An Overview of the Literature of the First Year Experience in Australian Higher Education 2000 – 2010: Defining attrition, reviewing solutions and planning for improved retention
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The quality of the First Year Experience is identified by higher education institutions and research as being vitally important. Staff who are new to first year teaching and advising are inundated by research publications, information and guidelines that relate to the FYE and to first year students. It is a complex area that most will not have the luxury of time to explore thoroughly. Although higher education institutions have produced their own documentation for inexperienced staff, this generally lacks reference to important aspects in its breadth and detail. The tendency is to raise little more than an awareness of the experience of the first year and general academic and administrative procedures, much of it drawn from overseas, This paper, informed by the 22 years of tertiary teaching by the author, six years which were as the inaugural FYE advisor in a faculty of Education at an Australian university, offers a current overview of the matters affecting the nature of the First Year Experience which cites works published between 2000 and 2010 with a focus on Australia. A comprehensive list of references is offered as a resource. This paper presents staff in the First Year Experience in Australian higher education with a summary and discussion of the FYE and the difficulties faced by institutions, students and teaching staff. These are addressed to overcome the high incidence of student withdrawal from enrolment and improve the efficiency of the educational process. Two attitudes are prerequisite to realising these aims, student engagement and persistence, both essential to achieve sustained motivation and thus a successful transition from secondary to tertiary learning. Failure in this quest results in unacceptable attrition rates, the complex reasons for which are discussed following an overview of the problem and discussion of the role of FYE practice as an aspect of teaching scholarship.
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