Understanding the Learner: Effective course design in the changing higher education space

Angela Jones, Anita Olds, Joanne Lisciandro


Due to the ‘Bradley’ review of Higher Education in 2008, there has been a shift in demographics of students entering universities in Australia (Bradley, Noonan, Nugent & Scales, 2008). Moreover, the uncertainty around university funding has created additional challenges for many universities. However, as Jobs once stated “innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat” (2011), and emerging from this space arose an opportunity at Murdoch University to create OnTrack Sprint, which specifically aimed to capture school-leavers aspiring to university but achieving an ATAR just below the cut-off for direct entrance (i.e. between 60 - 69.95). This four-week intensive program was offered for the first time pre-semester one, 2015. Of those who started the course, 92% were retained and 96% of retained students progressed to enrolling in an undergraduate course at Murdoch University. The effectiveness of this enabling program stemmed from a curriculum that was informed by the learning needs (Kift, 2009) of this targeted demographic. This paper dances with the idea that a successful student-teacher relationship is reliant on ‘knowing’ your learner (Hattie, 2009) and refers to the program OnTrack Sprint to demonstrate how an effective transition pedagogy that is cognisant of the learner can be intentionally constructed and delivered to effectively engage and transition enabling students.


transition pedagogy; engagement zone; enabling education; alternate pathways; academic skills

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Banner image:Kira Jovanovski (2020), movement score 01 (detail): oil stick and acrylic on paper. Photograph by Kira Jovanovski. Cover image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), grunt_iteration 02 in the boughs and stamped: installation. Photograph by Jedidiah Cranfield. (c) the artist.




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