition.

The dominant themes to emerge were class sizes and peer support, with the latter proposed as the main solution to the former.