An evaluation of student induction in higher education

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1 An evaluation of student induction in higher education Ahmed Hassanien, Napier University and Alison Barber, University of Wolverhampton Received: March 2007 Revised: July 2007; December 2007 Accepted: December 2007 Abstract An examination of the literature reveals that induction assists academic integration and enhances student outcomes. Also, research evidence confirms that induction provides socialisation that will enable students to foresee the values, norms and behaviours they will come across at university. The primary focus of this study is to explore the perceptions and experiences of students regarding induction in Higher Education (HE). The study is exploratory based on a quantitative approach. Accordingly, the findings reported here are based on a survey with new undergraduate students at the University of Wolverhampton. Interestingly, students felt that induction does not only provide a welcoming environment to them, and assist their transition into HE, but it plays a critical role in their socialisation into higher education and university culture. Also, results indicated the importance of a balanced induction programme to facilitate the process of students social and academic integration. Results are discussed in the context of current theoretical and empirical work on HE induction. Pedagogic implications and areas for further research are discussed. Keywords: Higher Education; Induction; Integration; Orientation; Socialisation; Welcome Week Introduction There has been a significant growth in student numbers in HE in the UK over the last decade (Milliken and Barnes, 2002). In addition, the British Government has taken a greater interest in non-completion rates of university students (Department for Education and Skills, 2002). With the increased numbers, and pressure to retain students, there is a need to evaluate current systems presented to the new undergraduate student, in order that they feel the university and their programme of study is one they wish to show allegiance to for their years of study. This research specifically focuses on the evaluation of an induction programme at the University of Wolverhampton, the success of which has shown to impact on the retention and achievement of students (Sheader and Richardson, 2005; Yorke, 1999). An induction, as defined by Webster s Dictionary (Gove, 1986: 1145), is an Initial experience, an exposure that introduces one to something previously mysterious or unknown. University activities are planned that help to acquaint new students with new systems, as well as new people. Specifically, Cook et al. (2006) argue that there are two different types of induction. The first, which is the focus of the current article, refers to those events that occur immediately on the arrival of a new student (Cook, 2006: 7). This is perhaps the most common type of induction and is occasionally identified as orientation, welcome week, or early induction. The second type refers to extended induction process, which is a longer-term assimilation of new students into the ways in which the institution operates, particularly as it relates to its teaching and learning methods (Cook, 2006: 7). The first week of a new student s introduction to HE can be a daunting and anxious time (Edward, 2001), despite the fact that induction programmes have been designed to help new students settle in. Earwaker (1992) considers the start of a course as being the most vulnerable time. Universities look to make this introduction a smooth transition to HE, but the question is whether this is actually achieved. If the transition is not smooth, this can have an impact on retention (White and Carr, 2005), a problem exacerbated with increased numbers, and as student withdrawal is increasing (Edward, 2003) it is important to regard systems that help to attenuate such figures. This study examines students perceptions of induction activities for first year undergraduate students at the University of Wolverhampton. The University refers to this time as Welcome Week, where undergraduate students experience their first week at university and are presented with a University and School welcoming programme. These experiences are designed to aid a smooth entry into HE, and one that is well managed (Yorke, 1999). Therefore, the main intention of this article is to explore the perceptions and experience of students Ahmed Hassanien is the course leader of Hospitality Management programme at Napier University. He has published many articles in international refereed conferences and periodicals and is a reviewer for a number of international academic periodicals. He is a fellow member of many professional bodies including the Academy of Higher Education. Alison Barber is Principal Lecturer in Student Development & Support in the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure at Wolverhampton University. Her subject specialisms are Physical Education, Sport Psychology and Study Skills. Interests include the First Year Experience and Expectations of Higher Education. She was previously employed at Newman College of Higher Education. International Journal of Management Education 6(3) 35

