Faculty of Education - Theses

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    The First Year Experience of university students in Chile
    Rivera Munoz, Claudia Andrea ( 2022)
    The first year of university constitutes a crucial stage in students’ adjustment to university. The first-year experience (FYE) of students in Chile is the subject of public policy efforts and scholarly discussions about access to higher education and retention. While there have been some empirical studies investigating student attrition and retention in Chile, the research to date has been narrow in scope, focussing mainly on factors affecting access and attrition. There is limited research that captures the complexity of students’ experiences in the first year of university, and particularly their experiences of university in times of major social disruption. This mixed-methods study investigated the first-year student experience in Chile during a period of mass demonstrations and the Covid-19 pandemic and analysed the factors influencing students’ transition and adjustment to universities over two years. One hundred and seventy-nine first-year students responded to an online survey about their university experience. Eight students participated in a series of semi-structured interviews over the first two years of their university studies. The findings suggest that commencing university studies with clear goals fostered students’ motivation and engagement in their studies. Peer interactions encouraged students’ sense of belonging to university, providing vital academic and emotional support, especially during times of isolation. Supportive interactions with teachers and adjusting teaching to accommodate students’ circumstances promoted students’ engagement with their studies and supported their wellbeing in challenging times. The findings of the present study reaffirm that supportive experiences with peers and teachers can facilitate students’ transition and adjustment to university. This aligns with international evidence and highlights the critical role that peers and teachers play in challenging times. The findings provide insights into the complexity of students’ FYE in Chile, highlighting its individual and context-dependent qualities. The findings of the present study have implications for universities and academic staff to better support students in their transition to university, especially during times of disruption.
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    Teacher and student interactions in the first year of university
    Rivera Munoz, Claudia Andrea ( 2017)
    The first year of university is often considered challenging and difficult for students who are adjusting to different academic and social demands. In this context, teacher-student interactions play a key role in encouraging students’ motivation, engagement, learning, sense of belonging to the university and academic persistence (Kuh, Jillian, Schuh, & Whitt, 2010; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Tinto, 1993). A vast body of research suggests that regular and high-quality interactions between teachers and students benefit academic performance and social integration of students (Kuh et al. 2010; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). However, few studies have examined in depth the nature of the interactions that students establish with their teachers in the first year in the Australian context. This qualitative study examined teacher and student interactions in the first year of university from students’ perspectives in one large public Australian university. This study asked: a) What are the expectations and experiences of undergraduate students regarding the interactions with their tutors and lecturers in the first year of university? b) How have these interactions influenced students’ motivation, engagement, learning, and sense of belonging to their university? Twenty-one undergraduate students enrolled in the first and second year of a bachelor degree participated in semi-structured interviews. In these interviews, participants talked about their expectations and experiences of interactions with their teachers in the first year and the influences of these interactions on their studies. All interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed to identify common themes in students’ experiences (Boyatzis, 1998; Braun & Clarke, 2006; Schreier, 2013). The findings showed that students’ expectations and experiences of the interactions differed by teacher’s role. Participants reported having limited interactions with lecturers coinciding with their expectations. On the other hand, the interactions with tutors were recurrent but not as frequent as students expected. Regarding the types of interactions, the majority had an academic purpose and occurred inside classrooms. The quality of the interactions was assessed considering affective and academic dimensions. Participants reported that the majority of their interactions were positive, helpful, and influenced their motivation, engagement and learning. However, developing a sense of belonging to the university was not related to the interactions with teachers. In brief, this study highlights the role that academic staff plays in fostering close, caring and supportive interactions with first year students to encourage their academic and social adjustment to the university.