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Exploring staff perceptions of first-generation students to enhance professional development of academic staff

Hamshire, Claire and Forsyth, rachel and Caton, sue and Fontaine, Danny and Soldaat, Leza (2019) Exploring staff perceptions of first-generation students to enhance professional development of academic staff. In: Proceedings: EuroSoTL 2019, 13 June 2019 - 14 June 2019, Bilbao, Spain.

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Abstract

Supporting students’ transition to higher education, is often described as essential to enhance their progression and learning experiences. Yet students from non-traditional backgrounds continue to report considerable difficulties in adapting to university life (Hamshire, Forsyth, & Player, 2018; Laubscher-Kelly, Paxton, & Majombozi, 2018). Whilst there is a considerable body of research on students’ learning experiences, the perspectives of staff working with those students are rarely recorded. This paper reports on a collaborative project between researchers in the UK and South Africa exploring staff perceptions of first generation students’ experiences. Twenty members of staff volunteered to be included in the study at each of the participating institutions, and were invited to reflect on their perceptions and experiences, using semi-structured interviews. All interviews were digitally recorded; transcribed verbatim and subsequently analysed using a thematic approach to identify staff perceptions. Despite the very different cultural contexts experienced by these students in the two institutions, the staff reported considerable similarities in the challenges they believed that students face in integrating into university life. This session will present findings from the project, with a focus on the role of academic professional development, We will also showcase some of the resources developed for professional development during the project as well as offering reflections on future developments and potential wider implications.

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