The First Year Experience: A Comparison of Institution Led Approaches to the Orientation and Engagement of First Year Students in Higher Education

By Stephen Anthony Larmar and Lynn Burnett.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

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In the last decade increasing attention has been drawn to the successful orientation and engagement of first year students in higher education in Australia. Such attention has been influenced in part by growing concern with increasing student attrition across universities nationally. This concern has been shared internationally, with significant research being undertaken in the U.K. to determine cogent methods for engaging first year students in higher education. This paper reports on the work currently undertaken at Griffith University, Australia and four institutions based in the U.K., with a focus on institution-led approaches to the first year experience. Each institution’s method of engaging and attending to the diverse needs of the first year cohort is discussed with a primary focus on common trends across each institution. First year student engagement data drawn from Griffith University is presented to lend support to the various initiatives examined.

Keywords: Higher Education, First Year Students, Orientation and Engagement, Retention, Attrition, Widening Participation

International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp.59-75. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 275.773KB).

Dr. Stephen Anthony Larmar

Lecturer, School of Human Services, Griffith University, Logan, Queensland, Australia

Stephen is a senior lecturer with the School of Human Services and Social Work at Griffith University. For the past 9 years at Griffith, he has lectured primarily in the areas of counseling and introductory psychology. His current research includes investigation of conduct problems in children and adolescents, child mentoring as an early intervention and prevention framework, managing challenging behaviours in children and adolescents in out-of-home care, and the retention and engagement of first year university students. As well as teaching and research, he also serves as the first year advisor of the School of Human Services and Social Work, where he leads and coordinates orientation and engagement activities to assist first year Human Services and Social Work students with university integration. In addition to his work with Griffith University, Stephen has also spent the last 10 years providing professional supervision for counselors and psychologists working in both government and non-government settings.