2 regarding induction in HE and to disseminate resulting recommendations in order to improve internal and external induction programmes at the University of Wolverhampton and other HE Institutions. Significance of the Transition Process The importance of transition mechanisms in obtaining the commitment to enhance persistence has been emphasised by many researchers. Ozga and Sukhnandan s (1997) findings suggest that the transition from school to university is the greatest hurdle, and that most students who withdraw do so in their first year. For some, the vulnerability is in the first few days (McInnes et al., 1995), and therefore the success of any induction programme is paramount. The value of induction has been reported by a previous study (Wilcox et al., 2005), highlighting the importance of integrating students into the university. This can be achieved by creating a sense of belonging, via social and academic integration activities, during their induction week. The majority of new undergraduate students have often come from an environment, where they know others and are personally known by many from the same environs. Entering university can be a daunting time, where unfamiliar faces and places surround each student. In order for students to feel less anxious and more at ease, it is important for those involved in induction to quickly create a sense of belonging (Tucker, 1999). This can be resolved to some extent by helping the students to establish relationships and friendship networks quickly (Thomas, 2002). In their research article on integration and adaptation, Zepke and Leach (2005) reported that induction programmes assist academic integration and enhance student outcomes as indicated by the findings of 14 different research studies. Also, research evidence confirmed that induction programmes provide socialisation that will enable students to become aware of the values, norms and behaviours they will come across at university (Braxton et al., 1995; Bailey et al., 1998; Yorke, 1999; Walker, 2000). Along the same lines, according to Yorke (1999), dissatisfaction with induction into study was one of the top four factors responsible for early withdrawal. Walker (2000) found that a welcoming induction programme positively affected the retention rate of aboriginal students. The activities should provide a forum for students to socialise, and therefore priority should be given to ensure that they are appealing to students and encourage social integration. Mackie (2001) stated that lack of social integration could encourage the more vulnerable student to leave. Induction and Social Integration The significance of induction programmes are grounded in socialisation theory, a topic that has amplified significantly in the past two decades (Baird, 1990; Corcoran and Clark, 1984; Weidman and Stein, 1990). As Turner and Thompson (1993: 357) propose, a successful socialisation process is critical for a successful graduate career. Boyle and Boice (1998) report that this socialisation process should start with an induction programme. An investigation of the literature review reveals that induction programmes can assist in enhancing persistence and retention (Buchanan, 1989; Issac et al., 1995; Phillips et al., 1986; Washburn, 2002) and welcome and allay incoming student anxiety (Vlisides and Eddy, 1993: 96). Such anxiety and emotional stress is ordinary among new learners (Baird, 1990), and research reveals that a welcoming environment is essential in lessening this stress and anxiety, and generating a smoother student transition process (Taub and Komives, 1998). A review of previous research on induction, by White and Carr (2005), revealed that social integration was slow and students felt inhibited at initial meetings with tutors. The introduction of a new induction programme followed ( Jumpstart Student Induction ), focusing on building capacity for group work and social learning. By working together, the students established social relationships that proved to be invaluable to the successes of their degree completion. Results suggested a benefit to both the students and the staff, as there were significant improvements in the social and learning climate. Induction programmes seek to facilitate the establishment of friendship networks, and as retention and relationships appear to have a reciprocal relationship, it is important that HE institutions present a positive induction programme. Mackie (2001) stated that those students who did not socialise were more vulnerable and more likely to leave. Induction and Academic Integration As well as focusing on the social networks of students in the first week, it is important to provide opportunities for students to establish a sense of belonging in their academic discipline. However, the information presented to students in the first week of university is not always provided at the most appropriate time. Consequently, new students cannot fully acknowledge the relevance and value of such information. White and Carr (2005) regarded the flaws of induction programmes where copious time is spent by academics talking at students and giving them a great deal of printed material. This can result in the students becoming bored and disengaged with the information being presented. 36 International Journal of Management Education 6(3)

