New Students and Enabling Pedagogies: Supporting Students from Diverse Backgrounds through a University Enabling Program

By Jennifer Stokes.

Published by The International Journal of Diversity in Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 14, 2014 $US5.00

The 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education (HE) set widening participation targets to diversify Australian universities (Bradley et. al, 2008). This paper discusses effective enabling pedagogies for new students through a case study of an enabling program at an Australian university college. The Foundation Studies program is designed to provide access and transition to university for students from equity groups. In 2008, 16% of university enrolments came from low socio-economic status backgrounds (low-SES) and the HE Review set a target of 20% by 2020 (Bradley et. al 2008); in comparison, 50% of students at this college identify as low-SES (UniSA 2013). UniSA College students include refugees and new Australian citizens, with 20% of students coming from non-English speaking backgrounds (UniSA 2013). The College was established in 2011 and has seen rapid growth of student numbers, as well as a diverse student cohort. The Foundation Studies program is free for Australian citizens and humanitarian visa holders, offering access to university with minimal financial risk. Klinger and Murray note that the retention rates in enabling programs are usually around 50% (2012), whereas the current success rate for Foundation Studies is 60% (UniSA 2013). Students from equity groups attain success at the same rate as other College students (UniSA 2013) suggesting that differences are normalised in this supportive environment. Given the more diverse backgrounds and limited educational experience of those undertaking College programs, informed educational practices and enabling pedagogies are required to support these new students. Reflection on educational practice at the College highlights three approaches which are particularly valuable as enabling pedagogies: transition pedagogy, inclusive practice and critical pedagogy. On completion of the program, students apply for competitive GPA-based entry to undergraduate degrees. In 2012, 85% of the students who completed College programs were offered a place in an undergraduate degree at the University of South Australia (UniSA 2013). The success of this College model highlights the importance of enabling pedagogies and extended support services for widening university participation and supporting diverse student needs.

Keywords: Enabling Program, Enabling Pedagogies, Widening Participation

The International Journal of Diversity in Education, Volume 13, Issue 2, March 2014, pp.115-124. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 14, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 185.542KB)).

Jennifer Stokes

Lecturer, UniSA College, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Jennifer Stokes is a lecturer at UniSA College. Jennifer has worked at the University of South Australia since 2001, specialising in teaching Foundation Studies, digital literacy, screen studies, and film and multimedia production, both in Adelaide and Singapore. Her background in film and multimedia production and her commitment to social inclusion through education informs an innovative approach to course content. She has considerable experience working with students from equity groups and is passionate about motivating students and developing engaging course material to support quality learning outcomes. In 2008, she and colleague Sophie Relf received an Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation ‘for inspiring student engagement and motivation through student focused, innovative course content and teaching excellence in media arts’. Jennifer has coordinated the core Foundation Studies course 'Introduction to Tertiary Learning' since 2009 and also coordinates UniSA College’s information literacy and research course 'Information Skills'. In 2012, she presented research papers on the diverse educational needs of students from equity groups at conferences in Ireland, England and New Zealand. Prior to joining UniSA College, she worked at the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education as Project Coordinator for the social inclusion site