The University of Newcastle, Australia

Findings from UniSTARS Conference

Monday, 6 July 2015

Research Associate Dr Sally Baker attended the inaugural Uni Students Transitions Achievement Retention & Success (STARS) Conference in Melbourne last week.

Sally Baker presenting at UniSTARS conference

The UniSTARS Conference recognised that student issues in higher education extend throughout the life course of a student and became a platform for discussion around embedding equitable changes on an institutional scale.

"Some big ideas were floated at the UniSTARS Conference including a keynote from Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington around student choice and flexible co-curriculum, as well a whole-of-curriculum transition transformation that Marcus O'Donnell explored," said Dr Baker.

"I think what's most exciting for the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) is exploring the possibilities of what emerged at the conference based on the demand for change," she added.

Dr Baker along with Evonne Irwin from the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre delivered their paper at the conference that called for enabling educators to adapt their programs and practices according to feedback from school to university transitions.

Three key recommendations include:

  1. Develop and sustain meaningful conversations between enabling educators and faculties in regards to the kinds of language, texts and assessments that are valued to improve student relevance
  2. Develop partnerships with language practitioners to ensure reading and writing tasks are comprehensible; and to seek an understanding of what 'good' writing is and how to explain this to students
  3. Assess writing with careful consideration and rationale

The presentation was well received and the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education will collaborate with colleagues at UNISA, Curtin University and the University of Notre Dame about theorising open access programs and the place of diagnostic testing.

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