Exploring the first-year experience in a diverse population: Using participatory action research to explore strategies to support student transition into fast-track undergraduate degree programs
As the cohort of students in Australian universities become increasingly diverse, attention to ensuring their success is an emerging issue of social justice in tertiary education. Navigating transitions through the student journey is crucial to their success. Exploring and responding to the needs of a cohort of first-year students is the focus of this research. Using a participatory action approach, this project aimed to discover what is meaningful for first-year students, by exploring how students experienced the processes of admission, enrolment, commencement, and learning and teaching in two fast-track and one online health degrees. Nine students were partnered with nine academics for a six-month period. The analysis offers insights into equity issues in relation to the institution’s admission processes, the quality of support and engagement from academics to students when transitioning to university life, and how students find their ‘place’. Strategies to support the transition process for first-year students are identified and discussed.