Special issue


The development of a student identity as it relates to the transition of commencing students to higher education has long been identified in the literature as essential to success. As importantly, the existence of a sense of belonging has been considered key to transition and success and the formation of a student identity. Less prominent in the literature, the newly articulated notion of mattering has evolved from and is currently challenging the concept of student belonging. Mattering offers a broader understanding of what it means to have students in transition believe they are important, that they matter to the institution of study. The notion of mattering resonates strongly with the authors as transition educators. This paper draws on the work of Lizzio (2006) and MacFarlane (2018) to consider the essential ingredients any preparatory course should include to successfully transition underrepresented groups of students to study at the award level. A comparison of the STEPS course in the Australian context to LEAPS in the Scottish context provided avenue to propose a five-tenet framework as a possible recipe for success to best support the transition of an increasingly diverse group of students aspiring to university study. The paper explores the ways in which the courses effectively assist preparatory students develop a foundational student identity which is crucial to successful study in higher education, particularly in the initial stages of engagement. In doing so, it positions the philosophical underpinnings and the pedagogical practices currently adopted by both the STEPS and LEAPS courses as successfully embracing the tenets proposed within the framework.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Support students as they navigate from ‘their’ world to the new world of academia and conquer the fear of the unknown
  2. Provide an inclusive engaged environment where students can develop a sense of belonging and a feeling of worth
  3. Guide students to acquire academic skills and develop independent learning skills
  4. Support students to develop a sense of capability
  5. Assist students to build resourcefulness and manage the non-academic factors associated with study