2005 Projects

Competence in Written English

Applicants: Dr Nerida Jarkey and Dr Judith Keene

This project builds on the substantial progress made in development and provision of web-based writing skills support (which is the subject of a separate, cross-Faculty TIF application), and on projects run in 2004 for undergraduate and postgraduate International, NESB and local student ‘at risk’ due to poor writing skills, by:

  • integrating writing skills development into the curriculum,
  • improving the availability of one-on-one writing assistance for postgraduate students, and
  • carrying out research into the effectiveness of these strategies.

The strategy of offering small grants to individual UoS Coordinators to work with the Learning Centre on integrating writing skills into the curriculum has worked very well. We wish to expand this work to include the two first year units of study with the largest enrolments in the Faculty: Introduction to Sociology 1 and 2.

One-on-one academic writing assistance for postgraduate students was successfully piloted in the School of Society, Culture and Performance in 2004. The background for this project was the recognition that students’ poor writing skills can be a major block for thesis completions, and that teaching writing skills is a specialised skill.

In 2005 we wish to expand this project across the Faculty, and to extend the work to include:

  • research into the effectiveness of focussed instruction and integration of writing skills development into the curriculum;
  • working with academic staff to provide guidance on teaching writing skills;
  • running discipline-specific writing skills seminars in postgraduate programs.

e-Path: Pathway to Quality eLearning

Applicant: A/Prof Marie-Therese Barbaux

Following the increasing reduction in face-to-face teaching, especially small group teaching, and students’ need for flexibility in both access and modes of delivery, more and more units of study are being complemented by online resources. This somewhat ad hoc development of UoS online resources is of uneven quality and often relies on the basic summative assessment tools available in learning management systems, such as WebCT.

The project includes two components:

1. the development and piloting of a formalised pathway for online learning design and development that will guide UoS coordinators through essential steps and will ensure that:

  • they are made aware of the learning opportunities afforded by online technologies, including appropriate forms of assessment, and
  • the quality of their online development is assured through personalised training and support programs, the provision of specially designed assessment tools and access to a community of practitioners for peer review,

2. the investigation of teachers’ perception of the appropriate rewards and incentives for academics to take up online development.

These two components are complementary, one giving academics the resources, and support, for developing quality blended learning for their students, and the other ensuring substantial take-up of eLearning development by academics through rewards and incentives they judge adequate.

The Impact of 'Special Entry' Units on Honours Enrolment

Applicant: A/Prof Penny Russell
Duration: Two years

The standardisation of the credit-point value of units of study has created a valuable opportunity for the review of curriculum at all levels. In the process, important issues have arisen regarding the value and role of the resource-intensive ‘special entry’ units of study which are used by a number of departments across the Faculty to provide extended training in the methodologies and theories of the discipline for intending honours students.

At present, practice varies across departments. In some cases, special entry units are designated for intending honours students only, require a credit average in the discipline as a prerequisite, and are a compulsory prerequisite for entry to the honours year. In others the units are less exclusive and the requirements at each level less strict.

The project is to identify three or four programs with very different entry requirements and to undertake an intensive research project across two years, with focus groups drawn from third year students enrolled in special entry units and third year students with credit average or above who are not currently on honours track in the discipline. The main objective of the project will be to arrive at a clearer understanding of the experience, choices and outcomes for these students, the opportunities, incentives and difficulties they encounter, and what factors drive their final decision on whether or not to undertake the honours year.

Not Drowning, Waving

Applicant: Dr Nerida Jarkey

The ‘Not Drowning, Waving’ Program supports and assists

  • students from equity groups and students ‘at risk’ to identify and adopt strategies likely to help them stay on in their courses and to improve their university experience and learning outcomes, and
  • academic staff to develop awareness of the needs of students from diverse backgrounds and from equity groups and to direct students to relevant support services and networks.

The program has a particular focus on students who have failed two or more units of study in the first or second semester of their first year. These students are invited to join the program, and linked with a volunteer member of Academic Staff, who provides guidance and support over the course of one semester.

The Write Site

Applicant: Dr Nerida Jarkey

'The Write Site' is a collaborative project involving all six faculties in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Learning Centre, University of Sydney.

The project involves creating an online environment that facilitates and supports learning and learning interactions related to the development of skills in academic and professional writing. It will focus on academic and professional writing skills and genres most relevant to first year undergraduates in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and will address the most common learning needs, both developmental and remedial.

The project will facilitate and support learning and teaching interactions in a range of ways. It will provide:

  • resources for teachers to use to give feedback to students on common writing problems;
  • clear descriptions and examples of common problems;
  • clear explanations and examples of strategies to address these problems;
  • interactive activities for students to practice these strategies individually;
  • tools and suggestions for collaborative writing activities that teachers can integrate into the curriculum for students to practice these strategies in pairs or groups;
  • a common metalanguage for discussing aspects of academic writing.

The online environment will be supported by user training and documentation (both online and off-line).