Students in the first year science courses have limited time with tutors in tutorial and practical classes due to the low contact hours at USC, compared to many other universities in Australia. Many students starting at USC do not have sufficient background knowledge in science or have not studied science for many years. Access to tutors for assistance outside class is limited due to the large cohort courses being reliant on sessional tutors and budgets not extending to pay for additional consultation hours. The course coordinator, therefore, is left with the option of being swamped with multiple requests for student consultation, or worse still, students feel they have no options to seek further assistance with their specific studies in science and are left floundering. The concept of the Pop-up shop in retail was devised to create a “buzz” which also used “empty spaces”. From this idea the PopUp SQuAD was born. The PopUp SQuAD – Science Questions and Answers Drop-in - is an initiative to provide just-in-time support for students studying foundational science in large cohort courses. PopUp SQuAD provides a just-in-time opportunity for student consultation with tutors outside scheduled class hours. Twice weekly drop-ins sessions of one hour duration per course are available at the PopUp tent. The PopUp tent is a portable popup gazebo furnished with camp style table and chairs. The tent is conveniently located in or around the grassed area near the Brasserie and sessions are timed around the lunch hour to maximise visibility. The Popup is staffed by current tutors and/or demonstrators in the first year courses Cell Biology, Introbioscience, Chemistry and Science Research Methods. Some tutors teach across courses thus maximising opportunity for students who seek help. As the PopUp SQuAD Coordinator I work with the course coordinators in the recruitment and employment of the team of PopUp SQuAD tutors. PopUp SQuAD was first trialled in Semester 1 2014 where it offered 269 consultations between weeks 2 – 13. Since then it has also run in Sem 2 2014 and Sem 1 2015. Depending on the student’s needs, PopUp SQuAD tutors offered assistance with assessment, theory and practical concepts particular to the science course. In addition, students can get advice on study techniques, referencing and time management. Not surprisingly the heaviest use of the PopUp SQuAD sessions coincided with major assessment due dates. While the PopUp SQuAD compliments existing co-curricular support in the form of the Enabling and PASS programs and other USC drop-ins BUdi, HEIdi, and PASSdi, it is more specific and targeted towards the first year science courses. It employs actual tutors from the courses it supplements, and therefore assistance to students is current and in line with the assessment in the courses, rather than generic “one-size-fits-all” style cocurricular support.
2015 Learning & Teaching Week: Teaching Visions: Seeing Teaching in New Ways, Sunshine Coast, Australia 14-18 September 2015
2015 Learning & Teaching Week Program Book / pp.22