Welcome to 2018!
Following a slight hiatus on the First-in-Family blogs, I have prioritised a regular blog after receiving data on how many people actually read the blogs in 2016-2017 – with just under 2,000 reads I have been inspired to keep writing!
One of the reasons the blog entries diminished was due to my preoccupation with the research activities conducted in relation to the ARC Discovery project: Higher Education and success: Investigating the persistence strategies of students who are the first in their family to attend university. I am really pleased to say that the data collection in Australia has now been achieved – thanks to the nine universities that agreed to be involved as well as the FiF students (n= 378) who were interviewed or completed a survey. Data analysis is underway in order to explore the capabilities and capitals that underpin FiF students’ persistence behaviours and I hope to bring you more findings on this and related areas as these emerge.
I have noticed how the term first-in-family is gaining more and more currency in higher education discourse within Australia; a number of universities are doing some really interesting activities in this space. For example, I love UNSW’s work with short videos of FiF staff and students – we tried to do something similar here at UOW, with a very limited budget (!) For me, these types of projects are important as they serve to demystify the university environment and also may help to increase a sense of belonging and engagement for students from more diverse backgrounds (including those who are the first in their family). This brings me to another excellent audio-visual resource recently produced by colleagues, which explicitly aims to deconstruct university:
Whilst I was engaged in my 2016 Teaching Fellowship, the feedback I received from workshop and forum participants referred explicitly to the need for more detail on actual practical strategies for supporting first-in-family students.
The data and research that has been collected on FiF is very relevant and interesting; now we need clear and practical tips for how to keep these students engaged. Tell us what to do 🙂
(Forum Evaluation, 2016)
But what can be done about issues and how can strategies be implemented?
(Forum Evaluation, 2016)
This type of feedback inspired me to apply for a Churchill Fellowship to enable a study tour of countries that have excellent examples of FiF support and bring details of these initiatives back to Australia. I was lucky enough to receive the Fellowship and so will visit Canada, US and UK later in 2018 – I hope to also bring you updates as this journey unfolds later in the year.
Finally, I am always interested to hear any feedback on the first-in-family project or details of any initiatives that are happening in your area or institution. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – also if you no longer wish to receive the blogs then please let us know via email as well.
Till next time