NPP Projects

Language and Literacy Skills for Post First Year Students: Pilot Program

Lead University: Victoria University

Lead Researcher: Fiona Henderson

Research Team: Fiona Henderson

Year Funded: 2015

Funding Received: $40,846

DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.6984278.v1



This project aimed to improve the retention and progress of low SES post-first year students. This was implemented through language and literacy workshops; the exploration of strategies to encourage student engagement; and a reusable algorithm to identify appropriate interventions for at-risk students. The pilot program yielded positive results, focusing primarily on development of academic skills and self-management, within the context of personal and professional goals.

Project Outline

  • The project had three main objectives:
    • aid retention and progress of low socioeconomic status (SES), post-first year students through the development and implementation of a concurrently taught language and literacy program
    • develop a reusable algorithm for analysing student results to identify appropriate interventions
    • explore various ways to reach post-first year students to encourage them to attend workshops.
  • The process for the language and literacy program was to target one unit. In this case, within the community development course, ASA2025 Transnational Social Movements was selected as the overall demographics fitted the funding; the discipline lecturer was keen; and the content and assessment appropriate. Academic support was embedded into the unit’s classes via workshops on writing assignments and example assignments were provided and discussed. This was supplemented by one-to-one writing feedback in person or online as appropriate.
  • The algorithm for identifying appropriate interventions was focused on a data search of all students who had enrolled in Semester 1 for 2015 who had failed 50 per cent or more of study load in the second semester 2015. In a Pilot Program 2 the project managers focused on a Community Development course where it was noted that there were more First-in-Family and low SES students.
  • Numerous strategies were employed to explore ways to reach post-first year students and encourage them to come to workshops. These included workshop fliers, emails and SMSs. For Pilot Program 2, the project managers trained successful post-first year students from Pilot Program 1 to directly telephone students who had failed at the moment of maximum motivation, two days after their exam results. For Pilot Program 3 in December 2014, project organisers also contacted students via Victoria University Facebook and other additional channels.

Key Findings

  • The post-first year pilot program was very successful in meeting aspects of its outcomes, with very positive student feedback for those who continued to attend voluntary workshops. The pilot program focused primarily on the exploration of possible strategies that could encourage students to access academic skills and self-management.
  • The project managers cited three main achievements:
    • The transformation of students who were involved in the Pilot Program 1 group — those who attended all workshops (initial, mid-semester break and exam preparation). Students noted in their feedback that the initial workshops had reset their study habits from the beginning. They had learned to access support and to self-manage.
    • The setting up of workshops involving both academic and information literacy within one session. This worked best ‘just in time’, i.e. three to four weeks before an assignment is due, and exercises on clarifying the assessment topic could lead to the articulation of library search terms. It worked best in the lecture/tutorial time slot so it was taken by the students to be an integral part of the curriculum.
    • Processes were established where staff from different sections of the Centre for Student Success worked in collaboration to provide sessions for the post-first year pilot program students (Academic Support and Development (ASD), Students Supporting Student Learning i.e student peer mentoring, Counselling and Careers).
  • The main highlight was the success of the second year unit where an ASD lecturer was embedded in all classes. Apart from figures for non-withdrawal and special considerations, all students passed. Many of these students were of the same demographic that the project managers were targeting in the post first year pilot.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 7 June 2018