A Guide for Educators in Higher Education: Responding to diversity for positive academic outcomes
Written by Dr Jill Scevak, Dr Erica Southgate, Dr Mark Rubin, Ms Suzanne Macqueen, Dr Heather Douglas and Mr Paul Williams, The University of Newcastle Australia
Recent government objectives aimed at increasing student enrolment from non-traditional backgrounds has led to a broadening of the university student enrolment base. The profile of the university student population has diversified, and diversification is likely to continue.
Diverse student groups may include, but are not limited to:
- Students from low socio-economic status (LSES) backgrounds
- Students from rural, regional and remote areas
- Mature age students
- Indigenous students
- Students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- Students with disability, and
- Students who are the first in their family (firstgeneration) to attend university.
For many of these students, previous educational and life experiences have not prepared them for the potential challenges of university study. Even between students, there can be vast differences in levels of preparedness (McInnis et al, 1995). Although many students will make the transition to university successfully, transition can be problematic for others.
Teaching and assessment practices in many high schools can inhibit student’s development of the self-regulated learning style that is expected at university. This, in addition to the demands of university teaching strategies, formal lectures, time management, note taking, study skills, and new technologies, can leave up to 20-30 per cent of students, both young and old, experiencing difficulties in their personal, social, cultural, and academic lives (Lowe & Cook, 2003; Cantwell, Scevak & Spray, 2014). Transitional problems have, to some degree, been addressed through the introduction of an array of support programmes. Nonetheless, it remains apparent that there are aspects of adjustment to university life that remain problematic for many students.
The aim of this guide is to address the changing needs of undergraduate students, provide perspectives on pedagogy, and suggest a number of teaching strategies.