Students Staff

27 January 2016

Enhancing the learning experience of IA-EBS international pathway students: ‘reversed mentoring’ on support, feedback and assessment

In 2013-14, Dr Ilaria Boncori, Senior Lecturer in the University of Essex’s International Academy (IA), and Bev Jackson, Student Services Manager at Essex Business School (EBS), won TALIF funding to investigate the learning experience of international students who transitioned into EBS from the IA business pathway. The project was designed to contribute to the improvement of retention rates, progression and degree outcomes for both departments. This summary is based on their project report, to which Dr Dan Shen (EBS/IA) also contributed.

International Students: the challenges of entering UK HEStudents in class

Being a foreign student in the UK can be challenging, especially when your country of origin is far, far away both geographically and culturally. After the initial culture shock and adjustment period, foreign students tend to get used to living and learning in a different environment. However, in some cases the learning curve is steeper as pathway students have additional hurdles to overcome. Sometimes they are unable to get entry to first year courses because of their academic or language level, or – in some cases – because of a different schooling system, they have to put in extra work and extra effort. In the International Academy (IA) at the University of Essex, students can attend many pathway courses, one of which is called the International Diploma in Business. This is run as an intensive year-one undergraduate course, equivalent to the one taught in Essex Business School (EBS). Students study more hours every week for a longer time in order to complete the course, after which they get direct access to second year degrees in EBS.

Asking International Academy Business students about transitionanishia-davis-876169_1920

The transition between the two departments can be challenging, so we decided to ask students a number of questions, both via a survey and focus groups, in order to understand their experience and how we could make our courses better in each department. Although not willing to participate formally in reverse mentoring with staff, students gave us a lot of information and tips on changes to implement in order to provide them with the best possible learning experience. They told us that teaching is the most important aspect of their experience and that they value personal support and individualised feedback. But, as members of the University community, students don’t just learn in class, so we asked about their social life and the overall satisfaction with their study life at Essex. Reponses showed that students considered that communicating with students from other cultures or nationalities, and working in groups in classes, were both extremely important to their learning experience. Likewise, a high proportion noted practising English outside class was central to a positive experience of learning. Our academics will now work together to review the courses based on our students’ comments and continue to improve our excellent teaching provision.

Please contact Dr Boncori if you wish to know more about her and her colleagues’ investigations.

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