Figuring things out from my friends': Encouraging collaboration among first year students at undergraduate and postgraduate level

Year: 2001

Author: Asmar, Christine, Peseta, Tai

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The first year on campus at a large university is a daunting one for many students. Recognising this, many universities in Australia, are now focusing on strategies suggested by the research into the first year experience. Strategies include encouraging student interactions inside and out of class, to promote a sense of belonging and to engage students in the active learning known to enhance academic outcomes. This approach is grounded in the student-focused framework of teaching and learning which is overtaking traditionally didactic methods – methods which in the past have located the teacher at the centre and the students on the margins of their own learning situations. Much of the research, together with much institutional re-thinking, has focused on school leavers. However, postgraduate students may also be entering a particular institution for the first time and may equally well feel a sense of isolation. This paper suggests that lessons drawn from the first year undergraduate experience, particularly those relating to the need for peer interactions, may be equally applicable to the postgraduate experience. It also argues that, in the case of research students, such interactions help students connect to a culture of research. Part of that culture involves supervisors, and the paper concludes by describing how a development program for new supervisors at the University of Sydney seeks to connect supervisors into a community of practice. The program fosters among academic staff the kind of interactions already seen to be so important for both undergraduate and graduate students.