Institutional Context

Author – Mr Bill Johnston, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

Bill is a Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director (Student Learning and Enhancement) in the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement at the University of Strathclyde. Bill collaborates with academics to develop their courses and pedagogy, and to research and publish on these topics. His experience includes: curriculum development; course evaluation and design; academic staff development in teaching, learning and assessment; student learning support; critical and creative thinking; emotional intelligence; key skills in the curriculum; employability, and the first year experience.

His institutional work on first year engagement includes: co-founding the University’s family information programme; delivering student orientation and induction; providing learning support to individual students and to classes; developing first year classes; researching retention and developing the University’s first year strategy.

Nationally he is a member of the Scottish Funding Council’s (SFC) Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA) Steering Committee for The First Year Experience Theme (2006-) and led a sector-wide project to investigate student expectations and experiences of transition, and their perspectives on engagement and empowerment.

Futher information is available from the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement at the University of Strathclyde.

First Year Curriculum Perspective

This commentary examines first year curriculum design and the case study exemplars from the point of view of the institutional context (pdf 1.74MB). The author observes that, due to environmental changes such as increased numbers, wider access and demands for economic relevance in the curriculum, the first year experience is now a strategic issue for institutions seeking higher retention rates and more engaged students. The commentary draws particular attention to organisational influences on the first year experience, such as culture, strategy, and resource allocation (including space) and how those factors interact with the pedagogical concepts and academic practices of first year curriculum. The commentary suggests that good practice in this area, as disclosed by the seven case studies, could:

  • clarify the prospects for transition pedagogy as the preferred approach to the first year experience;
  • identify the challenges to be overcome; and
  • evidence the benefits of this curriculum approach (educational, organisational etc).