P50 – A Students’ Eye Perspective: Reflecting on the student experience to improve the transition to Higher Education

Auditorium – TUESDAY 14:15-15:15

Dr C. Mann (Educational researcher)
Natasha McVey (Student Nurse)

Dr. C. Mann is an educational researcher managing a scheme of Peer mentoring for over 500 Nursing students. Her interests include transition, communities of practice and student-led change.

Natasha McVey is a student nurse and action researcher. She has acted as a peer mentor and peer mentor leader and helped to develop initiatives in transition and peer support. Natasha has been nominated for a prestigious ‘Edith Cavelli Nursing Community’ award in 2015 for her work in this area.


This paper presents a study into the student experience of transition into a Higher Education Nursing course, designed and conducted by students, for students. We aim to address the research question ‘What can be done, by student Nurses, based on their own experiences, to improve the student experience of transition?’.


This paper reports on a small scale study into the student experience of transition into a Higher Education Nursing course, designed and conducted by students, for students. It is based in the current literature and asks the research question ‘What can be done, by student Nurses, based on their own experiences, to improve the student experience of transition?’.

The current higher education climate and culture can be defined by the power of the student voice and the juxtaposition between the need to offer a quality student experience that is value for money with minimal or reducing staff resources. Higher Education research documents the changing position of the student model; from the student as a passive recipient of knowledge, to the student as a consumer, and now moving into active partnerships between students and their institutions. There are widespread reports of students acting as change agents and co-producers of knowledge and driving forward positive improvements in the student experience. At the University of Nottingham, we have developed a peer mentoring scheme in the School of Health Sciences where all incoming students are matched to a more experienced student for a supportive relationship. The scheme and associated student research group ‘MARG’ (Mentoring Action Research Group) provides the context for this research into the first year student experience.

The study contained several layers of research. Firstly Nursing Peer Mentor leaders (n=12) participated in semi-structured focus group interview workshops about their own experiences of transition and supporting others through transition. As part of this workshop students co-designed a questionnaire for a wider range of peer mentor students with the aim of validating preliminary findings and generating wider data to ensure saturation. This questionnaire was administered to all volunteer Nursing Peer Mentors (n=91). The data was analysed by students during another focus group workshop. Students thematised responses and developed a list of several potential interventions to benefit the student experience of transition. Finally these interventions were presented to Nursing Peer Mentors in focus group workshops (n=91) and to all first year students by questionnaire (n=500). The responses to the proposed interventions in the current transition process were used to write a report with a recommended action plan for the School of Nursing.

The findings of the research suggest a range of interventions that could be developed to support incoming students through the transition into Higher Education Nursing. Many of these are consistent with findings from the literature – for example an extended induction, however they are localised to the course, for example suggesting the induction should take the same blended learning approach used in the course design. In using Kolb’s reflective cycle at each stage of the research, students were able to identify the areas of change which they could directly impact – such as in co-design of an induction process, and other areas where they would take an advocacy role, such as in campaigning for earlier contact in peer mentoring.

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