The Foundation Study Framework (FSF) team are on a mission to understand how we can better engage students who are enrolled on a four-year FSF programme.
In Stage 1a this year (2017-2018), we have just over 250 students enrolled on 20 different degree programmes. The framework, and our modules, are designed to support academic and employability skill development over the course of two years. In the first year with us, students start to explore academic practice in relation to their degree programmes. Workshops and sessions are tailored to give students the space and guidance they need to figure out the types of skills required for university (and employability) success. They are given the opportunity to practice and refine academic skills so they build confidence and are well-prepared to cope with academic and other challenges. The Foundation Study Framework contributes to widening participation efforts and attracts students from non-traditional backgrounds and other educational experiences.
Student self-efficacy, resilience and ‘grit’ are deemed to be key determining factors in student engagement and retention in higher education (Kahu, 2013; Yorke, 2016). This is not a secret. Students’ beliefs about what they can achieve and their ideas about their ability to tackle problems, overcome barriers and succeed; tend to impact on academic, employment and other personal and occupational matters. How many students hold detrimental opinions of themselves and their abilities? Where do these ideas and expectations come from? We want to know what can happen when students have the chance to unpick some of these thoughts and behaviours.
‘Grit’ is an organisation invested in working with young people in a unique and powerful way to help them to better understand or reconsider themselves as individuals, and their motivations. Grit’s ‘tough love’ approach challenges young people to address what it is really going to take for them to ‘achieve what they are capable of’ and to overcome barriers and obstacles that have possibly held them back. Support from student peers and building a strong support network is a fundamental part of Grit approach.
In 2016-2017, the Grit programme was piloted with 30 FSF students. All students reported increased aspirations, motivations and stronger relationships with friends, family and university staff. 92% of students reported higher levels of self-confidence.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came, however eventually I felt like it was one of the best experiences of my life.”
“This will keep for all my life. It was a lifechanging experience.”
“I feel more positive and inspired to make changes in my life.”
“These sessions have helped me more than 2 years worth of counselling. I feel like I am more able to take control of my life. I also feel as though I now have more friends and a better support system.”
Based on the success of the pilot, all FSF students this year are taking part in an intensive 3-day Grit programme on 6th-8th November 2017. The self-efficacy ‘work’ within the programme will become a thread within the FSF modules.
Assessing self-efficacy and qualitative work
The Changemaker Employability Self-assessment tool combines questions from the General Self-Efficacy Scale (Schwarzer, 1995) with the University of Northampton’s Changemaker Outcomes for Graduate Success (COGS).
129 FSF students completed the self assessment in October 2017. Please see Blog 2 for some initial findings.
Following the Grit programme and later in Term 2, students will return to the self-assessment. This will give them the time to reflect on any changes in their responses, and the possible reasons for any changes. A large random sample of non-FSF first year students will be invited to undertake the Changemaker Employability Self-Assessment tool in November and again in Term 2. Without being able to establish a direct causal relationship between the Grit programme and students’ responses to self-efficacy questions, students will be supported to explore the impact of their participation in the programme.
Members of the FSF team and two research assistants will design qualitative approaches to understand and capture any impact or effect of the Grit programme on students, and the ways in which they perceive the programme threads to have been taken forward within the FSF modules.
What we think could happen
The aim of the Grit programme and follow-through within modules is to help students to build self-efficacy and resilience in academic and other matters. We hope that increased self-efficacy and resilience will make a positive contribution to student engagement and retention. We hope to be able to establish whether the intervention impacted on students and in what ways.