Margins for Flexibility and Zones of Evolution in Transition: Exploring Students’ Conceptions and Experiences of HE Learning

Christine Smith, Quality Enhancement: University Campus Suffolk, UK


This paper reports on a study of first year students’ conceptions and experiences of higher education (hereafter HE) and student engagement, linked to the transition from the secondary to the post-secondary learning environment. Facets of student engagement provide a thematic frame for analysis: active learning; academic challenge; staff–student interactions; enriching educational experiences; supportive learning environments; and work–integrated learning. Two findings are highlighted. The first suggests the need for margins of flexibility in transition: aligned to individual student needs, recognizing the diversity of students’ prior academic and life experiences, and by consequence their capacity for independent learning. The second finding emphasizes zones of evolution in transition, that students see engagement as a professionally–oriented construct, in their “becoming” within the disciplinary field and from the outset of their HE study.

Keywords: student engagement, active learning, faculty-student relations

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