This is a guest post by Rowan Bailey, Pat Hill and Amanda Tinker from the ‘Second year blues’ project. This is one of the 2013 Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects funded by the Teaching and Learning Institute at the University of Huddersfield (TALI). It is the eight of 11 guest posts by TALI funded projects.
What is commonly known as the ‘sophomore slump’ or ‘second year blues’ can be attributed to several stress related factors: fears surrounding increased levels of independent learning and self-directed study, social group cohesion with peers, personal development issues with pressures to cope with new life challenges, such as housing and finance issues (Schreiner, 2010). Evidence suggests that due to the amalgamation of these factors, students often experience a loss of engagement, struggle to manage a smooth transition into year two and, consequently, to get the best out of their intermediate level of undergraduate study (Grump, 2007). At the University of Huddersfield, we have found that fewer students access academic skills provision in their second year and that this pattern is mirrored in taught academic skills session delivery, with sessions being ‘front-loaded’ at foundation level. The University Embedding Skills Project (2011) also found that academic and employability skills were assessed at intermediate level but very rarely taught.
This research project aims to respond to the key findings identified above:
- To develop new and innovative strategies that might better embed progressive learning across the curriculum and, in particular, at intermediate level.
- To analyse relevant case studies (of three degree programmes in Schools of ADA and MHM), to further implement and embed clearly identifiable ‘progression points’ into curricula design.
- To develop further resources for the Embedding Skills Website, as a national resource with Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE).
Project team: Dr Amanda Tinker, Dr Rowan Bailey and Dr Pat Hill in consultation with Martin Plant (Staff Development) and Sue Ford (Registry).
Capturing Perceptions of Academics
The project team have run two, focus-group workshops at the University Teaching and Learning Conference and the Art, Design and Architecture Teaching and Learning Conference in which we explored ideas about progressive learning development and the second year experience. Participants discussed and mapped out the progression of staff-student expectations, assessment and feedback, the nature of curriculum content, different working environments, external factors, pastoral care and PDP at years 1, 2 and 3.
The materials and feedback from these insightful sessions are now being analysed and developed as an online Camtasia resource for our Embedding Skills Website.
Capturing Perceptions of Learner Developers
The project team are running a workshop – Ensuring Progression in Learning Development – at the 10th ALDinHE Conference at Plymouth University, 25-27 March. We will be exploring issues and experiences of learner developers, discussing how we can make the most of the intermediate year.
We will also be delivering a short presentation at Liverpool John Moores University on April 18th, as part of their seminar – The Forgotten Year: Enhancing the Second Year Experience.
What Next? Case Studies
We have begun work on our three case studies and will be talking to staff and students over the next few months to:
- Examine QAA benchmarks, the language of course specification, design and validation guidance documentation in relation to progressive skills development.
- Conduct a skills mapping exercise with course teams to ascertain current practice, experiences and opportunities to embed skills progressively from foundation to final year.
- Examine assessment tasks, learning outcomes and assessment criteria, considering progressive expectations and how this might translate to teaching delivery.
- Focus on the intermediate year to identify current good practice, opportunities for development and new ideas for skills development at this level.
- Capture and create screencasts of student experiences through second and final year focus groups.
All the case study findings and resources developed will be made available on the Embedding Skills website for staff to view and adapt, and we will disseminate the findings by running staff workshops in the autumn term.
Gump, S. (2007) ‘Classroom Research in a General Education Course: Exploring Implications through an Investigation of the Sophomore Slump’ The Journal of General Education, 56(2) pp.105-125.
Schreiner, (2010) ‘Factors that Contribute to Sophomore Success and Satisfaction’ In: Hunter, M. Tobolansky, B., Gardner, J., Evenbeck, S., Pattensgale, J., Schaller, M., and Schriver, L. (eds.), Helping Sophomores Succeed: Understanding and Improving Second-Year Experiences. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, pp.43-65.