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Understanding higher education pathways through co-design

A student-centred approach: Understanding higher education pathways through co-design

Mollie Dollinger, Andrew Harvey and Ryan Naylor (La Trobe University); and Marian Mahat (University of Melbourne)

Every student’s pathway to higher education is unique. A range of factors, from their personal aspirations, the support and advice they receive in schools, and their distinct socio-cultural backgrounds can influence their decision to pursue higher education. Students from an equity background (for example, low socioeconomic status [SES], regional or remote, and Indigenous) further may have specific challenges and obstacles standing between them and the completion of a university degree.

In order to understand what specific support and advice students need, this project will harness students’ and stakeholders’ voices and perspectives on how resources and future intervention strategies can support student equity in higher education pathways. We will host a range of co-design workshops with three separate groups: students; parents and community members; and teachers and career advisors, to understand their insights and ideas into how to support student success. We aim to include a total of 20 schools across Australia, in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Our project recognises the diversity of low SES, regional, remote, and Indigenous contexts as we seek to understand both where comparisons can be found and where differences may lie. Our research outputs will include a national report as well as co-created tailored toolkits that translate our research findings into resources that parents, teachers, and other student influencers can use and adapt to their contexts.

Our project has the following research questions:

  1. What is the optimal nature, delivery, and timing of early-stage interventions (years 7 and 8) for students from equity groups?
  2. What are the motivations and barriers of students and key influencers in aspiring to/supporting higher education pathways?
  3. How do the varying motivations and barriers across equity groups and contexts modify the need for specified advice and/or intervention strategies?
  4. What resources can be co-designed with key stakeholders to support interventions and higher education pathways?

Through our research questions we will tackle several ongoing questions towards supporting low SES students in higher education pathways, such as the optimal time and delivery to provide advice, and how advice may need to be modified in specific contexts. Our co-design workshop approach also differs from traditional research methods such as surveys and interviews. By working with students and stakeholders through a range of activities such as storyboarding and role playing, we will expose the principles and strategies of design-thinking to our participants and encourage our communities to reflect on student success.

Our approach to co-design with participants avoids the common pitfall of marginalising research participants in projects that directly relate to them. By collaborating with our participants, the voices of low SES, Indigenous, and other stakeholders will be heard and harnessed into tangible resources, as well as inform future policy and practice.

Our project will result in three distinct toolkits on how to support students’ higher education pathways. Each toolkit will be contextualised for the specific audience and provide helpful tips, summarise previous research, and provide activities to promote positive behaviour. We will also communicate our major findings and recommendations into various academic outputs, conference presentations, and invited talks to local schools and communities.

Posted 26 September 2019 Posted in General, Indigenous, Low SES, Regional, rural and remote