“I haven’t had the fun that is portrayed”: First-year student expectations and experiences of starting at university

Keywords: focus


Often students have many expectations, and anxieties, about what university experiences would entail. It is against this backdrop that this study explored first year students’ expectations and experiences at university.  Three hundred and twenty-two purposively selected first year pre-service teachers participated in this qualitative phenomenological research study.  Social inclusion is the theoretical framework and Maton’s Legitimation Code Theory (2014) is the conceptual and analytic framework that underpins this research. The findings indicated that participants foregrounded social interactions as crucial to them feeling included (41%) and excluded (31%) at university. After six weeks at university participants continued to regard social interactions as paramount for them feeling included (40%) but less important concerning them feeling excluded (25%). We recommend that university orientation programmes place more focus on the academic demands of university as this was an aspect that participants did not focus much on.

Author Biography

Dale Langsford, University of the Witwatersrand, School of Education

Dale's research interests lie in initial teacher education, with a specific focus on the development of pedagogical reasoning and professional judgements. She has a keen interest in Legitimation Code Theory, which was used to analyse the pedagogical reasoning of pre-service teachers in her doctoral study. She has been a teacher educator at Wits University, taught in intermediate phase classrooms, and worked in curriculum development spaces in the private higher education sector.