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The first year of study


Many factors play a role in deciding if students persist with their studies, including the individual student’s motivation, self-image, sense of belonging in the social and academic contexts, and their perception of the value and relevance of their degree programme. The sense of belonging in the programme and of being qualified to study at a university are particularly decisive as to whether or not students continue with their studies.


Social relations at the university

The students’ experience of their first time at the university may be supported by both academic and social integration in the degree programme. For students to achieve a sense of belonging in the programme, it is important to make sure that they feel seen and heard. Teachers may be instrumental in ensuring that the students create meaningful relations to both academic staff and fellow students, for instance through the organisation of study groups.


Introduction to life as an academic student

It is essential to introduce the students to new subject-related and academic working methods. This helps to provide students with a sense of academic confidence and experiences of success. For instance, students are not implicitly familiar with academic methods of analysis, argumentation, reading, writing, and citation. When such methods are made explicit and examples are presented, the students are assisted in developing appropriate study skills and strategies. An active and continuous focus on study skills from the very beginning of their studies will also be helpful for students in developing self-regulated learning, which will be useful during their remaining time of study.


Academic purpose and relevance

It is important for the students’ motivation to study that the teaching activities are relevant in relation to exams, the entire degree programme, and their future practice.  Teachers may highlight the relevance of the subject through for instance a career perspective, their own practical experience, or topical issues in the field.  When students of a certain subject work with relevant topics and are involved in subject-related activities that are seen to be relevant, the value of the course may become clearer to them, and their motivation to study may increase. 


Teachers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • How do I achieve a good balance between experiences of academic success and academic challenges?

  • How do I ensure that the students feel seen and heard?

  • Which activities could I use to boost meaningful relations in the academic environment?

  • Which academic or society-related contexts could I use as a framework for my teaching so as to make it seem relevant and meaningful to the students?


    Examples of practice


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