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Supporting Students from Low SES Backgrounds: Humanities and Social Sciences Tutor Workshop Initiative

The University of Adelaide’s Humanities and Social Sciences faculty retention team designed an online module and delivered a live workshop to increase tutors’ understanding of best practices for supporting students from low SES backgrounds


The University of Adelaide has one of the highest numbers of students from low SES backgrounds out of the Group of Eight universities, and the Humanities and Social Sciences (HumSS) faculty has the highest enrolment of these students. Since tutors are the often the face of the university, particularly to first-year students, the HumSS faculty retention team has designed a one-hour online module using Articulate Storyline and delivered a two-hour interactive workshop building off of the content of the module. The purpose of the module and workshop is to disseminate research on best practices for supporting students from low SES backgrounds conducted by Devlin et al (2012), make tutors aware of the university resources available to students, and provide a space for tutors to discuss their teaching experiences.

Online module
Titled ‘Supporting Students from Low SES Backgrounds,’ this module included five parts:

  1. Introduction: Who Are Our Students?
  2. Encouraging Participation in Tutorials
  3. Preparing Students for Assessment
  4. Reflective Pedagogy, and
  5. University Resources.

The module provides information on HEPPP funding and the Bradley Report, as well as our university and faculty’s aims in terms of enrolment and retention. The module uses research from Devlin et al (2012) on supporting students from low SES backgrounds and tailors their findings to the context of a tutor’s role within HumSS faculty at the University of Adelaide. The module also provides information on reflecting on one’s teaching practice, and provides descriptions of the university resources that students might need to be referred to, such as Counselling, Disability Services and Study Skills Support.

Through videos from experienced tutors, first year students, and university resource providers, new tutors received a comprehensive introduction to the practice of teaching at this university and the ways to support students who might not hold the cultural knowledge or possess the academic confidence we often assume.

Live workshop
The two-hour live workshop was held on 1 August 2014. The HumSS retention team, consisting of Dr Jillian Schedneck, Dr Steph Hester and Dr Shannon Burns, led the twenty tutors in interactive sessions on promoting academic confidence, understanding the impact of learning styles and discussing practical ways to prepare students for their upcoming assessment tasks. The twenty participating tutors were paid for three hours of their time from our faculty’s HEPPP funding.

Outcomes and Feedback
The workshop and module received excellent feedback from the twenty tutors involved:

“Workshop and module really helped me a lot as a relatively new tutor — really tackled questions I had / things I needed to know. Especially for running tutorials, prep for assessment — I gained more clarity about how to go about it.”

“Realising issues I have come across are widespread and hearing how others have dealt with them. I really believe there should be more forums like this and support for tutors generally.”

The Future
The module will remain a stand-alone resource available to all faculty, and HumSS will be running the workshop again next semester. The retention team will also be running bi-monthly meetings for critical conversations about tutors’ continuing teaching practice throughout the semester.

Posted 15 August 2014 Posted in General, Low SES