Frances Williamson leads OLT funded project

Frances Williamson

ICS HDR student Frances Williamson is leading a new Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) funded project PASSwrite. PASSwrite presents a strategic and sustainable approach to the development of student critical and communicative capabilities, particularly those of underprepared and 'non-traditional' students. The project brings together a well established and effective peer-learning model (PASS) with the best practice model of discipline-based academic literacy to create group learning environments in which students engage in critical reading, writing and dialogue around the concepts, language and conventions of their own academic discipline. This initiative draws on Frances' own doctoral research into the factors shaping the development of academic literacy among domestic LBOTE (language background other than English) students in higher education.

The working title of Frances' PhD is 'Generation 1.5: the LBOTE blind spot'.

Frances was interviewed by The Australian on 18 March for their article below on the Office for Learning and Teaching grants.

Get it write

By Bernard Lane

The Australian, 18 March 2013

A MUTUAL help approach to sharper writing and reading for students is among 32 new learning and teaching projects.

"These projects will directly benefit students and staff by allowing them to investigate, develop and implement the latest innovations in educational methods," said tertiary education minister Chris Bowen.

The 32 projects worth $4.8 million and funded by the federal Office for Learning and Teaching include topics such as web-based nutrition data for medical students, 3D visualisation for business analytics, and how to ease the transition of professionals from industry into academia.

One theme is the effect on learning and teaching of the new regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.

TEQSA has put out ground rules for its quality audit of English language proficiency, and the Higher Education Standards Panel has released draft threshold standards to do with learning outcomes.

Citing TEQSA supervision and today's more diverse student body, the University of Western Sydney's OLT project outline says "there is a need to improve students English language proficiency and academic literacy".

In partnership with the University of Technology, Sydney, the $50,000 project involves the use of peer learning to encourage students in critical reading and writing in their disciplines.

Third year student "facilitators" with a track record in writing work with groups of up to 10 mostly first year students.

Team leader Frances Williamson, of UWS, said the PASSwrite project married the widely used PASS peer learning approach with academic literacy, meaning it could be adopted by universities across the sector.

She said UWS was running PASSwrite for humanities and business students at four of its five campuses. The university has a high proportion of students from non-English speaking backgrounds. UTS would use PASSwrite in business.

Ms Williamson said the OLT seed funding would be used to develop a training package.

"In our experience, the most important thing is the recruitment and the training of the (senior student) facilitators. You're asking students to do what academics used to do," she said.

"At the end of it, there will be a package that other universities can pick up."

9 April 2013