22 SES 13 B, How Can We Enhance First-Year Students' Achievement and Persistence in Higher Education?
In Europe, increasing student numbers and student diversity (Wolter, 2013) have led to a general concern about study success and to a particular interest in first-year students’ transition into higher education (Jenert et al., 2015). International HE policy appears to acknowledge that the diverse needs of first-year students have to be accommodated. In Germany, for example, a recent public funding line has encouraged HE institutions to improve the first-year support services in recognition of the increasingly diverse student population (BMBF, 2010). Many HE institutions have thus introduced a broad variety of first-year interventions to support transition. This variety leads to the research question whether and how the interventions correspond with the actual needs of first-year students. This question is part of a larger research project on transition conducted at the University of Hamburg. After exploring both first-year challenges in terms of the critical requirements students experience at the beginning of their studies (Bosse & Trautwein, 2014) as well as the role of student diversity (Bosse, 2015), further research followed a mixed-methods design: Quantitative data were collected at four German HE institutions via an online questionnaire for first-year students (n=1,400). It includes items regarding critical requirements derived from our previous studies as well as established instruments to measure students’ cognitive, motivational, volitional, social and organisational competences (e.g., Schiefele et al., 2002). Additionally, we investigated the first-year support provided by German HE institutions (n=80) using qualitative document analysis of university websites to examine the design, aims and target groups of first-year interventions. First findings of the student survey indicate that the students differed in their perception of certain first-year challenges, e.g. coping with low performance (m=3,26, SD=1,038) and organizing teamwork (m=3,59, SD=1,019) (on a 5-point scale). Further analysis is thus supposed to reveal whether social, individual and organisational diversity factors can account for this variance. Regarding first-year interventions, the document analysis showed that the majority highlights individual diversity and focuses on content-related and personal critical requirements, e.g. by offering math tutorials or workshops on learning skills. By reporting the results, this paper aims at identifying students’ needs based on their perception of first-year challenges taking into account the effects of selected diversity factors (e.g., social background, academic competence, disciplinary affiliation). Additionally, it presents the range of interventions targeted at first-year students. Comparing the results regarding the first-year challenges and the design of first-year interventions, we seek to discuss implications for academic development.
BMBF. (2010). Richtlinien zur Umsetzung des gemeinsamen Programms des Bundes und der Länder für bessere Studienbedingungen und mehr Qualität in der Lehre. Retrieved from http://www.qualitaetspakt-lehre.de/_media/Programm-Lehrqualitaet-BMBF-Richtlinien.pdf Bosse, E. (2015). Exploring the role of student diversity for the first-year experience. Zeitschrift Für Hochschulentwicklung, 10/4, 45–66. Retrieved from http://www.zfhe.at/index.php/zfhe/article/view/853 Bosse, E., & Trautwein, C. (2014). Individuelle und institutionelle Herausforderungen der Studieneingangsphase. Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung, 9(5), 41–62. Retrieved from http://www.zfhe.at/index.php/zfhe/article/view/765 Jenert, T., Postareff, L., Brahm, T., & Lindblom-Ylänne, S. (2015). Editorial: Enculturation and development of beginning students. Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung, 10/4, 9–21. Retrieved from http://www.zfhe.at/index.php/zfhe/article/view/954/690 Schiefele, U., Moschner, B., & Husstegge, R. (2002). Handbuch SMILE-Projekt (unpublished manuscript). Bielefeld: University of Bielefeld. Wolter, A. (2013). Massification and Diversity: Has the Expansion of Higher Education Led to a Changing Composition of the Student Body? European and German Experiences. In I. Repac & P. Zaga (Eds.), Higher education reforms: looking back - looking forward (pp. 202–220). Ljubljana.
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