Transition and Retention Toolkit for Unit Coordinators

Student transition and retention are complex issues. While there are many factors which can impact a student’s decision to leave, including reasons outside the universities’ influence, recent research into student retention has shown a student’s experiences of teaching and learning are critical in whether students persist in their university studies (Armitage & Krause, 2015). It is also clear that student retention is heavily dependent on their developing a ‘sense of belonging’ at the university, and that their social experience can be as important as their academic experience (Thomas, 2012). Drilling down, the following issues have significant impacts on student retention:

  • Their orientation to university study and engagement with university community
  • Academic preparedness and satisfaction with early academic performance
  • The development of meaningful relationships with staff and other students
  • The relevance of their studies to their current interests and future vocational goals
  • Their experience of assessment and receiving early feedback on their performance

Successful strategies to increase student retention engage students in their studies and create a sense of belonging through addressing the above points. They also provide the opportunity to identify students who are struggling and intervene early to provide support (Tower et al. 2015, Thomas 2012). What is also clear is that students spend less time on campus than previously (Armitage and Krause, 2015). Therefore, any strategy to increase student retention is most effective when it takes place in the ‘academic sphere’ (Thomas, 2012), during class time, working on assessments or online, which is often the only time students can connect with fellow students and the university community.

As the primary creators and facilitators of the face-to-face and online learning environments which students experience, unit coordinators play an essential role in creating the sort of learning experience which can improve student transition and retention. This toolkit is intended to support unit coordinators to do this. Informed by contemporary transition and retention pedagogy, it provides practical strategies, tips, and resources on how to develop the learning environments and communities that contribute to student transition, retention and success.

How to use this Toolkit:

This toolkit has been organised around a set of guiding questions which address student transition and retention. Each question is accompanied by:

  • Orientation and learning strategies and tips to help students engage in their studies and build a sense of belonging
  • Ideas on deeper curriculum design to embed transition pedagogy more deeply in units
  • Resources to assist staff in implementing these strategies or learn more about transition pedagogy

How can I…

Support students transition to University study?
Create an inclusive learning environment catering to student diversity in background and preparedness?
Help students connect with support services at the university?
Relate the learning in my unit to students’ interests and goals?
Encourage student interaction in my unit?
Build a rapport and connect with students?
Design assessments to support student transition?
Provide regular feedback to students on their progress?
Monitor student engagement in my unit?
Further Resources

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