Moving beyond transition pedagogy: Maturity models and student engagement

Nelson, Karen J., Clarke, John A., & Stoodley, Ian D. (2012) Moving beyond transition pedagogy: Maturity models and student engagement. In 7th Educational Research Group of Adelaide Conference, 19-21 September, 2012, University of Adelaide. (Unpublished)

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Australian higher education institutions (HEIs) have entered a new phase of regulation and accreditation which includes performance-based funding relating to the participation and retention of students from social and cultural groups previously underrepresented in higher education. However, in addressing these priorities, it is critical that HEIs do not further disadvantage students from certain groups by identifying them for attention because of their social or cultural backgrounds, circumstances which are largely beyond the control of students. In response, many HEIs are focusing effort on university-wide approaches to enhancing the student experience because such approaches will enhance the engagement, success and retention of all students, and in doing so, particularly benefit those students who come from underrepresented groups.

Measuring and benchmarking student experiences and engagement that arise from these efforts is well supported by extensive collections of student experience survey data. However no comparable instrument exists that measures the capability of institutions to influence and/or enhance student experiences where capability is an indication of how well an organisational process does what it is designed to do (Rosemann & de Bruin, 2005).

This paper proposes that the concept of a maturity model (Marshall, 2010; Paulk, 1999) may be useful as a way of assessing the capability of HEIs to provide and implement student engagement, success and retention activities. We will describe the Student Engagement, Success and Retention Maturity Model (SESR-MM), (Clarke, Nelson & Stoodley, 2012; Nelson, Clarke & Stoodley, 2012) we are currently investigating. We will discuss if our research may address the current gap by facilitating the development of an SESR-MM instrument that aims (i) to enable institutions to assess the capability of their current student engagement and retention programs and strategies to influence and respond to student experiences within the institution; and (ii) to provide institutions with the opportunity to understand various practices across the sector with a view to further improving programs and practices relevant to their context.

The first aim of our research is to extend the generational approach which has been useful in considering the evolutionary nature of the first year experience (FYE) (Wilson, 2009). Three generations have been identified and explored: First generation approaches that focus on co-curricular strategies (e.g. orientation and peer programs); Second generation approaches that focus on curriculum (e.g. pedagogy, curriculum design, and learning and teaching practice); and third generation approaches—also referred to as transition pedagogy—that focus on the production of an institution-wide integrated holistic intentional blend of curricular and co-curricular activities (Kift, Nelson & Clarke, 2010).

The second aim of this research is to move beyond assessments of students’ experiences to focus on assessing institutional processes and their capability to influence student engagement. In essence, we propose to develop and use the maturity model concept to produce an instrument that will indicate the capability of HEIs to manage and improve student engagement, success and retention programs and strategies.

References Australian Council for Educational Research. (n.d.). Australasian Survey of Student Engagement. Retrieved from

Clarke, J., Nelson, K., & Stoodley, I. (2012, July). The Maturity Model concept as framework for assessing the capability of higher education institutions to address student engagement, success and retention: New horizon or false dawn? A Nuts & Bolts presentation at the 15th International Conference on the First Year in Higher Education, “New Horizons,” Brisbane, Australia. Kift, S., Nelson, K., & Clarke, J. (2010) Transition pedagogy - a third generation approach to FYE: A case study of policy and practice for the higher education sector. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 1(1), pp. 1-20. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (n.d.). The University Experience Survey. Advancing quality in higher education information sheet. Retrieved from

Marshall, S. (2010). A quality framework for continuous improvement of e-Learning: The e-Learning Maturity Model. Journal of Distance Education, 24(1), 143-166. Nelson, K., Clarke, J., & Stoodley, I. (2012). An exploration of the Maturity Model concept as a vehicle for higher education institutions to assess their capability to address student engagement. A work in progress. Submitted for publication. Paulk, M. (1999). Using the Software CMM with good judgment, ASQ Software Quality Professional, 1(3), 19-29. Wilson, K. (2009, June–July). The impact of institutional, programmatic and personal interventions on an effective and sustainable first-year student experience. Keynote address presented at the 12th Pacific Rim First Year in Higher Education Conference, “Preparing for Tomorrow Today: The First Year as Foundation,” Townsville, Australia. Retrieved from

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ID Code: 53842
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: maturity models, student engagement, HERN
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > EDUCATION SYSTEMS (130100) > Higher Education (130103)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Chancellery
Deposited On: 28 Sep 2012 04:37
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2012 04:37

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