The adaptation of first year overseas undergraduate students and the effect of a structured induction programme on their academic grades

Sarah Aitken and Steven Davey (ASKe)

This paper reports on the development and evaluation of a student induction programme for international students during their first semester at Brookes, including those arriving from feeder schools. In particular, the paper investigates the impact of the structured induction programme on grades.

International students often arrive in our classrooms with hidden assumptions about what kind of academic behaviour is expected of them. If unexplored, these assumptions may affect their academic achievement. This paper describes an initiative to assist international students’ adaptation to an unfamiliar academic culture, putting into practice guidance set out in the literature.

From a total of seventy-seven students who attended a five week structured induction programme sixteen were recruited to record weekly audio diaries - ten minutes per week for twenty weeks. Of these, ten diarists made regular recordings throughout Semester 1 and five have continued with regular weekly recordings in Semester 2. These students were asked to comment on their studies, within broad guidelines. This method was chosen - for triangulation purposes - for its ability to convey personal reflections, intonation, its conversational, fast-moving, free-flowing format and, in its capacity as a personal diary, its attractiveness for participants relative to other data collection methods. The students represent a mixture of different target groups of students from overseas, including those who had attended “feeder” schools. In addition, eight teachers from UK feeder schools are to be interviewed on the support they provide to students in making the transition from school to university.

The study will go on to compare marks for first year assessments for the different groups of students (audio diarists, other induction attendees, induction non-attendees), using home students as a control group, focussing on marks for modules on which all participants are enrolled. Any statistical differences between the groups in terms of the level of attainment will be identified, with the analysis continuing across semesters to identify any changes as the year progresses.

The audio diaries are to be analysed thematically, with the results potentially providing additional explanatory data regarding the role of the induction programme in their studies.

The paper intends to convey the value of investigating the use of a structured induction programme as a way of smoothing the international students’ transition. East Asian students, especially, have difficulties making an early adjustment to academic life at Brookes and the study intends to give an indication of why this is so and what could be done to overcome this. The main benefit to the audience would be hearing about an attempt to use an experimental model to generate evidence for the value of a teaching tool that the University has the ability to provide, at relatively little cost.