The First Year Experience: Looking back to inform the future (pp. 23-45)

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HERDSA Review of Higher Education Vol. 1

July, 2014, 106 pages
Published by
Peter Kandlbinder
2652-6328 (Online)

The importance of the first year experience (FYE) to success at university has been a focus of attention in the Australian higher education sector since the 1990s. For students a successful transition into university during their first year is now regarded as crucial for student engagement, success and retention. In this review we summarise a decade of research into FYE in the Australasian context. We draw on the findings arising from this comprehensive review of FYE programs and practices to describe FYE trends through the dual lenses of the first year curriculum principles and the generational approach to F YE initiatives. W e contend that the generational approach to conceptualising the FYE and first year student engagement has made a useful but limited contribution to our understanding of the first year experience. Acknowledging the criticality of student engagement in a successful FYE, we propose an alternative— the Student Engagement Success and Retention Maturity Model (SESR-MM)— as a sophisticated vehicle for achieving whole-of-institution approaches to the FYE. The SESR-MM embodies the aspirations and characteristics of the transition pedagogy, highlights the need for institutional level evaluation of the FYE, focuses attention on the capacity of institutions to mobilise for first year student engagement, and importantly builds on the generational approach to allow an assessment of institutional capacity to initiate, plan, manage, evaluate and review institutional FYE practices.

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