3 When starting university, students are introduced to new systems and protocols. This can be presented at a time when students are already trying to retain a great deal of other information that has already been presented to them. However, familiarity and comprehension of the systems in place can be introduced in a proactive way. Billing (1997) suggested providing students with activities to provide greater focus for them in their first week (e.g. a non-assessed assignment). Edward s (2003) article on an innovative approach to induction regarded students being presented with an activity-based induction. It was designed to familiarise the students with the systems, resources and procedures of the university, and emphasised their relevance. A number of innovations were used including: getting the students to use multiple communication media and information sources to familiarise them with the systems available to them; a treasure hunt to become familiar with the environment; and prize awards to enhance group dynamics. The results indicated that students saw the experience as favourable. The School s Approach to Induction At the University of Wolverhampton, the Welcome Week is part of the StartRight programme: an initiative that was introduced two years ago, and one that concentrates on investigating, developing and enhancing student induction. Historically, university induction programmes have been labelled as laborious and guilty of information overload. The School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure (SSPAL) at the University acted on specific feedback from previous evaluations in order to present a programme that would help the new undergraduate to get to know their peers, establish friendships (Thomas, 2002) and have a sense of belonging (Tucker, 1999). In the School, each department (Sports Studies, Dance, Drama, Leisure/Tourism/Hospitality, and Music) structures an individual induction programme for their specialist and joint students. The Student, Support and Guidance co-ordinator for the School leads a team of people to co-ordinate the programme, emphasising the focus on fun, enjoyment and social integration. The School looked to implement the good practice guidelines of Forrester et al. (2005). Their article discusses the need to present a successful induction programme that helps to support the transition to distance learning. The researchers focused on the need to provide a programme that integrated social and academic components. The good practice components were as follows: Opportunities for student communication and socialisation Activities to support the transition process Academic and course related information Details of formal registration Tutor support Orientation programme A sense of belonging Early personal tutor identification Although the above guidelines were established for distance learners, it was felt that these could be applied across all induction programmes. Each year, the schools within the University review the evaluations of the induction programmes, and look to act on the feedback that is presented. For SSPAL, students from previous induction programme had commented negatively on the focus on academic and course related information. It was hoped that the implementation of Forrester et al. s (2005) guidelines would allow a more balanced approach between social and academic components. Methodology The following sections examine the evaluations of Performing Arts students from SSPAL with regard to the September 2005 induction programme. The method used was a survey, comprised of both qualitative and quantitative questions (Bryman, 1992). Data collection was undertaken using a self-completion questionnaire. A two-page questionnaire was developed that contained both open and closed questions. Closed questions allow only a limited number of answers but can be used to measure attitude and perceptions. The questionnaire consisted of three sections: induction topics, induction significance and demographic information. The first section consisted of 18 induction topics, as suggested by Poock (2004), such as school policy, library, tour of campus and so forth. A Likert scale coded from very ineffective (= 1) to very effective (= 5) was used to identify the effectiveness rate of each topic addressed during induction. The second section consisted of 13 statements which assessed students perceptions regarding the process as a whole, how it might help their transition into HE, the impact it had on students, and aspects relating to programme time and duration. The authors administered the questionnaires to all new SSPAL undergraduate students at the end of the induction week (n=303; response rate 76.4%). Given the nature of the data, descriptive and exploratory analyses International Journal of Management Education 6(3) 37

4 were conducted in order to gain a deeper understanding of the students induction experiences (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). The Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient was used to assess the reliability of each of the subscales and the total scale (Table 1). In this study the Cronbach alpha coefficient (.87) for the total scale and subscales exceeded Nunnaly s standards for research (Nunnaly, 1978). This means that the scale s internal consistency was highly reliable. Subscales Number of items Alpha Induction topics Induction organisation 4.79 Induction importance 6.78 Totals Table 1: The reliability of each induction subscale Findings Table 2 presents the demographics of the students who participated in the survey. The table highlights skewness towards males and students aged between 18 and % of the respondents were full time students and 93.6% of the respondents were British. Characteristics Frequencies (n=303) % Characteristics Frequencies (n=303) % Gender Female Male Induction Attendance 1 day 2 days 3 days 4 days Academic Subject Tourism Studies Sport Studies Dance Drama Music Age years years years More than 21 years Nationality British Overseas Study