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Susan Crozier Unitec New Zealand
Themes: the student experience and learning, skills development
Wednesday 3 September 2008, 09.00-10.00 in Penthouse B
This paper considers questions surrounding the best location for student learning development and support in relation to the curriculum. The context for the study is a tertiary institution in New Zealand at which stand-alone, generic study support located outside of the formal curriculum has been an established practice since the 1980s, although good teaching practice has long worked with learning services and incorporated learning development into course delivery. In New Zealand, as elsewhere, learning development and support was originally intended to meet the needs of a few students, but the massification and internationalisation of tertiary education has meant that the demand for support to augment students’ academic literacies has expanded.
Although the model of stand-alone, generic learning development and support has been common in Australia and New Zealand for many years, the argument for integrated delivery has been well made and the practice of course-specific delivery is now increasingly common. However, recent scholarship from the UK argues that academic literacies development and study support should be fully integrated into discipline teaching (Wingate, 2006; Clegg, Bradley & Smith, 2006). Wingate (2006), for example, contends that stand-alone study skills provision is neither relevant nor usable for students, compared with instruction that is integrated and subject specific.
Clearly the case in favour of integrated delivery has a considerable body of argument behind it. However, this paper contends that it is still worth pausing to reflect on the benefits for the student learning experience from learning development and support that is separate from the formal curriculum. There are two reasons for this. To begin with, there may be certain gendered and culturally specific assumptions underpinning the critique of student learning support that require closer examination. Inherent in the literature is a hidden curriculum requirement that certain attitudes and behaviours in relation to independence and support-seeking are more desirable (Leathwood, 2006; Chanock, 2004). Leathwood (2006) clearly identifies the operation of sexist, racist and class-bound assumptions in condemnation of support-seeking and valorisation of independence. Furthermore, learning support practitioners’ accounts of their work with students indicate that there are unique benefits to the providers’ extra-curricular location, while students’ comments indicate that those who take advantage of it clearly value the additional support as part of their learning experience.
This paper’s inquiry is thus both a conceptual one and a qualitative one. It begins by examining discourses surrounding student learning support. It then presents findings from interviews in which both practitioners and student s were invited to reflect on their experience with learning development and support that was delivered alongside the formal curriculum.