ERG SES D 13, Teaching and Education
Widening participation brings a more diverse student cohort to universities, which presents opportunities for social justice, alongside specific pedagogical challenges. As in many advanced nations, the Australian Federal Government set specific targets for participation in higher education (HE) in order to grow the nation as a knowledge economy (Bradley et al. 2008). As Australian universities strive to engage students from diverse backgrounds with tertiary study, enabling programs have been developed. These are ‘bridging or foundational programs that provide opportunities to undertake higher education for those who lack the usual or traditional prerequisites for university entry and which enable them, not just by providing access, but by actively preparing them for success in their future undergraduate studies’ (Klinger & Murray 2010, p. 118). The students undertaking enabling programs have different needs from those who have traditionally attended university. Many students face complex issues when negotiating the transition to academic culture, such as language and cultural barriers, issues of cultural transition, being ‘first in family’ at university, developing a student identity, and anxiety about formal education. While enabling programs serve a specific need in HE, they have developed as a result of policy and are grounded in limited knowledge of what pedagogical approaches work for the diverse cohort now attempting to enter university through these programs. It is timely to consider what works and what is absent from current programs so that enabling program pedagogy can be strengthened.
Critical pedagogy is a useful framework with which to investigate enabling programs. Critical pedagogy understands education in terms of systemic power wherein some groups are privileged and others oppressed – an understanding that clearly resonates with the social inclusion objectives of university enabling programs. Critical pedagogy is firmly grounded in praxis and perceives education as a political act (Freire 2004). Education can be used as a system to reinforce hegemony, or it can be used as a space in which to create dialogue between educators and students, supporting each other to understand and re-create the world (Freire 2004; Degener 2001). If critical pedagogy is used to better understand and critique these programs in order to determine how they can best empower non-traditional students with agency, knowledge and skills for success in both HE and the broader community, then there is a greater likelihood of these truly becoming enabling programs.
Enabling program educators are well placed to discuss the specific needs of this cohort and offer insight into a developing enabling pedagogy. This case study will use critical approaches to analyse the responses of enabling program teaching academics at an Australian university college. This college has been selected due to the large and diverse student body, the open-access design of the program, and the strategic orientation of the university. Enabling program teaching academics were interviewed in order to determine what they perceive are the specific needs of this new cohort and what they identify as necessary for students successful transition to university education. These reflective practitioners came to the enabling program from diverse discipline backgrounds and bring varied teaching experience, offering a range of perspectives on this issue. They share a commitment to empowerment through education which informs their practice. The interviews identified a number of important themes for consideration, such as cultural capital and transformation, which highlight the complexities of teaching in this space and the differing approaches required in comparison to standard undergraduate teaching.
This research is one stage of a larger doctoral research project which will explore student and staff perspectives in order to identify possible gaps and generate recommendations for enabling pedagogy and practice.
Bradley, D, Noonan, P, Nugent, H & Scales, B 2008, Review of Australian Higher Education, Commonwealth of Australia, Australia. Degener, S 2001, ‘Making sense of Critical Pedagogy in Adult Literacy Education’, in JE Comings, BE Garner & CE Smith (eds) 2001, Annual Review of Adult Learning and Literacy. Volume 2. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, pp. 26-62. Dumenden, I E, 2011 ‘Agency as the Acquisition of Capital: The Role of One-On-One Tutoring and Mentoring in Changing a Refugee Student's Educational Trajectory‘, European Educational Research Journal, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 472-483. Freire, P 2004, Pedagogy of hope : reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, London. Klinger, C & Murray, N 2010, ‘Enabling education: adding value in an enterprise culture’ in in M Cooper (Ed) From access to success: closing the knowledge divide, Papers from the 19th Conference of the European Access Network, European Access Network, European Access Network, London, pp. 118-128, viewed 13 January 2016, < http://www.ean-edu.org/assets/from-access-to-success-closing-the-knowledge-divide.pdf >. Rogers, R, Fairclough, N & Gee, J 2004, An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education, L. Erlbaum Associates, New Jersey. Rogers, R, Malancharuvil-Berkes, E, Mosley, M, Hui, D & O’Garro Joseph, G 2005, ‘Critical Discourse Analysis in Education: A Review of the Literature’, Review of Educational Research, vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 365-416.
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