Teaching and Learning Activities
This infographic provides information and ideas on student orientation. The image can be downloaded using the PDF link at the bottom of the image.
You can access case studies from staff around the university on how they practically orientate their students here.
Course orientation requires that students understand what they will be required to do on their course, how they are expected to achieve this, and why. The sharing of standards, and requirements relating to processes, transactions and behaviours, should be prioritised. In order for students to be able to settle in quickly to their academic routines, operational details such as timetables, groups and processes for reporting absence need to be clearly communicated. This information is sometimes hidden in handbooks. Additionally, any changes to the curriculum or essential information such as module selection, room changes, etc, need to be communicated in good time.
Course orientation is best achieved through scaffolding new students through the first stages of an organised curriculum. An organised curriculum is coherent, well-structured, provides clear course information including guidance about resources and technologies for learning, and has transparent, aligned, relevant assessment processes and activities (Biggs, 1996; Gibbs, 2010; Fredericks, Blumenfeld & Paris, 2004).Demonstrating the value of learning activities and assignment tasks, ensuring they are useful, informative and relevant to student interests and future goals, and relating course requirements to real world contexts and to students’ previous experiences, can be useful in orientating students to course requirements (Fredericks et al, 2004; Thomas, 2012). Our Course Development Principles Guide for Staff contains a number of suggestions.
You can access case studies from staff around the university on how they orientate students to their course here.
A student’s active participation in classes, in their course and in university life, is a highly desirable undergraduate attribute. There is value in sharing expectations about behaviours and explaining that critical thinking and discussion is encouraged because we have to learn from each other in a mutually respectful environment. Our Student Charter provides a guide to expectations in terms of engagement and behaviour.
However, the institution is not entirely responsible for students’ active participation. Engagement is student-owned. A student’s engagement in their course and in university life will be aligned with their goals and motivations. An individual student may not see it as being necessary to engage with their course in particular ways deemed required by an institution in order to meet their individual goals. 20. If we accept this, we must also recognise that initiatives designed to directly influence a student’s active participation, which effectively removes control from the student over their participation, need to be thoughtfully considered and implemented with care.
Our institutional responsibility is to provide the opportunity for students to actively participate. Students that are both practically orientated (where, when, who) and orientated to the demands of their course (what, how, why) are empowered to fully and actively participate in their course. Course orientation (supported through an organised, relevant curriculum) and practical orientation (realised through a responsive learning environment) should provide embedded opportunities for new students to become active participants in their learning.
Students may be further supported to participate actively in developing their curriculum and learning environment by embedded, explicit and proactive consultation whereby “opportunities are provided for students to express individual opinions, perspectives, experiences, ideas and concerns” (HEA & NUS, 2011).
Structures and processes that support student feedback and negotiation and that give individual students a voice in shaping fit-for-purpose provision develop a student’s sense of control over their environment and encourage students, through supported, ongoing consultation, to provide feedback about their conditions and resources.
Monitoring systems that collect and collate information about student academic interactions – library loans, VLE logins, attendance at timetabled sessions, etc. – can indicate the type and level of a student’s participation. Whilst we should be clear and transparent about what data we collect and how it is used, student participation data can usefully inform the triggering of timely, targeted interventions to check on a student’s engagement and wellbeing. 26. However, a student’s participation, and the extent to which they choose to transact with the University are ultimately not the HEI’s nor the course team’s direct responsibility. Well-intended practices that remove control from the student over their participation, (for example, allocating marks for contributions to face-to-face seminars or online discussion groups, or punishing low attendance) may be less successful than focusing on setting and communicating expectations and giving students a clear rationale for these expectations.
You can access case studies on how staff support their students to actively participate in their learning here.
Student Orientation References
Biggs, J. (1996) Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32(3), 347-364.
CLT (2014) Course Development Principles [Internet] Available from http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/partners/course-development-principles.htm [Accessed 5th Oct 2016]
Gibbs, G. (2010) Dimensions of quality, The Higher Education Academy.
Fredricks, J.A., Blumenfeld, P.C. and Paris, A.H. (2004) School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research. 74 (1), 59-109.
HEA & NUS (2011) Student Engagement Toolkit [Internet]. Higher Education Academy and National Union of Students. Available from www.nusconnect.org.uk/campaigns/highereducation/student-engagement/toolkit/resources/ [Accessed 30th August 2015]
Leeds Beckett University (2016) Student Charter [Internet] Available from http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/assets/studentcharter/ [Accessed on 5th Oct 2016]
Thomas, L. (2012) Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change, What Works? Student Retention and Success, Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
Further Resources Relating to Student Orientation
HEA (2016) Framework for student access, retention, attainment and progression in higher education [Internet]. Available from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/enhancement/frameworks/framework-student-access-retention-attainment-and-progression-higher
[Accessed on 5th Oct 2016]
HEA (2016) Student access, retention, attainment and progression in higher education toolkit [Internet]. Available from
[Accessed on 5th Oct 2016]