Supporting postgraduate students through pre-arrival resources
For more information: Lisa Procter, School of Education,
This project sought to develop and produce a pre-arrival resource suitable for both domestic and international students to support their early engagement on the various MA programmes in the School of Education.
WHAT ISSUE WERE YOU TRYING TO ADDRESS AND WHY?
The project sought to support the School of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2009-2015 to provide opportunities for engagement in education, inclusive of the experiences, values and cultures of all students (pg. 16). As part of its Strategic Plan, the School has enhanced its recruitment of international students on the MA programmes in line with the University’s commitment to developing a global academic community. In 2012/13 the intake of students on the full-time Masters in Education therefore rose from 16 in the previous academic year to 51 – many of whom were international.
Student evaluations from the start of the course indicated two primary concerns from their perspective:
1) Accessing session content: Students found the content of the MA programmes in the early stages particularly challenging, especially for the many students who were new to the field of education and educational research. Some students suggested that further guidance prior to the course which would have provided them with an early introduction to these fields would have been beneficial.
2) Study skills: For some students, the challenges they experienced seemed to relate to study skills development, i.e. active participation in seminars, working in groups, asking critical questions. For our East Asian students, some of these issues seemed to be indicative of the starkly contrasting educational cultures in the UK.
APPROACH AND METHODS USED
To address concerns raised in evaluations, we decided to actively involve MA students in the development of pre-arrival resources. We therefore recruited a research associate to conduct three focus groups with seven MA students to explore what would be useful for them in terms of preparing for studying at the School of Education. In response to findings from a series of focus groups, we chose to produce an online resource for prospective students, which could be accessed at a distance.
The website was initially designed to support students before starting the course. However, its purpose changed in response to student feedback, which suggested that it should also provide useful information and guidance as they progressed through the course.
The website highlights key milestones on the course. Within each of these milestones previous MA students provide written advice and guidance drawn from their own experiences. In addition, a wide range of resources (which can be downloaded as PDF documents) and links to websites (with a focus on study skills) can be accessed by website users. We aim to continue to develop the website in collaboration with students in the coming academic year.
Learning and Teaching
The resource is of benefit to learners and teachers in the School of Education. Learners can access the resource to know what to expect in the coming year. In addition, the resource allows them to consider how best they might prepare for the different stages/requirements of the course.
From a teacher perspective, they can direct students to the resource for advice/support in developing a range of skills to help them successfully complete the course. This website offers support for students to independently develop their study skills, which complements the taught study skills programmes also established for students.
In terms of fostering interaction, the resource aims to raise awareness of the educational culture in the School of Education. In addition, the resource allows prospective students to consider which skills they need to develop to best support their engagement on the course. There is also an emphasis on the importance of being part of a learning community and peer learning. This is reflected in the fact that much of the content of the website is written by previous students. As a result the website works to introduce students to the particular educational culture of the University of Sheffield.
We had underestimated the time and cost that is required to produce a website. If additional funding is secured in the future, we will further develop and enhance the site.
To view the website, visit: