No two postgraduate student experiences are alike, with diversity, as opposed to consistency, acting as the norm within the postgraduate student population (Eckersley et al, 2016, p5)
Dimensions of diversity
Postgraduate students differ across multiple dimensions.
“Diversity refers to implicit and explicit understanding that each student is unique. It is the notion that all postgraduate students have individual learning preferences, backgrounds, needs, and capacities, which need to be respected and valued to provide excellence and equity in higher education” (Morgan, 2013, cited in Eckersley et al, 2016, p 7).
Diversity in the postgraduate cohort brings unique challenges which need to be understood and addressed when designing and delivering learning and teaching in order to improve learning and employability outcomes for postgraduate students (Eckersley et al, 2016).
Diversity in motivations for study
Biggs and Tang (2011) also suggested educators consider the ‘diversity in motivation’ amongst their student cohorts. By this they suggest that some students enrolled in a unit may be intrinsically-motivated and others may be extrinsically-motivated. At ACU educators at the postgraduate level have reported that not all students demonstrate being intrinsically motivated – they may be doing their course because their employer is paying or requires it, or they need a postgraduate qualification in order to access promotion opportunities.
These differences in motivation may potentially impact a student’s engagement with their studies; when designing and delivering learning and teaching, consideration needs to be given to the diversity of student motivation for studying.
Learning and teaching strategies to address the diversity of postgraduate students
Design activities during class which address the unevenness of academic skills.
“E.g. examine a piece of text from different perspectives on the cognitive hierarchy; embed scaffolded reading and writing tasks in class materials and curriculum time; discuss planning and self-management skills (including time management and stress management)” ALTC Kift Senior Fellowship. (C) (n.d.).
Help students identify the relevant university supporting services (academic skills, peer-assisted study; course advice; financial support etc) (ALTC Kift Senior Fellowship. (n.d.)).
Help students access and use LEO, ensuring they know how and where to access help. (Eckersley et al).
Use a variety of methods to help postgraduate students feel a sense of belonging and connection to their course and the university (Eckersley et al, 2016).
Create activities or projects at the start of the semester in which the postgraduate students must interact with one another (Eckersley et al, 2016).
Seek feedback from your postgraduate students about how you can assist them with their learning (Eckersley et al, 2016). Refer to the Feedback strategies page.
Provide opportunities for students to self-assess and reflect on their own personal circumstances which may impact their studies, then link them with the resources to address any perceived gaps. (ALTC Kift Senior Fellowship. (n.d.))
Ensure the curriculum is offered in flexible ways to allow greater access for various cohorts. (Refer to the following examples:
ALTC Kift Senior Fellowship. (n.d.). First year curriculum principles: Briefing for institutional learning and teaching leaders [PDF]. Retrieved December 2017 from http://transitionpedagogy.com/reports-and-resources/principles-checklists/
ALTC Kift Senior Fellowship. (n.d.). First year curriculum principles: Program coordinator checklist [PDF]. Retrieved December 2017 from http://transitionpedagogy.com/reports-and-resources/principles-checklists/
ALTC Kift Senior Fellowship. (n.d.). First year curriculum principles: First year teacher [PDF]. Retrieved December 2017 from http://transitionpedagogy.com/reports-and-resources/principles-checklists/
Biggs, John B., and Catherine Tang. Teaching For Quality Learning At University, McGraw-Hill Education, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/acu/detail.action?docID=798265.
Eckersley, B., Crane, L., Kinash, S., Bannatyne, A., Hamlin, G., Partridge, H., Richardson, S., Rolf, H., & Udas, K. (2016). National research on the postgraduate student experience: Case presentation on postgraduate student diversity (Volume 2 of 3). Canberra, ACT: Australian Department of Education and Training. Retrieved from: http://PostgraduateStudentExperience.com