The first year in higher education: engagement and empowerment
This paper considers what we mean by referring to empowerment in higher education (HE) with respect to student engagement and persistence (Barnett, 2007, 2009). This is considered from the point of view of how students identify with their studies, and is based upon current work being undertaken on the First Year Experience in HE in Scotland as part of the sector-wide Graduates in the 21st Century initiative. Much has been made of students reflecting on their experience in HE through personal development planning (PDP) and the acquisition and documenting of graduate attributes (GAs). This has become translated into curricular and pedagogical developments that are related to constructivist or enquiry-based learning. It is suggested that such an approach is necessary given the need for creativity and flexibility demanded by a globalised knowledge economy. The paper offers a sympathetic and yet critical appraisal of this approach.