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How does learning space shape students’ experience of a bespoke Higher Education bridging module for those affected by homelessness?

ABSTRACT This paper draws on findings from the From Adversity to University project, a unique widening participation initiative developed by one university to support a diverse range of people into Higher Education through engagement with a 12-week bridging module. This small-scale case study presents an in-depth exploration of how learning space shaped students’ experience of a bridging module during the COVID-19 pandemic. Space is conceptualised through a theory of embodied cognition which recognises the complexity of social, cultural, and cognitive inter-relations between space and students’ learning experience. An interpretative narrative methodological approach was taken, drawing on the Listening Guide [LG]. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with five students who completed the bridging module during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. All had been affected by homelessness and most were in recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction. For all participants, there was a complex and dynamic interconnectivity between learning spaces and their experience of the bridging module. The findings demonstrate for the five students how learning spaces (including the flexibility of the space) contributed to participants’ sense of belonging, recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction, mental health and well-being. Implications of the study point towards the need for further research into the connection between learning space and the creation of a sense of belonging particularly for students from marginalised groups.

Learning experience during the pandemic: perspectives of foundation students

ABSTRACT This study examines the learning experiences including academic performance and assessments of Foundation students at a British University’s campus in Malaysia during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. A focus on foundation students is important because First-Year Experience is crucial to their academic success in higher education. Using a mixed methods approach to enrich our study, we triangulate data from focus group interviews, a structured survey, and student performance – from two cohorts of students. One group transitioned from physical to online learning while the other group had their learning entirely online. The findings reveal challenges they faced as a result of the abrupt change to online learning, their adaptation and mitigation strategies and their responses to online assessments. Findings from this study show that many students struggled with synchronous learning and found it difficult to focus or attend synchronous classes due to a lack of conducive learning environment or technological challenges. Interestingly, students’ performance did not vary between cohorts that joined pre-pandemic and during the pandemic; across quantitative and qualitative modules, even though additional time allowance was allocated for online assessments. These findings are important for us to provide recommendations to improve existing institutional frameworks and strategies necessary to enhance support for student learning experience during times of crisis.

How has the conceptualisation of student agency in higher education evolved? Mapping the literature from 2000-2022

ABSTRACT The objective of this article is to analyse the development and content of research in the global literature on student agency in higher education (SAHE) based on a bibliometric review of 224 articles published in the Scopus database during the period 2000–2022. VOSviewer, Excel, and Tableau software were used to analyse the texts. The review documented the growth trajectory and geographic distribution of the literature and identified the intellectual structure of SAHE. The findings show that the SAHE knowledge base has grown dramatically since 2017, particularly in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Five schools of thought emerged from the literature as the main pillars of agency, or individuals’ capacities to take actions to improve their lives (1): the socio-cultural approach of agency (2); the social cognitive framework of agency (3); feedback, assessment, and agency (4); students’ motivation and engagement; and (5) learning analytics, online education, and agency. The results show that student agency is framed within a constructivist and sociocultural learning perspective. Findings also demonstrate that agency has significant effects on personalising and increasing the dynamism and potential of academic experiences if students take an active role in managing their own learning.

Open Access
A reappraisal of global university rankings’ influence in Canada: a senior university leaders’ perspective

ABSTRACT This article contributes to the debate on university organisational actorhood by surveying the drivers of university strategic behaviour and choice. Utilising organisational literature and interviews with senior leaders from three Canadian research-intensive universities, the article elucidates the dynamics underlying universities’ behaviours associated with global university rankings. Contrary to previous studies, the analysis suggests that global rankings exert more influence on Canadian universities than it is commonly assumed. Findings show that (1) global rankings are integral to the case universities’ strategic positioning, legitimacy managing, and revenue-generating efforts in an era where government funding has become a source of constant concern; (2) global rankings are perceived more important than Maclean’s – Canada’s national university ranking – for institutional priorities and promotional strategies; and (3) specialised personnel and units have been created by universities to optimise data flows and improve their ranking positions. The article additionally examines contemporary issues on the academic landscape that create the conditions for institutionalising global rankings, a course of action commonly perceived as irreconcilable with the egalitarian ethos and flatter hierarchical structure of Canada’s postsecondary education. The article offers a new perspective on the determinants of strategic behaviour and organisational change in higher education and outlines directions for future research.

Student-centred learning and teaching: a systematic mapping review of empirical research

ABSTRACT Student-centred learning and teaching (SCLT) has become a widespread approach in higher education and is praised by students, educational researchers and policy makers alike. SCLT is believed to help students become self-directed learners by placing them at the centre of the learning process. Despite the central role currently ascribed to SCLT in higher education, systematic knowledge about how it is practiced in higher education is limited. Informed by the findings of a systematic mapping review of empirical research, this article discloses how SCLT is practised inclass, outof-class and institutionally in higher educational institutions. Overall, we find that empirical research on SCLT is diverse and covers a wide range of pedagogical approaches and methods. Even so, the main focus of the research mapped is on in-class learning activities, whereas less focus is placed on student support systems and on how to develop a SCLT culture in institutional practices. Furthermore, the review finds an extensive focus on student activation and engagement in the empirical research on SCLT. This runs contrary to the theoretical literature arguing that SCLT should promote student agency and autonomy. We therefore encourage more empirical research on the relationship between SCLT and student agency in higher education.