Students who have followed routes to Western universities other than the ‘traditional’ one–that is, an uninterrupted path from school to university–face greater challenges to their democratic participation in higher education than their ‘traditional’ counterparts. Until recently, universities have predominantly expected students with diverse entry points to assimilate into existing curricula and academic modes of operating. Such expectation, when combined with reductionist managerial accountability, has largely marginalised non-traditional students. This paper reports on a project which aimed to reverse this marginalisation in an Australian Bachelor of Social Work degree. It is argued that students from diverse linguistic, cultural and educational backgrounds, having greater challenges in negotiating privileged academic and discipline literacies, are better served pedagogically by curriculum design that resonates with their lifeworlds and makes tacit assumptions in university literacies explicit. Using practitioner action research in a partnership between a social work and an academic language and learning academic, pedagogies that utilised students’ literacy practices as assets for learning were enacted over two research cycles. The possibilities and constraints that emerged to support student learning and more equitable participation were examined. The findings suggest that it is possible, even under current preoccupations with measurements and budget constraints, to signal key points of negotiation for pedagogic change to respond more inclusively and equitably to contemporary university students.
- non-traditional students
- the measured university