Mode Full-time Part-time Ethnic origin White Black Mixed Asian Others Table 2: Student Demographics Most of the students (73.6%) stated that induction was of benefit to them. They also agreed that the induction programme provided them with the information they needed to cope with the university culture. In addition, most respondents agreed (13.6% strongly agreed and 51.8% agreed) that the range of induction activities helped them adjusting to university environment. Induction provided them with the necessary information and confidence to begin their study. The majority of students (63.6%) stated that they were motivated by the induction programme. Induction helped them to reduce their nervousness and positively assisted their transition into HE. These findings robustly strengthen the notions presented above in the literature review with regard to the importance of induction. Students were also asked to identify the level of effectiveness regarding the topics that were addressed during induction. Information relating to these topics, in Table 3, indicates that all the 18 variables are statistically significant. Moreover, all variables appear to show high mean values. Regarding the content and duration of the induction programme, the majority thought that the induction length of time was appropriate and the days chosen for the induction were appropriate (87.5% and 76.4% respectively). Similarly, most students believed that fun activities were effectively balanced with other induction activities. 38 International Journal of Management Education 6(3)

5 Topic Mean SD Sig. (2-tailed) Topic Mean SD Sig. (2-tailed) Library Enrolment Computer facilities Student residency Student services Ethics Registration Health care Academic advising Career services School policies University mission Satefy and security Work placement Recreational facilities University history Tour of campus Parking Table 3: The effectiveness and significance of induction topics In order to investigate nationality differences in students, the means of the students feelings and satisfaction regarding induction topics and importance were calculated by using an independent samples t-test. Some topics and statements reached statistical significance in students perception and experience of induction. T-tests on the data showed that the difference was significant at the 0.05 alpha level. These results are presented in Table 4 which shows that mean values for the international students were significantly higher than the British students, indicating that international students believed these topics to be significantly more important. Accordingly, these results confirm that international students need more tutor support and guidance than UK based students (Southall et al., 2006). Consequently, university staff need to pay more attention to the integration of international students into the university system. Nationality Mean Std. Dev. Sig. (2-tailed) Table 4: Results of independent samples test (nationality and gender) N = 254 (British), 49 (Overseas) Nationality Mean Ethics British Parking British Overseas Overseas Student residency British Work placement British Overseas Overseas Student services British University history British Overseas Overseas Academic advising British University mission British Overseas Overseas Registration British The policies and British Overseas procedures information Overseas was useful Enrolment British Overseas The study was also interested in determining whether different subject groups of students had statistically significant differences regarding the induction importance, organisation and topics. The results revealed that there were not any statistical differences between the five subject groups of students based on the One-Way ANOVA analysis. In order to simplify the list of induction topics, an exploratory factor analysis with Varimax rotation was carried out to see whether these items shared a single underlying factor i.e. are uni-dimensional. Items that did not meet the next two criteria were excluded: a) dominant loadings greater than 0.5, and b) cross-loadings less than 0.35 (Hair et al., 1998; Avlonitis and Panagopoulos, 2005). The 18 topics (variables) of the induction were subjected to principal components analysis (PCA) using SPSS. Before performing PCA, the appropriateness of data for factor analysis was evaluated through the following checks: a) The correlation matrix indicated that many coefficient values were.3 and above, b) The Kaiser Meyer Olkin value was.85, greater than the proposed minimum of.6 (Kaiser, 1974), and c) Bartlett s test of sphericity (Bartlett, 1954) proved statistical significance. Consequently, the factorability of the correlation matrix was corroborated (Field, 2000; Pallant, 2002). PCA revealed the presence of four components with eigenvalues higher than 1, describing 32.37%, 8.61%, 7.78% and 6.28% of the variance respectively. However, the screeplot indicated an apparent break after the third component supporting the retention of three components, using Cattell s (1966) scree test, for further International Journal of Management Education 6(3) 39 Std. Dev. Sig. (2-tailed)

