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Introducing an induction fieldtrip: did it work?. 1 School of Biological & Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University 2 JMU Learning Development Unit, LJMU. Anne-Marie Nuttall 1 , Jenny Jones 1 & Martyn Stewart 1&2. Introduction. Faculty funded project

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introducing an induction fieldtrip did it work

Introducing an induction fieldtrip: did it work?

1School of Biological & Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University

2JMU Learning Development Unit, LJMU

Anne-Marie Nuttall1, Jenny Jones1 & Martyn Stewart1&2

  • Faculty funded project
  • To investigate the effect of an induction fieldtrip on retention
  • Level 1 geoscience students
  • Two day fieldtrip to Shropshire during induction week i.e. pre teaching
  • ~40 students & 6 staff in 2005
  • ~50 students & 9 staff in 2006
  • Geoscience degree programmes:
    • Geology (GLY) 15
    • Physical Geography (PHG) 11
    • Hazards & Geoscience (HAG) 4
    • Palaeobiology & Evolution (PEV) 2
  • In 2006 expanded to include:
    • Environmental Science (ENS) 5
    • Wildlife Conservation (WC) 15
    • Biology & Geography (BAG) 3
  • Induction known to be a difficult transition time
  • Crucial to retention => worth investing in?
  • ≈20% of our students live at home, which can be an isolating experience. Social integration could help.
  • HEA First Year Experience Survey (Yorke & Longden, 2007) shows:
    • 29% of first year students considered withdrawing
    • Best feature of first year? 45% said making new friends
    • Worst feature? 16% said workload, 12% said making friends, 4% homesickness
structure of trip
Structure of trip
  • Aims were (a) to provide a gentle introduction to field work and (b) to help students settle in socially
  • Range of subject related field activities (not assessed)
  • Staff were around during working day and in the evening
  • Social events in the evening:
    • A slide show of field work on the programme to provide a taster of what they may experience
    • A pub quiz (with prizes) in tutorial groups
    • Self-organised events
  • Quantitative and qualitative approaches to evaluation
  • Questionnaires were completed by the students

(i) before starting the field work

(ii) after the final field location

(iii) at the end of the first year (after a one-week residential fieldwork module in Arran)

  • Retention stats analysed for cohorts before & after fieldtrip was introduced
student comments what have you enjoyed about the trip
Student comments: What have you enjoyed about the trip?
  • Enjoyed getting to know everyone
  • The opportunity to work in groups
  • Meeting my tutors
  • Learning new fieldwork techniques
  • Wading in the river
  • Taking part in all aspects of science
  • Benefiting from the experiences of all the lecturers, it’s awesome being able to have people that can answer all your questions
student comments what have you not enjoyed about the trip
Student comments: What have you NOT enjoyed about the trip?

Many did not answer this question!

  • Walking
  • Lack of sleep
  • Missing the Liverpool match
  • Losing the quiz
  • Drawing rocks
  • The talks that had nothing to do with animals
  • Sometimes feeling a little ‘lost’ or left behind having never studied geology before (BUT now less worried than before, ‘even more excited’)
staff reactions comments
Staff reactions/comments

Overwhelmingly positive – all in favour of continuing

  • The cohort seems socially more integrated.
  • The tutorial group 'gelled' more quickly than in past years
  • They seemed more confident in talking to me
  • By the end I knew more students by name
  • Attendance (at modules) was worse this year than last year
  • They all enjoyed the induction trip but possibly it encouraged friendships too soon - social friendships rather than study friendships
  • Coalescing into groups seems in some cases to drag the whole group down and into a culture of poor attendance/absence
  • We may have lost proportionately fewer students but whether this has anything to do with the field trip is impossible to say
  • We know from experience that fieldwork is good for social bonding
  • Literature shows that worries about ‘fitting in’ are a major factor for retention
  • Hence the plan to use fieldwork as part of induction
  • Did it work? Maybe, maybe not…
  • Qualitative evaluation of staff and student comments show it was successful
  • Quantitative data show the opposite
complicating factors excuses
Complicating factors (excuses….)
  • Small sample sizes, noisy dataset
  • Change of student database, reliability of data?
  • Students don’t always tell us that they have withdrawn
  • Introduction of top-up fees in 2006-07
  • Many who don’t complete level 1 at first attempt complete over the summer or continue part time
  • Change in the no. & range of programmes involved
  • Only 2 years of data so far
  • 2006-07 cohort just finishing level 1 now
  • Do the data reflect the impact of the trip or wider factors?
  • Evaluation is inconclusive. Contradictions have highlighted key questions to follow up:
    • Need to evaluate over longer timeframe
    • Need to triangulate against wider reference points, e.g. comparing with institutional data or other programmes that do/don’t have an induction fieldtrip
    • If the drop in progression is real, it is important to get to the cause of this (i.e. is it the fieldtrip or other factors?)
future plans
Future plans..?
  • Continue to run induction trip
  • Introduce more challenging activities (‘opportunities to succeed’)
  • e.g. presentations in groups on how the subjects interact
  • Teach them how to do group work?
  • Pep talk on expectations, ‘taking your studies seriously’
  • Take students from previous cohorts along to act as mentors – ‘don’t do what I did…’
  • High staff-student ratio (1:6 or thereabouts)
  • Stay overnight
  • YHAs practical & cheap (≈£30 pppn food & accom)
  • Don’t charge students if at all possible
  • Mix of work-based activities & social activities
  • Be ready to accommodate students with special needs
  • May need CRB checks (if any under 18’s) – takes ages
issues for discussion
Issues for discussion
  • Is induction field work part of your programmes?
  • What kind of activities would you incorporate?
  • Any suggestions for structured group work..?

Yorke, M. and Longden, B. (2007) The first year experience in higher education in the UK, Higher Education Academy