Cusack, T., Gilmartin, M., Roper, R., Carr, M. and Freeney, Y. (2012) A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW OF INSTITUTIONAL INTERVENTIONS INTENDED TO ENHANCE THE FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE. [Conference Proceedings]


Introduction Higher education institutions have become more aware of the critical importance of a good first year experience in terms of laying a sound foundation for educational persistence, completion, and continued life long learning. Higher education has an important responsibility to the individual themselves but also to wider society to equip graduates with the necessary skills to live and continue to learn in an increasingly complex, dynamic and changing world. The institutions that compose the Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance (DRHEA) proposed, through a teaching and learning fellowship scheme, to examine what constitutes a good first year experience. Five teaching and learning fellows, from different institutions and disciplines, were appointed for a six month period to examine this topic. Methodology In order to examine initiatives that had been/are being implemented to enhance the first year experience the fellows undertook (a) a systematic review of the literature and (b) are currently examining regional initiatives intended to enhance the first year learning experience. (a) The review focused on two key aspects of the literature - interventions and outcomes. A comprehensive search string was developed and the following databases were searched: Web of Science, ERIC, British Education Index, Australian Education Index, Academic Search Complete, Psych Info and Scopus. Abstracts were included if they were: published from the year 2000 onwards; published in English; concerned first year students in third level education; implemented and measured the outcome of interventions designed to enhance the first year experience. (b) Regional initiatives are currently being sourced in the form of exemplar case studies, and these are being drawn from across the eight DRHEA institutions and from across a variety of disciplines. Results In relation to the literature review the results of all the searches (titles and abstracts) were downloaded to Mendeley (a reference management system), duplicates were located and deleted, and the remaining abstracts were examined in relation to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Remaining papers were read in their entirety to determine their eligibility for inclusion. Following further exclusions the resulting papers were examined to establish the robustness of the evidence presented. A number of institutional initiatives emerged as key in terms of better enabling first year engagement, these included: the establishment of learning communities, the conduct of first year seminars, the introduction of mentoring programmes and changes to the academic curriculum. It is intended to reflect upon the case studies against the back drop of the literature review. Conclusion Through reviewing existing international evidence and examining ongoing good practice, we reflect upon the strategies that are most effective in facilitating social and academic integration into higher level education, what approaches are successful in producing tangible results for learners as well as identifying aspects of this transitional period that extant initiatives fail to take into consideration.

View Item