6 investigation. A Varimax rotation was carried out to further interpret these three components. The rotated solution (presented in Table 5) demonstrates simple structure (Thurstone, 1974), with the three components indicating a number of strong loadings. The three factor solution described a total of 48.78% of the variance, and the contributions of the three components were 19.14%, 17.42%, 12.21% respectively. Consequently, the three factors reported in Table 5 were identified. Factor 1 contained nine items and relates to issues concerning Academic and social services and resources. Factor 2 was made up of six items referred to issues of The university and its facilities. Factor 3 comprised three items, which deal with issues pertaining to Subject specific services. Component Induction topics Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Library.684 Computer facilities.663 Ethics.649 Health care.625 School policies.580 Safety and security.565 Career services.554 Student services.480 Tour of campus.358 University history.840 University mission.813 Work placement.622 Parking.485 Recreational facilities.448 Student residency.409 Registration.831 Enrolment.822 Academic advising.455 % of variance Cumulative % KMO test 0.85 Bartlett test X 2 = 153; Sig. = Notes: Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalisation. Table 5: Factor analysis for induction topics Multiple linear regression was used to examine the impact of the three components (induction topics) on the overall student satisfaction (dependent variable). As Table 6 illustrates, the ratio of the two mean squares (F) was with significant level of p=.000 shows that the regression model was valuable in interpreting the data. It also shows that the three components affect students overall satisfaction regarding the induction topics because the significance level did not exceed Model Sum of Squares ANOVA b df Mean Square F Sig. 1 Regression a Residual Total Notes: a Predictors: (Constant), Academic and social services and resources, The university and its facilities, Subject specific services; b Dependent Variable: Overall I was satisfied with the induction programme provided by the university. Table 6: Summary of ANOVA table As indicated in Table 7, the multiple correlation coefficients (R) of the three components were.501, which shows that there was a significant correlation between the three independent components and students overall satisfaction. The coefficient of (multiple) determination (R 2 ) was.251 which reveals that about 25% of the total variance in students satisfaction was illustrated by the 3 components. The coefficients in Table 8 were used to measure the importance of every variable in explaining students overall satisfaction with induction. The standardised coefficient (or beta) weights indicate that the first variable Academic and social services and resources makes the greatest contribution to explaining the dependent variable (overall satisfaction), when the variance explained by the three variables in the model is controlled for. 40 International Journal of Management Education 6(3)

7 Table 7: Model Summary Model R R 2 Adjusted R 2 Std. error of the estimate Model (Constant) Academic and social services and resources The university and its facilities Subject specific services Unstandardised Coefficients B Standardised Coefficients Beta t-value Sig. Collinearity Statiscs Tolerance Note: a Dependent Variable: Overall I was satisfied with the induction programme provided by the university VIF Table 8: Results of regression coefficients a Discussion and Conclusion University students induction has been one of the topics that has received an increasing attention in the past two decades. Earlier research studies advocated that induction plays an imperative role in the development, progress, retention and socialisation of higher education students. Also, empirical research on induction has recently been emphasised to be needed in HE (Cook et al., 2006; Poock, 2004). This article, through primary field-research, discussed the issues underpinning induction practices within the context of HE. Specifically, it presented an evaluation of an induction programme for new students and the extent to which the programme fulfilled their expectations. This was done by investigating the levels of student satisfaction with regard to the issues of: a) induction importance and value; b) induction topics and activities; c) induction organisation; d) induction content; and e) induction timing and duration. Interestingly, students felt that induction does not only provide a welcoming environment to them, and assist their transition into HE, but also plays a critical role in their socialisation into education and university culture. With the spectrum of students entering HE widening each year, it is imperative that an induction programme is a student-centred one. Departments, schools and universities need to look at reducing the anxieties of their students, and provide them with many opportunities to socialise with their peers and quickly feel at ease in their new environment. Overall, the findings of this study suggest that the success of any induction programme is the responsibility of a number of stakeholders, including academic and non-academic staff. Induction is a multi-faceted process and, as a consequence, it is imperative that all those involved need to communicate with each other. If the decisions made are not communicated effectively to others, this can and will impact on the overall smooth running and success of a student s first week at university. There is no magic formula for a successful induction programme, but the implications of this study suggest that success depends on different dependent and interrelated factors such as the induction timing, duration, content, topics, activities, organisation, and so forth. The validity, reliability and credibility of this study propose