ALTC Senior Fellowship – Professor Sally Kift

Professor Sally Kift

Articulating a transition pedagogy to scaffold and enhance the first-year learning experience in Australian higher education

The starting point for this Fellowship was recognising that, in all their diversity, students come to higher education to learn and that it is within the first year curriculum that students must be inspired, supported, and realise their sense of belonging; not only for early engagement and retention, but also as a foundation for later years’ learning success and a lifetime of professional practice. The adoption of a curriculum focus to the FYE seemed to be the missing link in current FYE theorising and practice.

This Fellowship has therefore focussed on harnessing the curriculum as the ‘organising device’ (McInnis) for first year transition, success, and retention. In the lead-up to the Fellowship it became clear that there is a dearth of shared wisdom available and very few accessible case study exemplars to which innovators in this field could relate. Teachers, academic managers, and institutional learning and teaching leaders were looking for both theoretical and practical assistance in designing customised first year curriculum in response (particularly) to increasing diversity in entering cohort preparedness. The enabling of academic and professional partnerships in the pursuit of this agenda also quickly identified itself as a critical issue.

A major Fellowship outcome has been the articulation of a research-based ‘transition pedagogy’ (Kift & Nelson, 2005) – a guiding philosophy for intentional first year curriculum design and support that carefully scaffolds and mediates the first year learning experience for contemporary heterogeneous cohorts. This transition pedagogy is framed around the identification of Six First Year Curriculum Principles (pdf 825KB) that stand out as supportive of first year learning engagement, success, and retention (See Appendix 1 of the Fellowship Final Report). These interconnected organising principles are:

  • Transition
  • Diversity
  • Design
  • Engagement
  • Assessment
  • Evaluation and monitoring.

Other outcomes include several discipline case studies exemplifying intentional first year curriculum design for transferable implementation, an extensive engaged dissemination strategy which featured two symposia on FYE curriculum design and a substantial web presence.

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