Differentiating standardisation: The case for outreach as inclusive education

This presentation draws on data from an ongoing, longitudinal evaluation of one widening participation and outreach program in NSW, Australia. In a policy context where national standardised testing has been formally linked to successful secondary school completion, one activity within this program sought to encourage students’ potential engagement with university pathways through supporting successful completion of such testing. In this presentation, we draw on longitudinal interview data, as well as observations, work samples and focus groups from the days on which the activity was run to explore how the activity was experienced by students. In longitudinal interviews, students reflected upon the experience as helpful in preparing them for what was an unfamiliar, formalised testing environment. However, observational data from the days in which this program was held told a slightly more nuanced story about students’ experiences of the program. This data prompted us to consider the practical implications of rolling out a ‘program’ of learning which is centrally designed at universities, yet implemented in specific, local school contexts. We thereby contribute to the higher education space by discussing potential inclusive practices in program design, and exploring how the differentiation of outreach programmes may serve to be more inclusive of diverse student populations. We argue that this may come to be a fundamental consideration for the ongoing development of widening participation programs, given their purpose in drawing in a wider, less ‘standardised’ student enrolment.

This research draws on a HEPPP-funded study conducted with the involvement of: Samantha McMahon, Nathan Berger, Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes, Valerie Harwood, Debra Hayes and Meghan Stacey, in collaboration with Mary Teague, Katy Head, Kristy O’Neill and Rhiannon Allen, over the period 2018-2020.