that its findings could be valuable for both researchers and university staff. It makes a contribution to the literature on student induction in general and offers useful directions and guidelines to scholars and educators in the field of higher education in particular. This conclusion is made because this research is regarded as one of the pioneer studies to investigate theoretically and practically the fundamental dimensions and issues of the induction process. Also, it offers scope for researchers to contextualise and conceptualise induction in higher education. The study also has potential for administrative application in the implementation and utilisation of induction for student support and guidance aims. It explores essential elements and factors that can affect students satisfaction about induction. From this study, universities can develop a superior knowledge with regards to the content and context of induction. Limitations and Further Research The limitations of the current study should be acknowledged as no research is without its limitations. One weak point of this research is the difficulty in applying or generalising its results to the greater population of the British universities. The restriction of the sample to a single school further limits the generalisability of findings. Future research, therefore, will need to adopt larger-scale, empirical approaches, within different universities or geographic regions, to confirm some of the findings observed here. In addition, as this study focused upon first year students, it seems clear that more robust mechanisms are required for measuring and evaluating student perceptions throughout the undergraduate experience. It would also be useful to investigate the attitudes of other stakeholders (e.g. tutors, external examiners, professional bodies) towards the methodologies used for induction to explore the issue from other dimensions. Future studies could also consider examining the relationship between student induction and retention in HE. It would also be useful to further analyse how International Journal of Management Education 6(3) 41

8 students engage with induction and in what context. Despite these limitations, this study was still able to concentrate on very significant issues in the area of student support and guidance in higher education. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the students who participated in this research. The authors are also grateful to Dr. Riyad Eid for his statistical guidance and support, which helped to improve certain aspects of the study. Finally, the authors would like to acknowledge the detailed comments from the reviewers, which helped us to develop and improve further the quality of the article. References Avontlis, G.J. and Panagopoulos, N.G. (2005) Antecedents and consequences of CRM technology acceptance in the sales force. Industrial Marketing Management, 34(4), Bailey, B.L., Bauman, C. and Lata, K.A. (1998) Student Retention and Satisfaction: The Evolution of a Predictive Model. In: 38th Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research, May, Minneapolis. 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9 Southall, D., Rushton, B.S., Hagan, A., Kane, C. and McCormick, S. (2006) Support for international Higher Education students in the UK. In: B.S. Rushton, A. Cook and K.A. Macintosh (eds.) Supporting students: international students. University of Ulster, Coleraine, Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. London: Sage. Taub, D.J. and Komives, S.R. (1998) A comprehensive graduate orientation program: Practicing what we preach, Journal of College Student Development, 39(4), Thomas, L. (2002) Student retention in higher education: the role of institutional habitus. Journal of Education Policy, 17(4), Thurstone, L.L. (1974) Multiple Factor Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press Tucker, J.E. (1999) Tinto s Model and Successful College Transitions. Journal of College Student Retention, 1, Turner, C.S.V. and Thompson, J.R. (1993) Socializing women doctoral students: Minority and majority experiences. The Review of Higher Education, 16(3), Vlisides, D. and Eddy, J. (1993) Graduate student orientation models. College Student Journal, 27(1), Walker, R. (2000) Indigenous Performance in Western Australia Universities: Reframing Retention and Success. Canberra: DEETYA. Washburn, M.H. (2002) Rebuilding community: A pilot program for decreasing doctoral student attrition. College and University, 78(1), Weidman, J.C. and Stein, E.L. (1990) The professional socialization of graduate students in educational administration. In: Annual Meeting of the University Council for Educational Administration, October 1990, Pittsburgh, PA. (ERIC ED ). White, S.A. and Carr, L.A. (2005) Brave New world: Can We Engineer a Better Start for Freshers? In: Frontiers in Education Proceedings of 35th annual conference, October 2005, Indianapolis, Wilcox, P., Winn, S. and Fyvie-Gauld, M. (2005) It was nothing to do with the university, it was just the people : the role of social support in the first-year experience of higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 30(6), Yorke, M. (1999) Leaving Early: Undergraduate Non-completion in Higher Education. London: Falmer Press. Zepke, N. and Leach, L. (2005) Integration and adaptation: Approaches to the student retention and achievement puzzle. Active Learning in Higher Education, 6(1), International Journal of Management Education 6(3) 43

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