Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Barriers and bridges to student uptake and engagement in accessing English language support (#10)

Jenni Bedford 1
  1. University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)


This paper showcases an initiative to encourage independence in accessing a tertiary online learning programme. It is compulsory for all first year students at the Faculty of Education (University of Auckland) to have their academic English language skills assessed by the Diagnostic English Language Needs Assessment (DELNA). Those diagnosed as needing to develop their English language skills must develop an individual learning plan with a DELNA adviser. This plan links them to an online Moodle programme. As part of the process, students reflect on their learning in an online journal. Students who receive the lowest band score levels must demonstrate progress through a Post DELNA assessment before their final Practicum placement.

The paper reports on a three-year research project focusing on factors that make a difference in uptake of support offered. The participants were twelve ‘at risk’ Bachelor of Education students. An inductive analysis was made of online journal data and two semi-structured interviews per year. Interview questions focused on three different types of interaction to gauge levels of student engagement: interaction with online content; interaction with the technology; and online interactions between the adviser and student.

The discussion will focus on key themes elicited from the interviews, and reflect on how data resulted in changes to the online programme. Themes include the importance of motivation, self-regulation and self-efficacy in student uptake of support. Barriers identified included an inability to navigate online, too much content choice, a lack of immediate feedback, and the need for more peer interaction. Most concerning was the lack of connection students made between the online support and their course work. The ‘at risk’ students required a more structured, scaffolded approach with direct links to their course content. Bridges identified by successful students included the ability to employ a range of learning strategies, good time management skills, and clear learning goals.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)


Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capability

The paper directly addresses the chosen theme because it reports on an English language assessment tool that is used to evaluate readiness of students to graduate in teacher education. The DELNA post entry assessment tool has become compulsory for all first year students at the Faculty of Education (University of Auckland). This is to ensure that all students are able to meet the graduating teacher standards (New Zealand Teachers Council). The initial challenge was to ensure maximum engagement with the DELNA assessment process. However, in the longer term the greater challenge is to ensure that students who are identified as needing academic language enrichment gain access to appropriate opportunities to do so. This is not only a matter of placing students in the appropriate courses or workshops. It also involves the broader aim of supporting students to be independent learners who recognise for themselves the need to enhance their academic language skills. An online learning programme enables advisers to monitor student levels of uptake, engagement and independence.