Student Orientation: empowering our students to be active participants and to become partners in learning

Ruth Pickford


Active participation and partnership are different; active participation neither always leads to partnership nor evidences it. However, a student’s active participation in classes, in her/his course and in university life is a highly desirable undergraduate attribute and is a prerequisite for any staff-student partnership. As students may rationally choose not to participate in particular ways deemed compulsory by an institution if these do not align with their personal goals, any requirements designed to influence directly a student’s active participation thus need to be thoughtfully considered and carefully implemented. Rather than enforcing a series of requirements, the institutional responsibility is both to facilitate opportunities for students to engage and to support all new students to participate actively in their course.  

This paper explores the different approaches taken across one large UK university in supporting new students to become active participants in their own learning. The range of approaches adopted highlighted the importance of contextual and disciplinary factors in shaping effective orientation processes. Subsequent analysis was used to produce a model of the relationship between the underpinning conditions and activities that support students to develop as active participants in their institutions. It is suggested that this model and the method used to collect data and to implement outcomes is transferable to other universities.



Student engagement; partnership

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