Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Shoemaker

Professor Adam Shoemaker

Professor Adam Shoemaker, Vice Chancellor of Southern Cross University, will open the conference and welcome us to the University. Professor Shoemaker is one of Australia's leading researchers in the area of Indigenous literature and culture. A former Commonwealth Scholar, Professor Shoemaker is the author or editor of nine books in the field of Indigenous literature and culture, and is also widely published in the areas of international and digital education; race relations; and cultural studies.

Professor Mike Osborne

Professor Mike Osborne

Professor Mike Osborne is Director of Research andChair of Adult and Lifelong Learning (at the University of Glasgow. He is experienced in adult and continuing education, Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Higher Education research, development and evaluation.

He is the Director of the Centre for Research and Development in Adult and lifelong learning (CR&DALL) and Co-director of the PASCAL Observatory on Place Management, Social Capital and Lifelong Learning.

Keynote presentation entitled: Access, Retention and Progression - an International Overview

The aim to create more equitable access to Higher Education is longstanding and can be traced back as a concern of policy-makers and practitioners in all continents since the 1960s. Bodies such as UNESCO, the OECD and the World Bank as well as national governments are amongst those who have argued for both the economic and wider societal benefits of widening participation for those groups who have traditionally been excluded from HE. In this presentation, I will present a brief international overview of the forms of initiative that have been put into place and their impact not only on widening access, but also on progression, completion and ultimately the achievement of the societal and individual benefits. The success or otherwise of access initiatives is dependent on a variety of factors amongst others: the regulatory and policy framework at regional and national level; structural and functional diversity within higher education systems; and the forms of openness within individual institutions. Each of these areas is explored, with a focus on the various stages of the access journey.

Professor Karen Nelson

Professor Karen Nelson

Professor Karen Nelson is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) at University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. Her research areas include:

  • student learning engagement, success and experiences of higher education
  • student engagement and retention
  • first year in higher education
  • information and knowledge systems in organisations.

Keynote presentation entitled: Engagement as an enabling mechanism

The term student engagement is variously interpreted but it is generally accepted that engagement is inherently linked to student success because it acts to compensate for previous social, cultural and educational disadvantage. Recently, my research has focused on how 'engagement' works as an enabling mechanism for diverse cohorts at regional universities. I am particularly interested in the role 'engagement' can perform in improving student success rates at universities where completion times are longer and retention rates are lower. In this address, I will examine a modified framework of student engagement (Kahu and Nelson, 2017) and present evidence of a large qualitative multi-institutional study that investigated the role of engagement in student success through a series of case studies. I will also unpack some of the complexity surrounding the wider context of student engagement to examine the intersecting roles of contextual factors and student equity characteristics and their impact on student success.
Keywords: student engagement, student success, regional higher education, equity groups

Professor Norm Sheehan

Professor Norm Sheehan

Professor Norm Sheehan is a Wiradjuri man. He is currently Director of Gnibi College SCU. In this role he has led the development of two new degrees the Bachelor of Indigenous Knowledge and the Bachelor of Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing. The starting point for these degrees is a Unit called Indigenous Scholarship which aims to enable students to situate their learning productively in the most contested field for inquiry. This approach is based on Professor Sheehan's expertise in Indigenous Knowledge and Education that employs visual and narrative principles to activate existing strengths within Indigenous education contexts for all individuals and learning communities.

Keynote presentation entitled: Culture and Enabling Connection

Cultural imperatives such as competition, rigour and austerity may be deemed essential to success in disciplines but as a general theme in education these values can also alienate and limit. For example from an Aboriginal perspective there is a tendency in Western education to reward the ability to disconnect from fellows, others and the environment. Research demonstrates that student connectedness is a major feature in education that can enhance student achievement and mediate student behaviour. However a working understanding of connectedness is elusive because it is the sum of each student's feeling of connection and sense of belonging.

Competitive education stresses that the best students come out on top regardless but this assumption is challenged in light of student connectedness. Many bottom students excel when they feel connected. Adaptive students will connect in some way to endure and succeed even in alienating and divisive contexts. Aboriginal students are excellent at this adaptability but how much are our students separated and at what cost?

If connectedness is a path to achievement then how does an Aboriginal student connect within higher education? Connection research describes authentic relationships, care for students and a whole institution dedication to understanding connection itself. I will investigate this connectedness a bit further showing Indigenous Knowledge ways.

Nick Zepke

Associate Professor Nick Zepke

Associate Professor Nick Zepke is a mostly retired New Zealand Associate Professor of adult education who previously worked with undergraduate and postgraduate teachers of adults and now supervises students working on doctoral theses dealing mostly with student engagement in higher education. His research interests have been divided between learning and teaching in higher and further education and taking a critical approach to futures and policy studies. These two interests have latterly come together in his work on student engagement. Email: n.zepke@massey.ac.nz

Recent publications include:

  • Zepke, N. (2014). What future for student engagement? Higher Education 69 (4), 693-704 DOI: 10.1007/s10734-014-9797-y.
  • Zepke, N. (2015). Student engagement research: Thinking beyond the mainstream. Higher Education Research and Development, 34 (6), 1311-1323.

Keynote presentation entitled: Learning with peers, active citizenship and student engagement in Enabling Education

The special needs of learners in Enabling Education have been widely documented. The same is true of ways to support such learning needs. This address examines one specific question: what support do students in Enabling Education need to learn behaviours, knowledge and attitudes to succeed in education, employment and life? Success appears in many guises. It can mean achieving officially desired outcomes such as retention, completion and employment. It can also mean achieving less measurable outcomes such as deep learning, wellbeing and active citizenship. The paper first introduces an overarching success framework before exploring how the widely used student engagement pedagogy can support learners to achieve both official and personal success outcomes. It then develops two specific constructs applicable to Enabling Education and found in student engagement: facilitated peer learning and active citizenship. Peer learning is here connected to teacher supported but peer facilitated mentoring; active citizenship to educational experiences in classrooms, institutions and workplaces that support flexibility, resilience, openness to change and diversity. Finally, examples of support strategies are provided.