As part of the Engaging Families to Engage Learners (EFEL) OLT Fellowship, I have been conducting workshops at various universities across Australia. These workshops are designed to both disseminate findings from previous research conducted with first-in-family learners and also, ‘start conversations’ about how this cohort can be best supported as well as how institutions might engage with the family and community of learners. The workshops are also a means to collect additional data and to date, 59 staff members, 8 first-in-family students and 44 family members / parents have been generous enough to share their opinions and experiences with both myself and Dr Janine Delahunty, who is assisting in this data collection.
The staff participants at workshops have been overwhelmingly positive about the workshops and the discussions that have been generated. The workshops attract a diversity of participants: the majority (50%) identify as professional staff members, with 21% working in student support services. Academic staff and equity practitioners represented 11% each. The remainder included policy makers, library staff, students and career counsellors
Out of the 59 participants who agreed to participate in the survey:
- 93% rated the workshop highly – as excellent or very good (with the remaining 7% selecting fairly–mildly good)
- All respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the workshop will be “useful in their work” and 95% indicated that they would use the resources from the workshop in their work or research, and that their knowledge in this area had increased.
The usefulness of the workshop activity was considered outstanding to above average by 95% because of the “solid, meaningful, helpful” research (#58), “networking opportunities” (#3), “reconnecting with colleagues” (#5), relevance to “my work with students” (#38) and a better understanding of the FiF cohort which is “huge … but not always specifically considered” (#22) or “is outside my experience” (#33).
The following comments provide greater depth to what others gained out of their attendance:
The workshop activity was an “eye opener and reminder of FiF cohort – not supported as a cohort but naturally falls across all our other targets i.e. low SES, ATSI“. (#10)
“Provided a perspective that I hadn’t taken into consideration before.” (#5)
“… using story/narrative to extract great data and insights Love the concept of drilling down to SUCCESSES and ENABLERS! – more useful!!!” (#11)
A key component of these workshops is to encourage groups to think through how they might implement these findings and outcomes practically. To achieve this, the workshops pose questions / conversation starters, encouraging participants to share current practices / ideas and imaginings in this area. The following comments indicate how these activities have generated new thoughts, new perspectives and provide a fertile ground for ‘thinking through’ initiatives:
“I have remembered to re-incorporate this knowledge into my practice with students by inviting family into discussions (literally or figuratively).” (#38)
“Be mindful of research results when engaging/planning events for primary and secondary on-campus events. Think of family support beyond ‘nuclear family’ idea of family.” (#5)
“Love the resources, I can’t wait to go through it in more detail.” (#59)
Are you interested in having a workshop at your institution?
Do you think you can gather together a broad cross-section of your university community to engage in conversations on this topic and learn more about first-in-family students?
(Activities in 2016 are subsidised by the Office for Learning and Teaching).