A. Lynch, F. Navin

James Cook University (AUSTRALIA)
Internationally, universities are experiencing the effects of policy agendas that promote massification and internationalistion. Successfully supporting participation, achievement and retention in higher education requires coordinated transition practices. The enactment of such transition practices, or transition pedagogy, has been acknowledged as a significant challenge for higher education institutions (Kift, 2008). This paper discusses the development and enactment of a ‘whole-of-institution’ approach to the first year experience and retention in a regional Australian university – James Cook University (JCU).

Consistent with research and practice in the field, the approach to the first year experience at James Cook University has been characterised by a piecemeal approach, sustained by individuals or small groups (Krause et al., 2005). The aim, therefore, was to develop a systematic, strategic and scalable approach to the first year experience, characterised instead by the educational conditions that promote student retention and success (Tinto, 2009). The development and enactment of this systematic institutional strategy was sustained and supported by top-down vision. That is, a governance infrastructure, policy environment and a university-level committee focused on the first year experience.

Supported by the top-down vision, the bottom-up implementation was based on a dual-pronged approach to enhancing the student experience, informed by the student lifecycle. A key feature of the enactment was the formation of collaborative academic-professional teams. Through this process, various established co-curricular activities came into focus and were aligned to the developing university-wide approach. Similarly, emerging practices, such as cohort monitoring through use of learning analytics, were developed as part of the strategic approach. Curricular activities, including the development of exit level English language proficiencies, embedding the development of English language in the curriculum and identifying the language demands of assessment tasks also feature in this program of actions.

The strategic, whole-of-institution approach facilitated the coalescing of a broad array of piecemeal and emerging practices, forming a ‘joined-up’ approach (Kift, Nelson, Clarke, 2010) to the first year experience and retention. The aim of the paper is to share the processes and strategies that enabled the development and enactment of third generation transition pedagogy (Kift, Nelson & Clarke, 2010).