Kickstarting a love of learning for more students

3 July 2013

High school students in Tamworth taking part in the Kickstart on the Road program.

Ten projects across the University have received a total of $320,000 to encourage more students from diverse backgrounds to study at University and to support an inclusive and diverse learning environment.

One of the flagship projects to receive $50,000 in funding is being led by Dr Debra Shirley from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

"There are two aims for our project. Firstly, we want academic staff to consider different kinds of teaching activities when planning their content and assessments. We want the inclusive teaching practices to accommodate the needs of students from diverse backgrounds, such as students from non-English speaking and low socio-economic backgrounds. Teaching is not a one-size-fit all," Dr Shirley said.

"The second aim is to develop a resource package to improve health literacy in high school students from different backgrounds and create greater intercultural understanding. We hope this will encourage high school students from diverse backgrounds to think about studying health science at University."

The other two flagship grants of $50,000 have been awarded to:

Following last year's success a number of projects have been awarded additional implementation grant funding to continue and expand.

Kickstart on the Road, led by Tom Gordon from the School of Physics, has received $25,000 to help fund another year of the outreach program which brings science to schools in regional New South Wales.

"We visited 19 schools last year from Broken Hill, to Port Macquarie and Dubbo. This year we have already visited 10 schools. We'll be seeing another five or so in Broken Hill this week and hopefully another 15 in Parkes and Wagga Wagga," Tom Gordon said.

"It is simply not an option for students from regional areas to make it to Sydney to our labs. Our demonstrators get a chance to talk to the students about their favourite topic - science. It's great because they act as mentors to the high school students."

Other projects receiving funding include:

  • Dr Huw Griffiths from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to help build sustainable rural engagement in literature
  • Associate Professor Michael McDonnell from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences for extension of their project from 2012 to build sustainable rural engagement in history
  • Jessica Morris and Vanda Northwood from the Division of Natural Sciences to increase engagement with secondary school students and teachers in mathematics and science
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Barrett from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to extend the implementation of the Undergraduate Study Hall, an innovative approach to student support developed in response to E12 enrolments
  • Dr Sarah Lewis from the Faculty of Health Sciences, who has received renewed funding to lead the mentoring program Belong@FHS
  • Dr Marie Stevenson from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, who will lead the project on Bridging Sociocultural Incongruity in the Undergraduate Education Curriculum (BIEC)

The University of Sydney launched the Widening Participation Grant program in 2011, as a joint initiative between the Social Inclusion Unit and the Institute for Teaching and Learning. The program is funded by the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships program (HEPPP).

It is designed to address the University's strategic goal to attract promising students from a variety of backgrounds and to support an inclusive and diverse learning environment.

Now in its third year, the program is attracting support from faculties to ensure the projects continue on an ongoing basis and are integrated into faculty-based social inclusion plans.

Staff who are interested in social inclusion are welcome to join the Widening Participation Scholars Network for information on projects, future grants and professional development opportunities.