This blog is part of a series co-authored by Kathy Egea and Jacqueline Melvold, and provides an overview of the principles of first-year curriculum. These are drawn from Transition Pedagogy (Kift 2009) and adapted for UTS purposes. Content is drawn from resources and practices through the First and Further Year Experience (FFYE) program, which has been using transition pedagogy since 2011. More depth can be found in the ‘FY Transition’ module developed by the co-authors, and is freely available on CAULLT’s Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching MOOC.

Following the initial principle of ‘transition’, the second principle is about understanding and respecting the diversity of your class. This can be implemented with a coherent, supportive and inclusive approach to the design of your curriculum, which can result in an enriched educational experience for all students.

Principle #2: Diversity

Previously, cohort diversity was seen as a challenge to overcome. Academics now appreciate that inclusive practice is a strength-based model, with new opportunities to build from these experiences. Diversity enables us to reflect on ways our teaching practice can build a rich and safe learning environment to acknowledge, value and respect the different knowledges and experiences that the students bring into the classroom.

Diversity is the second of 6 first-year curriculum principles – it recognises that students come from varied backgrounds, groups and experiences, and have different needs and approaches to learning.
Infographic by Jacqueline Melvold

For this principle, we have addressed three concepts, each with practical suggestions: 

1. Know diversity of the cohort, particularly in your own class 

  • Take the time to find who are your students, their circumstances and what they might need to succeed 
  • Acknowledge, honour and celebrate the diversity within your classroom
  • Foster connection and relationship building between peers 

2. Start with where students are and build from there 

  • Create a space where all students feel safe to participate by embedding inclusive practices 
  • Encourage students to bring their whole self to class, and to draw from and share the richness of their experiences 
  • Keep an open mind about your students and their capabilities – build from where the students are at
  • Build confidence in student’s academic capability by scaffolding activities and providing early feedback/touchpoints to enable student success 
  • Celebrate students’ progress rather than immediate achievements  

3. Offer strategic support  

  • Be proactive and offer strategic support in a positive way
  • Help students to become independent learners 
  • Guide students towards additional support services within the subject and the wider university
  • Support students with diverse backgrounds to succeed
  • Be compassionate – some students may need flexibility and additional support throughout their learning journey 

From Principle to Practice

Below, we look at two case studies that support these concepts. Lucy Allen shows that you don’t need detailed data to get make your students feel comfortable in their first class, while Katrina Waite and Jan McLean open up the possibilities for the quieter voices to be heard in discussions.

Case study: getting you know you

Lucy Allen reveals how she gets to know her students using a ‘Getting to know you’ survey, ensuring that all students feel comfortable in the process. She runs this at the beginning of a subject, and feeds back a high level of the information collected (nothing personal about students) to the cohort. A key outcome of this student survey is awareness of what pronouns to use for each of your students.

This video (3.24) contains closed captions and the transcript is available here (pdf 2.1MB) 

Case study: a gentle disruption for inclusion and belonging

This activity from Katrina Waite and Jan McLean was designed as a professional development activity for a FYE Forum. It was designed to disrupt the ‘monopoliser’ within discussion groups, providing a safe space for all group members to engage and feel that their diverse ideas were valued. You can read about the FYE Forum that featured the original presentation and download the activity here:

The 6 principles 

There are six First-year Curriculum Principles (FYCPs) linked to Transition Pedagogy. Click on the text to read our blog post about that particular principle. 

  1. Transition
  2. Diversity
  3. Design
  4. Engagement
  5. Assessment
  6. Evaluation and monitoring

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