In the second in our series of blogs, Prothoma (NUSU Research Intern 2019) talks Excel spreadsheet therapy, INTO perspectives and the differences that excellent teaching can make to retention. You can read Part 1 here.
"For most of Week 2, I have been analysing anonymised data from the 431 students who nominated lecturers, professional and pastoral staff, as well as the one person who somehow managed to nominate two people with one vote.
Surprisingly, this has taken me more time to do than it took to use a qualitative software and go through each nomination entry; some of which were almost a full A4 page to read. While I am still on track with the plan I had set out at the beginning of this internship, the time it has taken me to use good old Excel just about uses up the time I had “leftover” from using NVivo. I always knew that I wasn’t all that savvy with Excel and till date just manually calculate my sums and divisions, whereas I know that everyone else just does something with brackets, equal signs and dragging cells left, right and centre. I can’t complain because I do find it quite therapeutic to count how many Humanities and Social Sciences students are dedicating odes to their lecturers and how many Science, Agriculture and Engineering students call it a day after three bullet points.
My aim for the end of the week is to do something less number-y and look for literature to support or disprove the ideas I have from looking at the data. With all of the faculties, not every lecturer teaches the same way – and that’s a great thing!
INTO students, in particular, interest me because their lecturers and the staff dealing with them have specific skills to cater to their academic needs, such as aiding their comprehension skills or helping them integrate. On top of adjusting to university, moving somewhere new and doing life as everyone else does, the language barrier is something that UK and even ‘regular’ international student may not be able to relate to. I’ll be looking into the teaching practices in Asia and the Middle East (where most of our INTO students come from) and how they potentially affect how they respond to what is being taught at Newcastle. Are they surprised by the emphasis we place on pastoral care? Does all the training INTO staff go through actually translate into their teaching? At Newcastle University integration is important, so how do INTO students perceive the effort that is put into ensuring they get the full university experience whilst receiving such specialised teaching?
At the final stages of data analysis, I am beginning to put together themes and hierarchies. A major topic seems to be how many students seriously considered dropping out of uni until they received the support that pushed them to go on. In recent years, the University stated that 97%1 of students continue their studies with us and the nomination data gives the student perspective on why they did not become part of the 3%. This is a great point to emphasise in this report, as it is and novel finding unexplored in previous TEAs reports. After all, isn’t the ultimate goal of excellent teaching to make sure students get the most out of it by getting to the finish line?"
1) TEF Year Two provider submission. (2017). [ebook] University of Newcastle, pp.7,8,9. Available at: https://apps.officeforstudents.org.uk/tefoutcomes2019/docs/submissions/Submission_10007799.pdf
[Accessed 15 Aug. 2019].