How a learning skills course addressed transition, diversity and inclusion, and a sense of belonging for mature students seeking entrance to university: reflections of a Canadian learning specialist
Keywords:course development, mature students, belonging
Universities across Canada offer bridging programmes for mature students who would not otherwise have access to post-secondary education. The College of Arts at the University of Guelph developed their Academic Transition Program to support these students, with the cornerstone of the programme being a learning skills course, launched in Autumn 2022, that students must complete in order to be accepted into an undergraduate programme.
In the Canadian context, it is unusual for a learning specialist to act as course developer for the creation of an undergraduate credit course. This presentation shares a reflection on the theories that underpinned the course creation, most notably Kolb’s (1984) theory on experiential learning, Baxter-Magolda’s (1999) theory of self authorship, and the learning gained after wearing many hats – learning specialist, course developer, and sessional instructor.
The presentation explored:
- The tripartite arrangement developed to create the course.
- Ways in which the course addressed students’ transition to university.
- Considerations around diversity and inclusion.
- How the coursework supported a sense of belonging.
- Feedback from the students’ experience of the course.
- What was learned when the course was made available to traditional undergraduate students from first through fourth year.
- How this course intersects with the Canadian model of learning support.
- Sharing examples of course content, including weekly reflection questions.
- Lessons learned and plans for the future of the course, including alternative formats.
Making learning strategies explicit can support mature students’ level of success in higher education (Erb & Drysdale, 2017). This course combined theoretical and practical learning skill applications and opportunities to develop a sense of belonging for a diverse cohort of mature students.
Baxter-Magolda, M. (1999) Creating contexts for learning and self- authorship: constructive development pedagogy. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Erb, S. and Drysdale, M. (2017) ‘Learning attributes, academic self-efficacy and sense of belonging amongst mature students at a Canadian university’, Studies in the Education of Adults, 49(1), pp. 62-74. https://doi.org/10.1080/02660830.2017.1283754
Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice‐Hall.
Semper, J. V. O. and Blasco, M. (2018). ‘Revealing the hidden curriculum in higher education’, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 37(5) pp. 481-498. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-018-9608-5
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