Turner, Lynda and Tobbell, Jane (2014) How practices shape identity: an exploration of transition for undergraduate psychology students. In: HEA STEM Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 2014: Enhancing the STEM Student Journey, 30th April - 1st May 2014, University of Edinburgh.

At the point of transition into Higher Education, across all academic disciplines, there is the imperative to enable student participation and engagement in the new educational environment. The first year in H.E. should be a time of transformation, with learner identity gradually changing as a consequence of participating in the valued practices of the academy. This presentation will discuss data from a year long ethnography which followed Psychology undergraduates through their first year. The data sources included observation, informal conversation, semi structured and focus group interviews and document analysis. A socio-cultural approach to teaching and learning was taken, drawing upon the work of Vygotsky (1935), Lave and Wenger (1991) and Bronfenbrenner (1993) to understand the practices which influence transition. Narrative and theoretical thematic analyses were undertaken. The analysis revealed that whilst some practices were enabling, students also struggled to participate in taken for granted practices within the community, leaving their learner identities unchanged. A central recommendation is made to reconceptualise the foundation year as a transition year. This would involve critical reflection on practices at the institutional, departmental and individual level. The findings, whilst focused on the specific practices of Psychology, are generalisable to teaching and learning across STEM subjects.

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