Adding ‘values’ to transition pedagogy: embedding institutional commitments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, diverse communities and environmental sustainability in a compulsory first-year transition course at a regional university

Year: 2019

Author: Keys, Noni, Adkins, Mary-Rose

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As teachers in a first year, whole of university, compulsory course we are committed to supporting students in transitioning to university life, developing skills for academic communication, and exploring disciplinary identities. Drawing on transition literature and student reflections, we argue that the most prevalent inductionist approach to transition pedagogy can be extended to a connectivist one (Gale & Parker 2014) by providing opportunities for students to explore ‘troublesome knowledge’ around social and environmental justice issues in Australia. The paper describes a case study of teaching and learning experience with ‘Communication and Thought’ (COR109), a course modelled on principles of transition pedagogy where curriculum is understood to include all the academic, social and support aspects of the student experience to provide a sense of engagement, belonging and support, while navigating the process of ‘becoming somebody’ (Ecclestone 2009). This aspect of personal and interpersonal development of becoming somebody aligns with notions of fostering authenticity where students are supported to see themselves as ‘members of a wider community’ to which they feel responsibility (Kreber 2013). It requires a focus on graduate attributes that not only focus on ‘doing’ (technical skills) but also ‘being’, the self -authorship of becoming a ‘democratic citizen’ (Kreber 2013). COR109, therefore, aims to deliver an integrated system of curricular and co-curricular supports for first year students focused on academic literacies. Academic literacies should be considered to include literacies that support learning not only within but across disciplines and offer a framework for ‘connecting academic discourse/learning to life beyond the university’ (Young & Potter, 2013:4). Underlying this approach is a commitment to develop students’ capacity to engage with change and to succeed in their journey through their degrees. We conclude that a university transition course can offer opportunities for first year students that extend beyond conforming to existing institutional norms, by collaborating across disciplines and exploring social justice issues that defy resolution within any one discipline. Our paper has implications for the development or renewal of transition courses that aim for a more holistic concept of students becoming engaged citizens of academia and beyond.