Undergraduate Study Hall 2013
Who is involved?
- Jennifer Barrett
- Kieryn McKay
- Rebecca Johinke
- Deborah Rodrigo
- Rita Shackel
- Belinda Smith
- Peter Lead
- Louisa Peralta
- Belinda Chambers
What have we done?
The Study Hall project offers an informal space where first year undergraduate students can take the opportunity to improve their academic, study and generic skills with the support of academic and professional staff and senior students from within the Division of Humanities & Social Sciences.
With increasing enrolments by students from low-SES backgrounds across DH&SS there is a need to provide adequate support to help them succeed academically and socially at University. Students from non-traditional backgrounds often have difficulty adjusting to the style of university teaching (James, Krause & Jenkins, 2010, DEST, 2005), have a greater burden in their adjustment to university (Greenbank, 2006), and much of the knowledge they have to acquire is often not made explicit to them (Devlin, 2011, Coller & Morgan, 2008). It is essential that these students are assisted in their learning so that they are able to feel at ease in the University culture and to succeed alongside fellow students.
Held for 3 hours, 3 days per week, the Semester 1 program ran to a full calendar of events, designed to progress in step with student experience during their first semester at university. Each week was constructed along a particular theme and the development of a specified academic skillset, and was serviced by staff from across the University, including: Arts eLearning, Learning Centre, Writing Hub, Student Administration, Clubs and Societies, SRC, Faculty 'Staying on Track' programs (e.g., Arts on Track), Liaison Librarians, Careers Centre, CAPS, Disability Services and Degree Directors across the Division. At each session, students were encouraged to engage with visiting staff, to study independently or in groups to develop good study habits, to build supportive peer networks, to share skills and knowledge, and to develop their graduate attributes in a comfortable, supportive environment.
The Study Hall project provides much needed peer, administrative and academic support to first year undergraduate students across the Division of Humanities & Social Sciences as they transition to the University environment. Here the project takes up the Division of Humanities & Social Sciences' commitment to social inclusion as a key strategic priority, and responds directly to the University's strategic plan to attract and support students of diverse backgrounds, to promote Indigenous participation, and to "enrich University life for all students".
What have we learned?
The success of the pilot Study Hall program has confirmed the great need for inclusive services that provide open, informal and cohesive access to student support services across the Division and throughout the University. Further than this, participating students reported a sense of security and confidence as a result of attendance at Study Hall, suggesting that it alleviates a sense of placelessness on campus, provides a useful support network, and gives vital access to staff. Our experiences in Semester 1 also gives good indication that:
- providing a safe environment for students to practice independent self-directed study aids the transition to university
- the involvement of academic and professional support staff ensures the dissemination of accurate information about university processes (confusion about which often proves an obstacle to student adjustment to the University environment)
- support from peers who are successfully progressing through their degrees models best-practice study skills
- facilitating links with existing support services on campus enables and promotes access to these initiatives
What are we planning?
The Semester 2 Study Hall program has been designed to consolidate the work done in the first half of the year, helping to build first year confidence in the academic skills they are well on the way to developing. It builds upon those elements of the Semester 1 pilot program that have been of substantial benefit to its first year participants, continuing to facilitate direct links between students and support staff, students and academics, and students and other students. Here the program draws upon successful Peer Mentoring and Peer-Assisted Learning Programs (e.g., PASS) within the University and provides an opportunity for student support services across the University to advance their engagement with first year students. Rounding off a full academic year of Study Hall offerings, the Semester 2 program seeks to empower its participants as independent scholars as they transition into their second year of study.
Research shows that it is essential that universities monitor the needs and experiences of students from non-traditional backgrounds if they are to implement targeted initiatives that genuinely enhance the quality of the first year experience for these students (DEST, 2005). From a strategic perspective, then, the Semester 2 program seeks to determine a best-practice for how such an initiative might continue into the future - that is, how Study Hall might best be linked to other University services, how Divisional services might best be modified in response to the existence of Study Hall, and how the program might best assist students in the successful transition to University.
Where has our funding come from?
2 x Widening Participation Implementation Grant 2013