Don’t Panic: Common Sense and the Student Voice in a Transitional Guide
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The Scottish Enhancement Theme of Transitions has largely been explored by institutions in terms of pre/post undergraduate degree, with a tangential focus on employability. Less considered are transitions between and through undergraduate levels, despite the impact they have on successful student engagement and retention (Whittle, 2015). To ensure positive transition through their degree, students must be engaged in dialogue with staff and have the opportunity to influence curriculum adaptation and development (Bovill, Cook-Sather, & Felten, 2011). Having experienced the Honours year from both a student and tutor perspective, the authors developed Don’t Panic: The Psych/Soc Student’s Guide to Fourth Year. A practical response to student concerns, the guide was designed to reflect the final year ‘life cycle’ with the simple aim of offering honest advice and encouragement to psychology and sociology students at Queen Margaret University (QMU), as an informal companion to the dissertation handbook. Development is ongoing, and following dissemination activities the guide has attracted interest from students and faculty across the United Kingdom and beyond. It is apparent that several institutions lack such a form of support for final year students – and while Don’t Panic is not presented as the solution to all transitional problems, it can serve as an example of innovation to empower the student voice. Don’t Panic has led to the author’s increasing involvement in, and understanding of, issues relating to learning and teaching, access and retention. They reflect on these matters in academic and professional literature, through the prism of their own student-to-staff transitional experience.