Dr Juliana Ryan1, Ms Ruth Liston1, Dr Helen McLean1, Dr Greg Stratton1, Ms Rebecca Hiscock1
1RMIT , Melbourne, Australia
The importance of students’ transition into first year is widely recognised in Australian universities, as is the need to explicitly teach academic discourses and skills, given growing student diversity. While it is now routine in many disciplines to embed academic skills in curriculum, this is not always the case in Australian criminology programs, despite expansion nationally. This paper reports on preliminary findings from a project to embed academic skills into the curriculum of two core first year criminology subjects at a large metropolitan university. Data include students’ perceptions and experiences of learning academic skills, drawn from surveys completed through the year, and from students’ reflections on their learning, completed as part of course assessment. Interviews were conducted with teaching staff, who offered insights into academic skill development in criminology. Both academics and students defined academic skills broadly, so as to encompass study skills, such as time management; dispositions, such as motivation; and specific literacies, such as critical thinking and academic writing. Students were generally aware of the skills required for university study, but their perceptions of their competence varied. Meanwhile, teaching staff perceived that students lacked many of these skills and generally did not understand and appreciate the value of ongoing skill development for successful study. This highlighted a gap between students’ perceptions of skills required and their actual ability to demonstrate those skills in their studies. Findings offer some early insights into good practice in learning and teaching academic skills for criminology.
Juliana teaches in undergraduate programs in Criminology and Justice Studies. She came to academia via a deliberately varied career that included roles in community legal centres, legal and human rights education, and equity program management. Spanning access and equity in higher education, inclusive curriculum and pedagogy, professional learning and communities of practice, Juliana’s research focuses on the ways that policy and other discourses shape what it is possible to imagine, be, do and become in educational settings.