Building working relationships in learning communities

Sue Robbins, School of Life Sciences

Transition to university involves many major changes that new students must embrace if they are to settle and study successfully.  Particularly many students move location to commence their studies and that involves the transition from their known comfort zone into new and unknown situations.  Before arriving at university students would have had various support networks.  Now they need to build fresh networks through making and establishing contacts with fellow students and with staff. 

As members of the university community we can put in place opportunities for students to make the links and develop relationships that will underpin and support them in their studies.  Whilst there are a number of initiatives in Life Sciences to support this transition stage (PASS, PAL), this paper examines one approach, namely the Activity Day. The Activity Day is used to encourage the establishment of learning communities within Life Sciences. Staff and students work together in outdoor pursuits. 

Foundation science students come from diverse backgrounds, ages and educational routes.  Three years ago experiential learning was introduced into the 3-day Induction Programme to build bridges between students and bind them together as a cohort.    Students report that working together on practical tasks broke down barriers and built friendships and cohort identity.  Students have gone on to work effectively together on their course. 

Participants will have a chance to raise questions with students from Life Sciences. Participants will consider the transferability of an Activity Day to their own contexts and share their experiences of similar initiatives to build stronger learning communities in the early months of students academic experience at University.

Powerpoint presentation (1.95MB)